A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD
Two and a half stars
Starring: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Yuliya Snigir
Directed by: John Moore
Running time: 97 minutes
Parental guidance: Violence
Playing at: Angrignon, Brossard, Cavendish, Cinéma Carnaval, Colossus, Côte des Neiges, Deux Montagnes, Forum, Kirkland, Lacordaire, Marché Central, Sources, Sphèretech, Taschereau cinemas
Yippee-ki ... whatever. The only thing you need to know about the latest Die Hard movie is that it's another Die Hard movie.
So, depending on how you feel about John McClane, the Everyman cop played by Bruce Willis since 1988, A Good Day to Die Hard will either be the realization of a long-steeping dream, or a good reason to stay home.
Certainly, this movie from John Moore offers no real surprises other than the latter-day rise of John McClane Jr. (Jai Courtney), a kid who was barely mentioned in the previous four efforts but gets his very own close-ups all the way through McClane number five.
A chunky chip off the old block, John Jr. - or Jack, as he's called - is a tough guy with big muscles and a hot temper. The only problem is, he appears to be on the wrong side of the law. As if.
According to the brief opening bit of plot exposition, young Jack has been sent to a Russian prison for being a member of a powerful crime syndicate with a death grip on Moscow.
He's supposed to have a trial, so big poppa heads to Russia in a bid to help his kid. And within seconds of McClane's Moscow tour, things start to blow up.
This is how it should be in a Die Hard movie. There should be lots of "Boom!" and "Bang!" to keep the audience engaged and approaching V-fib.
But the other half of a Die Hard movie is the sentimental banter, the family bonding and the subtle wrestling of moral principles that affirm the unspoken humanity of John McClane.
After all, when McClane first appeared back in the days of sculpted sweaters, shoulder pads and eyeglasses that made everyone look like a studious squirrel, he was an action hero who came from the real world.
He smoked, he was afraid of flying, and his marriage was on the rocks because his wife got a big promotion and he was too macho to follow. Yet this ordinary cop overcame near-incredible obstacles to save the day - in bare feet.
The whole attraction was the contrast, as well as the underlying optimism of the notion that a bartender could play James Bond.
This Everyman ideal stands at the very core of the franchise because it humanizes all the blood and guts and gore and exhausting action sequences, but even Bruce Willis is starting to wear the signs of franchise ennui - and who can blame him?
Introduced to us through the pierced backside of a paper target at a shooting range, this John McClane feels pretty thin right off the start as he discusses his "son issues" with the badge next to him.
They exchange about five lines of dialogue before we're in a Moscow taxi, waiting for that trademark Mc-Clane banter. By the time the lame lines come, we're already intercutting with the courtroom scene and some important suits with phones.
An elaborate, and somewhat original, car chase closes the first act, forcing all character development to wait until the beginning of Act Two.
But that never really happens.
Any bonding between Johns Junior and Senior is squeezed in between one hail of bullets after another, and while action fans may be satisfied by the endless rounds of fire that ricochet across the frame, A Good Day to Die Hard misses the emotional target completely.
The whole point of John McClane is that he cares about people, and he cares about his family most of all. He was born as the anti-Schwarzenegger, a man who bleeds and talks - albeit reluctantly - about his feelings. That's why Bruce Willis was hired to play him: He wasn't just muscle. He could act.
If producers figured Jai Courtney could fill McClane's shoes and potentially reboot the franchise into the future, they were sadly mistaken.
With his ripped arms and bulging pecs, Courtney looks like any other action star - even with a piece of rebar sticking out of his hip flexor.
The point is, he doesn't scream humanity, no matter how much he winces or looks annoyed by dear old Dad. Willis has sharp enough chops to salvage the scenes and give some depth to the smattering of words on the page, but there is no chemistry to speak of between the two actors as they trade lines through bloody mouths.
It may be hard to imagine, but if you actually look at it, the first Die Hard movie was practically all dialogue. There were lots of guns, but the violence wasn't explicit. It didn't need to be because Alan Rickman was one of the best villains in cinematic history for the very same reason John McClane was such a compelling hero: He felt human.
In these days of hyperbolic characters in capes, it would have been nice to see a little old-style McClane nuts and bolts.
Yet, director John Moore doesn't even seem interested in generating drama through character, though the script offers a few avenues of parent-child potential on both sides of the moral balance sheet.
He doesn't even take advantage of Mary Elizabeth Winstead's charismatic screen presence as John's daughter Lucy.
For the most part, we're just watching Willis and Courtney look upset with each other and pop off bad guys. More upsetting still, McClane doesn't even hesitate when he pulls the trigger anymore, as though he's accepted his role as Everyman killing machine with a sense of resignation.
As have most moviegoers. We've resigned ourselves to watching an original one-off sputter and wheeze itself into a franchise coma. We can't bring ourselves to pull the plug, even if it is A Good Day to Die Hard.