<i>A Good Day to Die Hard</i>

Talk about durable goods. Perhaps no action-film staple is more inexplicably box-office reliable than the Die Hard series, now in its fifth installment. The franchise is a quarter of a century along nowadays, and apparently going strong into old age with its chief protagonist John McClane (Bruce Willis, shaved and bright-eyed), a man without super powers, any kind of definable moral code, or anything remotely like a gadget — though he does have one admittedly great cowboy catch phrase. Sadly, such glib pronouncements don’t really get much play in A Good Day to Die Hard; the film’s recurring mantra, “I’m on vacation,” isn’t really that catchy, nor does it make much sense since the script never bothers to tell us that McClane has taken vacation pay to leave his Manhattan cop gig and destroy most of downtown Moscow. In fact, the script doesn’t seem to do much more than provide hackish director John (Max Payne) Moore Post-it note directions to other places where McClane can go to blow up some more stuff.

Previously, in Live Free or Die Hard, McClane got in touch with the younger demographic by teaming up with his daughter and exploding a lot of America. This film features the attempted resurrection of the genre by dragging in his supposedly disaffected son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who, it will come as no surprise to preview watchers, now works for the CIA. Dad thought he was just experiencing post-adolescent drip.

To its infinitesimal credit, the plot features a couple of reversals and a ginned-up pretext that takes us into Chernobyl, which is becoming a first-rate setting for second-rate films of late. But the flick offers zero story rewards beyond loud ordinance and truly awkward male bonding. The last film was an epic by comparison. This whole thing is over in less than two hours, makes a lot of noise, and then just kind of fizzles, semi-hard.


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