By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Having so many mixed feelings regarding a film makes for a difficult review. A self analysis of the most dominant feeling, the emotion within me that stands out the most after a film helps. After leaving the fifth installment of the Die Hard franchise, the word fun prevailed. Despite all the issues and flaws which trouble this movie, the fact that I found myself often smiling, laughing and just having an all around good time helped me to forgive these problems. This was something I had much trouble doing after watching the previous installment Live Free or Die Hard. With intense action and strong language, Die Hard 5 earns its R rating and refreshingly does so.
John McClane, the infamous cowboy and badass cop has retired, but doesn’t get too mossy right away. When his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney) gets arrested for killing a Russian official, John flies overseas to see if he can be of any assistance. As it turns out his son has been working as a C.I.A. operative on a mission to uncover evidence on a corrupt Russian politician named Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov). When Kolesnikov’s associates go after Jack and a key witness Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch), McClane’s vacation comes to an abruptly violent end.
John Moore directs this sequel with a screenplay by Skip Woods. I’m not going to make any pretenses about this movie and claim that it has smart writing and superb direction. On both counts, it doesn’t. The direction by Moore is adequate at best. The action sequences are well choreographed for the most part, but one can easily point out the cartoonish CGI and some of the editing cheats. Most of the action scenes do work well as entertainment pieces with a few frustratingly over-the-top moments here and there. I feel that the last movie, Live Free or Die Hard suffered from too many of these ludicrous scenes and I felt relief when Moore and his writers toned this down a notch. The story and plot lacks depth, but is not so thin and weak that the whole film falls apart. A lack of development regarding the strained relationship between father and son McClane does annoy me. It really is never addressed why Jack hates his father so much. All gets so easily forgiven with the right amount of gun play.
The fact that the McClanes endure so much physical trauma during the movie, and seem to walk away fine is a bit bewildering. At least in the first Die Hard, McClane, who was much younger in that film, gets nearly killed and is literally wiped out by the end. Here, he and his son appear to have powers beyond mortal men. In fact, during the whole course of the Die Hard series, it’s amazing John isn’t in a wheelchair on a soft food diet. The suspension of disbelief is certainly required for this film.
Regarding the cast, Die Hard newcomer Jai Courtney does a fine job as McClane, Jr. He lacks the quick witted, sarcastic charm and swagger that Bruce brings to his character, but then again, Jack wants to be nothing like his father, even though he has a lot of his father’s skills and instincts. Sebastian Koch offers an adequate, though limited, performance as Jack’s witness Komarov. Radivoje Bukvic delivers a gleefully fun baddie as Alik, Chagarin’s main soldier. Finally, Bruce Willis lacks the energy and sass of the young John McClane, but this actually works here considering that he is much older, more mature, and trying to retire.
As for my recommendations, if one has never been a fan of the Die Hard series, then I wouldn’t even bother the trip to the theater. For the die hards, this is one not to miss. Do not go in expecting an epic and dense installment, but a simple and fun action vehicle. For the fans who disliked Live Free or Die Hard, they should find this latest chapter a step in the right direction.