THE PITCH: Cocky but aging New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) travels to Moscow to investigate a criminal case involving his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney of "Spartacus: Blood and Sand"), a CIA operative caught up in an incomprehensible scheme involving a Russian defense official (Sergei Kolesnikov), an imprisoned billionaire (Sebastian Koch) and some weapons-grade uranium.
MONEY SHOTS: An early car chase features some impressive automotive carnage, including a six-wheeled armored truck smashing smaller cars and flipping an auto into the roof of a tunnel. McClane drives atop other vehicles in gridlocked Moscow traffic, showing hilarious disregard for innocent lives. Jack whips out a fun, window frame-shaped gizmo that blasts escape holes into walls. McClane gets flung from a helicopter through a window in an image that entertains despite its obvious CGI.
WTF SHOT: There's a scene with the Russian government bad guy walking in slow motion, followed by a mob of judges in robes, that's supposed to be badass, but looks more like a "Dancing Itos" number is about to break out.
BEST BAD LINES: Skip Woods' script features lots of wonderfully lousy spy jargon, like "Mike! Chagarin's making a move on Komarov!" or "It's a huge diplomatic mess, and I'm a burnable asset!"
WORST LINE: Every time McClane announces "I'm on vacation!" which footnotes the first Die Hard but makes no sense in this context, since he came to Moscow to help his son.
MOST MEMORABLE LINE: After a bad guy fails to hit McClane with a rocket launcher, the annoying, carrot-chewing head henchman declares, "You missed! Interesting choice, man!" a line so odd and out of place that it stands out compared to the tired, Meet the Fockers-style bickering of McClane and son.
REAL-WORLD CONTEXT: The film includes extended sequences in the radioactive ruin of Chernobyl, suggesting that if McClane gets cancer, Die Hard VI can take place inside his body and star a sassy white blood cell who takes on invasive tumors of foreign origin.
FRANCHISE SHOUT-OUTS: A few bars of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" play at the top of the film. Mary Elizabeth Winstead reprises her role as McClane's daughter from Live Free or Die Hard, but here provides only a cameo. Some glass-shooting scenes might pay homage to Alan Rickman's "Shoot the glass!" from the first film. The "Yippie-ky-yay" line makes its requisite appearance.
HEY, WAIT A MINUTE: Part of the first Die Hard's appeal was McClane's vulnerability as ordinary cop, who grows exhausted, injured and hungry over the course of his adventures. Here, McClane's basically indestructible, capable of falling through windows and wooden scaffolding without suffering more than cuts and bruises.
HARDER THAN THE PREVIOUS FILMS? No - it's clearly the worst of the five Die Hard movies. Director John McTiernan's original Die Hard remains an all-time action classic, and his return to Die Hard With a Vengeance delivers undeniable thrills. The rest offer overwhelming noise in place of smart spectacle, with Good Day feeling the most perfunctory of all.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Forget quality - at 97 minutes, A Good Day to Die Hard doesn't even deliver the expected quantity of big dumb action scenes as McClane and son work through their family issues. When major bad guys start to die off, you're like "Wait - the movie's already ending?." Still charismatic in his late 50s, Willis never makes much of an effort, so maybe he never had a good day to try hard.
A Good Day To Die Hard. 2 stars. Directed by John Moore. Stars Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney. Rated R. Opens Thu., Feb. 14. At area theaters.
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