References to James Bond movies are jokily scattered throughout “A Good Day to Die Hard,” and sure enough, this “Die Hard” sequel does reach for the 007 vibe: Russian villains, huge sets, crazy stunts, Bruce Willis drinking vodka martinis in a tuxedo.
Kidding about that last part. But the franchise that began in 1988 with Willis fighting bad guys in a single hotel has now gone global, and it’s an awkward fit.
For the first outing in the series since 2007’s kicky “Live Free or Die Hard,” Willis has journeyed to Russia to check up on his wayward son (Jai Courtney, late of “Jack Reacher”). Naturally this puts the bickering couple together as they become involved with an important witness (Sebastian Koch, from “The Lives of Others”) who has a target on his back.
Many freeway chases, multiple helicopter sequences, and tons of ammunition are detailed. There’s also a pleasure trip to Chernobyl, just to seal the good times.
As an action director, John Moore has a few moments (any time a body is sailing through space in slow motion, it’s a good day to die hard), but mostly the boom-boom is hard to track. The movie’s got a dreary look, as though the Russian tourist office had annoyed the filmmakers and they wanted revenge.
All of which would be all right if Willis’s signature role, wisecracking John McClane, were in good form. But Willis looks reluctant, and his one-liners are unusually tepid (why does he keep saying “I’m on vacation!” as a punch line, when he actually isn’t on vacation in the first place?).
The giant guns are so lethal and deafening, it takes all the fun out of McClane’s ingenious character. It’s much more amusing when the guy has to figure something out; here, he and Junior simply pick up the nearest machine guns (do they still call them that?) and start firing away.
The villains, too, are underwhelming, which is unusual for the “Die Hard” movies. And the family-dynamic bunk is laid on too thick — every beat in the father-son reconciliation has to be pointed out to us multiple times in the dialogue.
The film doesn’t even know how to end — it just keeps dribbling on until it finally stops in a random freezeframe. Patrons at the preview screening were on their feet and headed for the exits well before that point.
And speaking of endings: McClane’s son is also named John McClane. Is this somebody’s idea of setting up a sequel? If so, Jai Courtney better be booked for 2038 — that’s the same amount of time that’s passed between the first “Die Hard” and today’s installment number five.
“A Good Day to Die Hard” (1½ stars)
This fifth installment in the “Die Hard”series has a reluctant-looking Bruce Willis journeying to Russia to check on his wayward son (Jai Courtney) who’s in the middle of a dangerous situation. Crazy action, but tepid one-liners.
Rating: R, for violence, language
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood, Meridian, Pacific Place, Sundance, Thornton Place, Blue Fox, Cascade, Oak Harbor.