A Vacation From Hell

The 'Die Hard' series goes down the 'Rocky' route, with seemingly endless sequels featuring an aging star

Bruce Willis returns as trouble magnet John McClane and looks lost, tired and miserable in A Good Day to Die Hard, a real party-pooper installment in an otherwise fun franchise. One gets the sense watching this disaster that Willis realized he was in a dud, and spiritually clocked out well before the shoot was over.

Heck, he probably checked out mentally in the first week.

Willis seems to have a lot of power over all Die Hard production proceedings, and being that he's the star, most of the blame falls on his shoulders. The fact that they gave directing chores to the hackneyed John Moore (the horrifically stinky Owen Wilson yawner, Behind Enemy Lines) would be the first big mistake. Allowing screenwriter Skip Wood (The A-Team, Hitman, Swordfish) to write it could also be chalked up as a big gaffe. I mean, come on now, doesn't that creative combo just cry future suckage?

They are obviously running out of scenarios for McClane in the U.S., so this one sends him to Russia, where his estranged son, Jack (the dullard Jai Courtney), has gotten himself into an espionage jam. McClane knows this because one of his cop friends hands him one of those files with all of the info in it, because L.A. cops have all sorts of intelligence in Russia. They are the TMZ of Mother Russia!

So John hops a plane, gets stuck in traffic and immediately finds himself in an explosive car chase, where he just happens to run into his son and joins him in wrecking vehicles. They have a little spat, Jack refuses to call him Dad, and John picks up a gun, smirks, and becomes part of the mission. A stupid, convoluted, drab mission you won't give two craps about.

All of the things that are expected in the Die Hard series are now gone. There is no distinguishable bad guy going up against McClane, the film is completely lacking a sense of humor and it looks drab. All of the other Die Hard films had that peppy action-movie look and feel. This one is shot to look like a poor man's Saving Private Ryan, and Saving Private Ryan was actually funnier than this movie.

They can't even come up with a decent catchphrase for McClane in this one. He keeps screaming, "I'm on vacation!" which reminds me of Billy Crystal's whining in City Slickers. By the way, technically he isn't even on vacation. He's on a mission to find his son, and he would never pick Russia as a vacation spot. I see McClane as more of a Barbados kind of guy. Perhaps that will be in the next movie.

Why pick Russia as the locale? Perhaps they were looking for some sort of throwback vibe to the '80s. Well, Russia has lost its luster as a place for bad guys. And you just know somebody is going to say, "You Americans all think you are so smart!" (Someone does.) You can also guess that the action will eventually wind up in Chernobyl (as it does). I was surprised Rocky IV's Ivan Drago didn't pop into a frame and challenge McClane to a fistfight.

Anybody who whined about the previous chapter, Live Free or Die Hard, (which came out SEVEN YEARS AGO. You could've almost gotten two bachelor's degrees since the last Die Hard!), will discover that that film (which I happened to like a lot) was a party compared to this one. It had a great villain (Timothy Olyphant), it had comic relief (Justin Long, Kevin Smith and Willis in a good mood) and it had the mighty beautiful Mary Elizabeth Winstead (who makes a drab cameo in this one). It also zipped along at a fun pace, went to great extremes and reveled in its ridiculousness.

Die Hard 5 is gray, somber and lifeless. Willis is shot to look worn out and gaunt. I know for a fact he can look sprightly in movies today because he looked healthy and badass in the G.I. Joe sequel trailer that preceded the movie. And, sorry, I don't give a rat's ass about McClane's relationship with his son.

If you are going to saddle McClane with a sidekick, don't make it his miserable son. Bring back Long, or Samuel L. Jackson from Die Hard 3 or even the Twinkie-eating cop from the first two movies. Just make it somebody with a pulse who can crack a joke and look all funny when they are scared.

Willis, who is turning out movie after movie—Nicolas Cage style!—still has it in him. It's strange the way his career is going right now. He was awesome in last year's Looper and Moonrise Kingdom, but he also showed up in five direct-to-video flops in the last two years. The latest Die Hard plays like something that should've suffered that fate.

Willis is becoming the Charles Bronson of his generation when it comes to the straight-up action film part of his career (remember those last Death Wish movies?). And yet he delivered two of his all time best performances in 2012. The man is confusing me.

Die Hard 5 fared much better than buddies Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger's recent efforts. Willis has publicly stated that there will be a Die Hard 6. For the love of God, if there is another movie, make sure those participating in it remember that it's supposed to be ridiculous and laughter is OK.

Get this franchise the hell out of Russia. And no more drama with family members. That includes pets!