February 20, 2013
At 58, Bruce Willis is aging gracefully – but his creation, action-star John McClane, has fared less well. In this installment, McClane simply wants to rescue his adult son Jack (Jai Courtney) from imprisonment in Russia, but, whoops – once again our reluctant hero finds himself needing to save the free world from yet another Eurotrash baddie.
John’s daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) drives Dad to the airport where he plans to catch a flight to Moscow. She admonishes her father, “Just try – try not to make a bigger mess of things.” Those familiar with the franchise know McClane is always ready with a sarcastic quip, but he remains silent – one of several times he bites his tongue when taken to task by his adult children.
Estranged from his son, McClane is unaware Jack has become a CIA operative assigned to a sensitive mission. When Jack is arrested and placed on trial for murder, the success of that mission is endangered.
Hurrying to Jack’s trial, John is forced to endure a Moscow cabbie butchering Frank Sinatra’s song “New York, New York” in a Russian accent.
It’s a harbinger of the misfortunes to come. Moments later, John arrives outside the courthouse just in time to be flung to the ground by an explosion – the first of many. The plastic cage, holding Jack inside the courtroom, is shattered. Along with his codefendant (Sebastian Koch), Jack escapes in a delivery truck. He is pursued by Russians intent on acquiring weapons-grade uranium. These baddies are followed by John, who steals and wrecks three different cars, each one in a more spectacular fashion than the last.
Executing a series of daring maneuvers, Jack proves himself a chip off his old action-blockbuster dad. The lad excels at jumping through plate glass windows and blowing things up, but he lacks Dear Old Dad’s crooked smile, bent sense of humor, and the ability to spot an impending double-cross. All this results in lopsided banter between father and son, leaving Jack little more than a plastic action figure as John struggles to convert half-baked one-liners into zingers.
With Chernobyl’s weapons grade uranium on the line, there can never be too many gunfights, crashes or explosions, but Moscow’s policemen are either asleep or vacationing – since none can be found.
One after another, those willing to help Jack and John are bumped off, just as the Evel Knievel stunts of father and son leave innocents dead or dying in their wake. Whether the duo is jumping from 20-story windows, or smashing their cars into those of innocent bystanders, we never see anyone injured aside from Jack or John’s occasional photogenic scratch.
These gratuitous clobberings might be fun if the plot made sense or if we believed that the father-son competition evolved into bonding on the fly.
The plot, loaded with extraneous bad guys, focuses on which moron can kill the others and turn uranium into my-ranium, as they considerately save the government the cost of trials and executions.
Both Jack and John become puppet-soldiers in the hands of reboot scribe Skip Woods, who shows us that the “Die Hard” franchise can easily be killed with a few strokes of his pen.