REVIEW: Let's get the basics out of the way first: If you want to see "A Good Day to Die Harder," the fifth film in the "Die Hard" series, that's pretty much a guarantee that you'll like it. Don't read the negative reviews that are sure to come out, just go.
No, Bruce Willis, 57, is not too old to be an action hero (though a few "Grandpa" jokes go a long way). Yes, he sails through blizzards of bullets seemingly untouched, makes the same joke ("I'm on vacation!") a dozen times, and the actual movie plot makes little sense (secret files and weapons-grade uranium and a truly bizarre visit to Chernobyl). So what?
Willis tells GQ in the magazine's new issue that he knows he'll never win an Academy Award for his role as John McClane, saying "you don't get an Oscar for shooting people." Got that right.
But in McClane, he's created a truly classic character, and he deserves recognition. Untouchable, unbreakable heroes like the ones Arnold Schwarzenegger plays are fine in their place, but McClane's not that. He's more Indiana Jones or McGyver, street-smart and world-weary. He spots things others don't, dives through escape hatches that a sane person wouldn't consider, and through it all, remains the action hero you'd most want to have a beer with.
Here's the difference: Schwarzenegger knows he's the Terminator. Willis acts like he's a lunkhead with a gun, a hapless Joe just trying to get home. Terminators are fun to watch, but hapless Joes are the ones we take to heart.
This installment sends McClane to Moscow in pursuit of his equally lunkheaded son Jack (Aussie Jai Courtney), who turns out to be as much of a superhero as Dad, even though the actor himself has none of Willis' beer-me personality. Father and son hate each other at the start, then come around, duh.
20th Century Fox
Like father, like son: Bruce Willis' John McClane and his son Jack team up in "A Good Day to Die Hard."
That doesn't matter. What matters is that Willis is still a comfortable tour guide through the car-flipping, tank-driving, window-smashing wreckage that is "Die Hard's" stock and trade. His McClane tries to stop cars with his body. He takes a call from his daughter while driving over other vehicles. He dubs other characters "Papa Gepetto" and "Odd Job," bluntly confesses he's a bad dad, and agrees with his son that "we're not really a hugging family." He wins the audience over to the point that the plot holes and logic lapses and unexplained minor characters sail past you like the fusillades of bullets.
The "Die Hard" series has had some heart-in-your-throat moments, from a horrifying plane crash ("Die Hard 2") to McClane being forced to wear a racist sign in the middle of Harlem ("Die Hard With a Vengeance"). It's unlikely any moments from this film will stand out in the same way -- although one especially gruesome bad-guy death had the audience howling with laughter. The father-son feud is meant to be the backbone of this one, and that makes for a lighter, never stressful movie.
Back in 2010, Willis said he'd make this film and then one more "Die Hard" installment before he lets McClane yippee-ki-yay off into the sunset. But action heroes today scoff at mandatory retirement. Schwarzenegger just made "The Last Stand" at 65, and 66-year-old Sly Stallone starred in "Expendables 2." Willis himself has a role in "Expendables 3" and the upcoming "G.I. Joe: Retaliation." In other words, we'll believe McClane's retired when we see the AARP card, and not before.
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