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Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 01:12 am

Die Hard 5 an abusive exercise in mayhem

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Bruce Willis as John McClane and Jai Courtney as Jack McClane in A Good Day to Die Hard.

1980s action heroes have been taking it on the chin lately. In his comeback to the big screen, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand brought in a measly $12 million while Sylvester Stallone’s Bullet to the Head fared even worse, bringing in only $8.5 million. Ironically, with his latest, their contemporary Bruce Willis will score the biggest box office success of the three though his film is the worst of the bunch.

A Good Day to Die Hard will draw an audience simply based on its brand name but it’s a soulless, unimaginative exercise that doesn’t set out to entertain an audience so much as bludgeon it into submission. With nary an original idea or line of dialogue in sight, this is the sort of movie that singlehandedly kills franchises. It’s obvious that its makers, hack director John Moore and “screenwriter” Skip Woods, are simply spinning their wheels hoping to obscure the fact that they have nothing new to offer with scenes of mass destruction.

The plot, what there is of it, involves McClane (Willis) traveling to Moscow after his son (Jai Courtney) has been taken into custody. Dad’s not sure what the charges are, but he’s off to save his boy, who happens to be a CIA agent involved in helping to free a Soviet dissident (Sebastian Koch). The extraction of this key figure to maintaining stability in Russia goes sideways and before you know it, father and son are on the run, trying to protect their charge while avoiding the bad guys, whose motivations remain murky throughout.

I’m not going to waste anymore time on the plot here. It is of little consequence. This is a movie that exists to thrill its audience, stringing together one mindless action sequence after another and failing at every turn. Every action scene is impossible to follow, what with Moore’s rapid cutting and camera movement, so much so I’m surprised I didn’t have a seizure. More disturbing is how irresponsible the filmmaker is in the way he presents the mayhem. To be sure, action films require a suspension of disbelief, which includes ignoring the fact that innocent bystanders get maimed or killed in them. However, here the action is so relentless and takes place in such crowded venues that a sense of queasiness soon sets in. It’s obvious that McClane and son are not heroes as much as public menaces, likely responsible for the death of hundreds. Any sense of escapism is absent from this heartless exercise and that quality has always been one of the most appealing aspects of the Die Hard franchise.

Also missing is the sense that McClane is a real character of any sort. Here, he’s nothing but a quip machine uttering inane dialogue at every turn, each line a pithy wisecrack that falls short. Willis has charm to spare but even his considerable charisma can’t bring any life to this tired exercise. Without question, the film’s last 15 minutes are inspired and deliver some much-needed thrills. But it’s much too little, too late as Moore and company have abused the viewer so much that we’re far too bruised and battered to be in the mood for this sort of entertainment.  

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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