"A Good Day to Die Hard" unfolds in Russia, but based on the savage reviews, critics want to send the mega-grossing Bruce Willis franchise to Siberia.
The fifth film in the action series opens Thursday with Willis returning to his iconic role as wiseacre cop John McClane. In the latest sequel, our hero finds himself embroiled in a terrorist plot after traveling to the icy region to spring his son from prison.
The movie, however, is in stuck in the critical gulag, with most reviewers grumbling that the film is a tired rehash of previous installments and hinting that it is time for Willis to hang up the Glock. "A Good Day to Die Hard" was deemed "rotten" on Rotten Tomatoes, eking out a deplorable 14 percent favorable rating.
In TheWrap, Alonso Duralde carped that the film spends too much time exploring movie-of-the-week absent-daddy issues. Twenty five years after the first "Die Hard" hit theaters, Duralde writes that the series is showing few signs of aging gracefully.
"This latest caper feels like a real letdown in what has generally been an intelligent and exciting series -- where previous criminal plans were twisty and ingenious, this one’s awkward and nonsensical, and while earlier action sequences may have been improbable and over-the-top, they at least made some logical sense within the plot, something the latest screenwriter apparently couldn’t be bothered to address," Duralde writes.
A.O. Scott also bemoaned the film's lack of wit -- something he said distinguished the franchise's initial entrants. The New York Times critic wrote that "A Good Day to Die Hard" represents the worst excesses of an increasingly globalized film business; one that eschews character development for pyrotechnics.
"Though it will most likely scare up some domestic business in the pre-Oscar lull (happy Valentine’s Day!), 'A Good Day to Die Hard' is squarely aimed at the overseas marketplace," Scott writes. "About a third of the dialogue is already subtitled, and the rest would take a competent translator about 15 minutes to render."
Christy Lemire of the Associated Press also wishes that Willis had sat out this sequel and curled up with the latest copy of AARP Magazine. She writes that despite an overabundance of explosions, the film is dull and numbing.
"'A Good Day to Die Hard' is pointless and joyless, a barrage of noise and chaos, an onslaught of destruction without the slightest mention of consequence," Lemire writes. "Dozens of people should be dead from one lengthy car chase alone; 'Die Hard' keeps on driving."
In the Chicago Tribune, Michael Phillips calls the film the worst of the series and lays the blame for its hectic editing squarely at the director's feet.
"Director John Moore leaves nothing to the imagination, unimaginatively, and with a misjudged reliance on absurd digital effects," Phillips writes. "Moore shoots and cuts mayhem like a pluperfect hack: All his previous assignments -- remakes of 'The Omen' and 'Flight of the Phoenix,' the mechanical 'Max Payne' -- have taught him little about pacing or mapping out a rangy action sequence."
Kenneth Turan did not spare Bruce Willis in his drubbing of the film, writing in the Los Angeles Times that the actor appeared to be "going through the motions."
"As written by Skip Woods, 'A Good Day to Die Hard' is certainly twisty enough, but the pro-forma nature of Willis' performance -- even his traditional 'yippee ki yay' sounds muted -- doesn't help a film that cannot be described as inspired," Turan writes. "Victory laps can be pleasant enough, but if no one's heart is in them, what's the point?"
Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post quips that Bruce Willis is "armed and ludicrous" in a film that's jingoism is out-of-step with current political mores. Look elsewhere for cutting edge geopolitical commentary, she implies.
"None of it makes any sense, even within the no-rules world of Skip Woods’s rushed, incoherent script (which makes 2007’s 'Live Free or Die Hard' look like a Golden Age masterpiece by comparison)," Hornaday writes. "From the outset, when McClane arrives in Moscow and takes a cab ride that literally goes nowhere -- literally -- 'A Good Day to Die Hard' makes it clear that its prime purpose isn’t crisp storytelling or even modest character development, but simply generating its approved quota of testosterone-drenched wammies in less than two hours."
Based on this kind of critical annihilation, John McClane may have finally met a foe more formidable than Hans Gruber. "Die Hard 6" anyone?