Why, why, why, would Bruce Willis do this to us?
Directed by: John Moore
Written by: Skip Woods
Starring: Bruce Willis
It isn’t fair. It isn’t like him. Bruce has been aging gracefully, moving into the second phase of his career with panache and and style and making smart choices- from his tongue-in-cheek turn in “The Expendables” to his heartbreakingly lovely role in “Moonrise Kingdom” (for which he was cruelly denied a Supporting Oscar nomination).
And then there’s the “Die Hard” franchise. It’s his bread-and-butter, and perhaps Willis felt he owed the franchise a fifth film. But this is not a movie. I would call it a car wreck, but car wrecks keep your attention. I would compare it to a natural disaster, but that implies I cared about it for more than five minutes. I would say it’s so bad it’s good, but it’s not good, not at all. It’s terrible. It’s the worst movie I’ve seen in a really long time, and that includes “The Switch,” “New Year’s Eve,” and this creepy 80’s soft-core porn movie with Billy Zane I found on Netflix last year.
Even more painful than watching this movie is thinking about how far the franchise has fallen. The first two movies are both in my Christmas film rotation, and terrific examples of what the action genre can be when it’s done right. The villains are terrific, particularly Alan Rickman’s marvelous Hans Gruber; the stories take place in one location (an office building in Los Angeles, an airport), and the plot mechanics are elegantly constructed. There’s a guy trying to rob a corporation. There’s a terrorist who wants to get one of his buddies out of prison. And then there’s John McClane (Willis), all-American cop, who just happens to be there to stop it. Cue explosions. The movies have a thread of humor (Agents Johnson and Johnson), but never lose sight of the seriousness of the violence within the plot (Colm Meaney’s plane crash in “Die Harder” is truly terrible because the movie takes a second to introduce the passengers in the plane.)
But no more. The latest installment of “Die Hard” is a world tour of bad writing: over-complicated plot? Check. Make the hero seem bumbling and old? Check. Give the hero an asshole son (Jai Courtney) nobody likes? Checkity check. Have hero say things like, “I was supposed to be on my vacation!” when you’ve already established that he was very clearly not on vacation? Checkity check, check, check!
I’d do a synopsis of the stupid plot but I’m too tired. McClane’s in Russia because his jerk son’s a spy. There you go. There are double-crosses, and triple-crosses, and re-doubled crosses, none of which are particularly surprising. My favorite part is when they go to Chernobyl and open a locked room that’s been swimming with nuclear waste for ** years, but it’s ok because they have a gas they can pump in that neutralizes the radiation! That, and the moment when someone gets diced into pieces by helicopter blades, are the only parts where I laughed, or smiled, or felt something beside vague revulsion at the pile of money it probably took to make this piece of cinematic styrofoam. It’s barely 90 minutes, and it took forever.
So let’s pour one out for the original “Die Hards”- even the third one, because Jeremy Irons rocks. May you (finally) rest in peace, awesome 20th century franchise. We have used you ill. You deserve better.