DIE HARD 5: A Good Day to Take a Nap

in
February 23, 2013

** (out of four)

I haven’t seen the fourth film in Bruce Willis’ long-running “Die Hard” series; but friends assure me that the new “Good Day to Die Hard” is better.

In that case, “DH4” must have been pretty bad.

The fifth entry boasts an effective climax and strong support from German actor Sebastian Koch; other than that, it’s more like a good day to take a nap.

The tepid story has Willis’ John McClane arriving in Russia to help his son, who’s in trouble with the law; but young Jack is actually a CIA agent -- and Dad’s arrival throws a wrench into Jack’s latest operation.

So right off the bat, this script is in trouble; for it puts one of the world’s most famous rescuers in the back seat -- and during the ensuing chase, the best McClane can do is play catch-up.

Speaking of which -- why must contemporary car chases always feature vehicles flipping, blowing up and flying off in all directions? Whatever happened to the gritty realism of “Bullitt,” “Ronin” and “The French Connection”?

At times it seems like the goal in this overblown sequence was not to excite viewers but rather to destroy as many automobiles as possible.

Given the uninspiring results, the countless smash-ups are simply wasteful -- as in the scene with an armored truck plunging down a parked-up street and taking out car after car on both sides.

Why all this brainless mayhem? Can’t we develop some genuine conflict and maybe even humor so it doesn’t come off as overgrown boys blowing up their overgrown toys?

Much of the film feels this way, loaded as it is with explosions, gunfire, shattered glass and physical feats that defy physics.

There’s no reason a movie like this has to stink; it’s got a solid action star, a huge budget and a ready-made audience.

Yet try as it might, “Good Day” can’t generate much interest or excitement; nor does it find the emotional resonance it desperately seeks in the father-son relationship.

In earlier entries, McClane showed his love through brutal determination; here, he has to talk about it -- and worse, he talks about how he’s not the kind of guy who talks about it.

“Good Day” does have one effective twist, after which the plot picks up; and the whole concluding sequence at Chernobyl is nicely executed.

The film also boasts a strong villain -- something that separates the good from the bad in this franchise (i.e., Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons in Nos. 1 and 3); but this character doesn’t solidify till the end, so it can’t help the picture much.

I did enjoy Koch -- charismatic star of the fine German films “Black Book” and “Lives of Others”; here, he plays a Russian dissident the McClanes are trying to extract.

But even Koch can’t save a film whose principal effort goes to blowing things up.

Anybody ever heard of a script?

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