Even at the impossibly young age of 32, there was a war-weariness about John McClane. Therefore, the inevitable aging of the smart-mouthed, indestructible, but not invulnerable New York cop who, in the able hands of Bruce Willis, became an instant American icon in 1988 with the first “Die Hard” film, should not be a problem. In fact, as McClane edges into his sixtieth year, it should be a major storytelling advantage (think of Captain Kirk dealing so poignantly with middle-life in “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.”)
Unfortunately, director John Moore’s “A Good Day to Die Hard” fumbles this opportunity in every conceivable way. Rather than have a middle-aged McClane realistically deal with his latest antagonist, it is all a comic book frenzy that sees our hero survive blasts, falls, and flying lead like a Superman, as he and his estranged CIA operative son Jack (Jai Courtney), race to obtain a MacGuffin in Russia.
Through two superb sequels and one pretty good one (“Live Free or Die Hard”), the tales of John McClane felt connected. McClane always drove the action and deliciously taunted the villain (both are unforgivably missing here), and the visual style felt connected.
All of that is ejected.
What we have here is a DHFINO (Die Hard Film In Name Only), where McClane is an afterthought and tagalong who does not drive the story (blame the producers), a shell of his former self saddled with lame wisecracks (blames the writers — though there are a couple of winners, including that inevitable yippie-kay-ya), and action so dark and CGI’d it looks like a poorly conceived video game (blame everyone).
On its own merits, “A Good Day to Die Hard” isn’t bad. The lean runtime of 97-minutes certainly helps, as does Willis’s still potent charisma. But it is a cinematic felony to waste one of our most beloved action heroes of the last 25 years in this way.
Still, one stinker out of five is an amazing average. The sixth and final (so they say) “Die Hard” is currently in pre-production. Let’s hope McClane gets the send off he deserves.
“A Good Day to Die Hard” is available for sale at Amazon.com.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC