The bigger they are, the harder they die

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20th Century Fox
A Good Day to Die Hard has Bruce Willis, left, returning as John McClane, with Jai Courtney, center, playing his son, Jack, and Sebastian Koch as Komarov.

Action taken to extremes with McClane and son

Like father, like son looks to be the takeaway thought behind A Good Day to Die Hard, the absurd, action-packed new thriller once again starring Bruce Willis as John McClane.

The gags come easy, both on-screen and off, as the 56-year-old Willis assumes the role of action hero, a mantle that now looks set up to be passed down to Jai Courtney, a likable enough young Australian actor who plays prodigal son Jack to father John.

In this Die Hard, the two grit their teeth, furrow their brows, drive maniacally through Moscow traffic, escape inescapable situations, and blow away their adversaries with various arsenals. Like father, like son.

John Moore directed this latest incarnation from a script by Skip Woods that finds John McClane traveling to Moscow when he learns his estranged son Jack is facing a murder charge. But tables turn, and immediately upon arrival, John hijacks a car to help his escaped son flee from a bombed courthouse while being pursued by an army of bad guys.

It’s quickly revealed that Jack is a CIA agent out to thwart a nuclear threat. But more important than world safety is the enduring rift between father and son, one made more obvious by Jack’s insistence on calling his father by his first name. Family relations trump nuclear holocausts any day, particularly when you can squeeze more black humor from them.

And humor seems to be the overriding emotion as McClane pere et fils fly through a continuous series of car chases, standoffs, explosions and escapes, one leading to the next with little time to reflect on the mounting absurdities. John pauses about eight times to remind everyone: “But I’m on vacation.”

Computer-generated imagery has made scenes possible that previously could only have been imagined, as helicopters ram into buildings, cars fly over lanes of freeways, and explosions send bodies flying, all resulting in minor scrapes for the indestructible McClanes.

Woods’ script eventually sends the intrepid Americans to Chernobyl, a symbolically sinister site ripe for a gang of international criminals to hijack enough uranium to destroy the planet. But the army of nefarious villains never counted on facing a McClane, much less two.

MOVIE RATING

A Good Day to Die Hard

** 1/2

Rated R, 97 minutes. Opens today.

 


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