Older action heroes are not faring well. Sylvester Stallone’s “Bullet to the Head” has tanked and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “The Last Stand” barely broke its relatively inexpensive budget. Fortunately for the producers, Bruce Willis’ “A Good Day to Die Hard” made more than double its $92 million budget. And that is the only good thing I have to say about this movie.
In this fifth installment to an otherwise critically successful franchise, Bruce Willis returns as retired John McClane, who travels to Russia to help his imprisoned son, but is soon caught in the crossfire of a terrorist plot.
The only thing close to a theme in this movie is the relational struggle between a father and his estranged son; while blowing everything up. Needless to say, it is extremely hammy. Willis is spunky as usual, but his son (played by Jai Courtney) is little more than an overgrown angst-ridden teenager.
Unlike its predecessors, the bad guys in this “Die Hard” are dry and lifeless. The villains are sleazy Russians, and they hate Americans. They possess no other traits, other than being very easily killed. In fact, the firm circumvents its own logic when killing baddies. A squad of villain mooks is cut to pieces by shattered glass, yet the protagonists find themselves in identical circumstances and only receive minor cuts.
The script is a no-show as well. The writers tried to add a clever plot twist, but it’s already been used in the “Die Hard” franchise. At best it’s just a re-hash of what used to be successful. And that applies to more than just the writing.
This “Die Hard” has nothing new. It has no significance, no depth. There is absolutely nothing memorable about it, other than accomplishing the impressive feat of being worse than “Jack Reacher”. But audiences are still flocking to see it. I believe that this reflects a larger trend in the film industry.
Earlier I mentioned that Stallone’s and Schwarzenegger’s films both failed at the box office, despite being better received by critics than the latest “Die Hard”. This can largely be attributed to what I call “sequel syndrome”. Sequels and remakes of past successful films are more likely to be commercially successful than a film with no predecessor. I believe that this is why the industry has churned out more sequels and remakes in the past ten years than in any other period in cinema history.
Would it be unfair to toss Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Willis action movies in the same category? All of them follow a very straightforward formula and aren’t particularly engaging on an intellectual level. Yet, Willis’ inferior new “Die Hard” movie generated over ten times the revenue of the other two action heroes’ films. Hopefully audiences will see this ploy in the future, because many old-time “Die Hard” fans are sincerely wishing the series died with the previous installment.