Horrendous? Oh, yeah. Damn near unwatchable. How the mighty have fallen. I saw the first “Die Hard” film in theaters 25 years ago this month, and I can make a case for every installment—until now. John McClane was supposed to be our American James Bond. They even include a winking reference to that intention in the screenplay for this failure. I’d call it a rare instance of wit amongst some atrocious dialogue—but even the Bond line worked better in the trailer. Are you a completest like me? Then you’ll probably force yourself to watch this, but you can save yourself some pain by skipping it entirely. I guess it wouldn’t be that bad if “Die Hard” was solely about car chases and smashing things—but it’s never been just about that. For one thing it’s about the wit and charm of Bruce Willis. Long past his days of making the ladies swoon, he should at least still have that, right? Forget it. He looks tired and bored throughout “Die Hard 5”. In fact, Willis is the exact same age here as Roger Moore was in his final James Bond feature, “A View to a Kill” in 1985. Sir Roger took a lot of flack back then for being “long in the tooth”, and hanging on to the franchise beyond his prime. Well, the 1985 Moore version of Bond is a whirling dervish compared to Bruce’s 2013 incarnation of John McClane. Don’t believe me? Okay…suffer if you must.
Let’s not spend too much time here: John McClane(a sleepwalking Willis)arrives in Moscow to support his estranged son(Jai Courtney, being groomed to continue the series?). Apparently, they haven’t spoken in years. But when McClane Jr. gets arrested after some political nonsense in Russia, it’s Daddy to the rescue! And after some brief, mostly-leaden, repartee inside a taxi cab(the cab driver manages a couple of zingers off of the sonambulant Willis)—the action begins! Cars flying off of overpasses, impossible-to-survive jumps out of high-story windows, helicopter stunts without a hint of plausibility. The young McClane eventually reveals that he’s a CIA officer working an undercover operation for three years. And he desperately wants his Pop out of his way as he tries to complete his mission which has involved assassinations, government whistle-blowing, and a vault of weapons-grade uranium in—wait for it—Chernobyl. So, if the Cold War is indeed over, someone obviously needs to clue in the McClanes.
Who’s to blame for this, fortunately brief, mess(at 97 minutes with the credits, the shortest film in the franchise by far). Heap a lot of it on Willis, who appears to function on auto-pilot the entire running time. Also, give a share to director John Moore, who brings all of the subtlety you would expect from a man who helmed a failed movie based on a video game(2008’s “Max Payne”)and a critically derided remake of a beloved horror staple(2006’s “The Omen”)in his previous two outings. And did screenwriter Skip Woods really pen all of those exclamations of “Jesus!” spouted from the mouth of our gun-wielding, sixtyish hero(honestly, I lost count after the first half hour)? Even without the biblical utterances, the dialogue is mostly inane. Some people say that 1990’s “Die Hard 2: Die Harder” was too big and too dumb—and I won’t argue against that. But I will say, at least, that it was big, dumb fun. Whereas, this hopefully final entry is about as jolly as a funeral march. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Grade: D