Review: 'Die Hard 5' is like McClane's Salieri

Posted at 02/13/13 6:42 PM

Bruce Willis is back as John McClane in "A Good Day to Die Hard"

MANILA, Philippines – Swinging into theaters this week is “A Good Day to Die Hard,” the latest in the "Die Hard" franchise starring Bruce Willis.

It’s a noisy, bumpy ride for everyman John McClane that sees him going to unfamiliar locales and offing a new set of baddies. McClane’s latest romp is better than the last one but only slightly. It’s like Salieri to the Amadeus of the first "Die Hard." It’s good, not great, and McClane still gets to blow away a lot of bad guys. What more can you ask?

The movie sees McClane, the cop who takes a beating but keeps on ticking, going to Moscow to see his son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who has been imprisoned for killing a Russian official. It seems Jack has one-upped his dad by becoming a CIA operative intent on freeing political prisoner Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch).

McClane again ends up at the wrong place at the wrong time by messing up a plan to free Komarov, only to end up as an asset to his very capable son. It’s McClane’s quick thinking that saves Jack through several scrapes, like Tonto saving the Lone Ranger. He also helps piece together the main baddie’s real plot. In the end, it really is all about the money.

First, the good. The action scenes in this movie vary from good to great. The highlight is a spectacular three-way car chase scene in the streets of Moscow with McClane, his son Jack and the bad guys using an armored van that could be used for the next "Mad Max" movie.

McClane’s driving skills have not dulled since he drove a cab through a crowded Central Park. Here, he uses a van like a blunt instrument and defies the laws of physics in the number of narrow escapes. After that car chase, I thought “That’s way too many car wrecks for just one movie.”

The story also fares slightly better than the last movie because instead of McClane rescuing his son, Jack is more than capable of handling himself. This gives the father-son dynamic a fresh twist as McClane shows why he deserves his son’s respect. McClane keeps getting treated like a joke throughout the movie, which is why the best parts are when he shows the quick thinking that has given him more lives than a cat.

What this movie lacks, however, is a capable villain. Alik (Radivoje Bukvi?) shows a yen for dancing but he’s largely forgettable compared to the likes of Hans and Simon Gruber.

There’s also a twist to the plot that harkens back to the double-cross in the second "Die Hard" movie but lacks impact.

The other action sequences don’t fare as well. McClane and son are on the run throughout the movie, and there’s a great e scene that echoes the first movie’s escape via elevator shaft.

It’s in the final action sequences, when they use too much CGI and movie logic takes a jump at warp speed, that made my head hurt. No spoilers, though, you just have to see the movie’s ending for yourself.

Perhaps it’s asking too much from a 25-year-old franchise but this one gets a pass only because I love McClane as a movie character. The first "Die Hard" is still watchable after endless re-runs, inspiring a phalanx of similarly themed movies (See Die Hard on a Train, Die Hard on a Bus, Die Hard in a Hockey Stadium).

This movie continues the trend of ditching the trappings of the first movie. No Christmas scene, no "Ode to Joy," no Holly Gennaro, no hero trapped in a controlled environment and forced to use his wits. There’s a funny driver but he’s in no way relevant to the plot. McClane also gets to keep his shirt clean until the final 30 minutes.

Is it a good action movie? Sure. Will it inspire you to make your own similarly themed action movie in a different environment? Nah.

Fun factoid: "A Good Day to Die Hard" was written by Hollywood screenwriter Skip Woods. If his name doesn't ring a bell, he's the guy whose custom Martin Brothers chopper worth $80,000 was stolen in Houston, Texas in 2007, which then ended up in Cagayan de Oro City.
A smuggling case against businessman Lynard Allan Bigcas, who admitted shipping the bike to the Philippines, is still pending.