Good Day To Die Hard, A (2013): Rebooting Die Hard Franchise with Bruce Willis

The Die Hard series is already twenty-five years old–it began in 1987 with “Die Hard,” the first, commercially successful chapter of the franchise.

That’s a considerable lifespan for a franchise that’s basically never been rebooted. Perhaps it’s inescapable that “Die Hard”—and its star, Bruce Willis, now fifty-seven—are showing some wear and tear in the fifth installment, A Good Day To Die Hard.

It may not be a coincidence that all three of our 1980s action stars, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and now Willis, are trying hard this season for a major comeback. But, alas, all three have made terrible films.

“Die Hard” has never had the story oomph of, say, the Sylvester Stallone franchises (like “Rocky” or “Rambo”) or the “Jason Bourne” movies.

Willis is again the wisecracking, terrorist-smacking John McClane, the role that made him into a bankable movie star, after years on serial TV. He plays a New York cop with an incredible knack for running into—and murdering, with lots and lots of guns—all manner of international terrorists. John’s had a one-man war on terror going since long before our current war on terror was ever conceived.

Throughout the series, John has also been faced with his just desserts for neglecting his family life. His wife (Bonnie Bedelia) eventually left him, and he became estranged from both his children. In the previous installment, “Live Free or Die Hard” (2007), he had to save his daughter (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) when she was kidnapped by the terrorists. This time, his focus is on his wayward son.

John rushes to Moscow when Jack (Jai Courtney), who’s naturally just as much a badass as Dad, has been mysteriously imprisoned by the Russians. Jack, placing a gun to his father’s head moments after they (almost literally) run into each other, doesn’t want any help—especially from John. Is there going to be room enough in this china shop for not one but two bulls?

Junior Bull—surprise, surprise—turns out to be a CIA operative in Russia on a top secret mission (that never becomes very clear) to somehow save the free world. Daddy Bull, secretly proud, dubs Jack the “007 of Plainfield, New Jersey” and commences to endlessly tease his boy. But Jack gradually seems to appreciate the attention. Father and son heal their wounds, even professing their mutual love, through the killing, with lots and lots of guns, of lots and lots of Russian bad guys.

Other than that, what audiences get this time out is basically a long, long, confusing, and underwhelming car chase through Moscow and a long, long, confusing, and underwhelming shootout in Chernobyl.

“A Good Day To Die Hard” is oddly retro. “It’s not 1986, you know,” an annoying, tap-dancing villain (Radivoje Bukvic) tells John, but this movie sure looks and smells like the 1980s: it’s us and them, no room for subtlety, the same “Die Hard” universe as it ever was.

A new creative team’s behind “A Good Day To Die Hard,” but they’ve produced a forgettable chapter. Director John Moore’s previously done a few middling actioners, like “Max Payne” (2008) and “Behind Enemy Lines” (2001), and isn’t able to help Willis and Courtney bring any heat to their bond. The humor-free, sloppy screenplay’s written by Skip Woods, who wrote the first “Wolverine” movie (2009) and “Swordfish” (2001).

“A Good Day To Die Hard”? For “Die Hard” fans, this one’s more like “A Good Day To Stay Home and Watch Your Old ‘Die Hard’ DVDs.”