Early on in A Good Day to Die Hard, Jack McClane is involved in a commando-style mission to free a valuable Russian prisoner, when up pops his father, Bruce Willis, who nags him about what he's doing, chiding him for having failed to keep in touch, thereby jeopardizing the whole mission. It's a strange scene - John McClane as querulous aging parent who is utterly unaware that there may be more important things to think about right now? Really? Alas, it turns out to be a mere taste of what is to come: an entire movie that seems unable to realize that there's a time and a place for action, and (cliche) sentiment is only getting in the way of more things exploding.
The movie features some truly fantastic action sequences. I can not even begin to tally how many cars were crushed in the making of this film. Great balls of flame billowed across the screen. It was neato. Bruce Willis did not get quite as dirty as he does in the previous films (where he is somehow permanently encrusted with dust and grime in a strangely charming way), but he did bleed a lot. Unfortunately, for every epic action sequence, there was an equally long scene where Jack and John talked about their feelings, in scenes that were as boring as the others were exciting. And unfortunately, seem to stay in your mind a lot longer. I really don't understand why Hollywood has decided that action movies need to be leavened with trite psychology - James Bond's troubled childhood and fears of commitment, the nature of heroism, the various struggles to be a good boyfriend, or father, or son... What's wrong with just blowing things up a lot?
The frustrating thing about this film was that it had some good ideas for how it wanted to play up the father-son dynamic, and then it failed to properly follow through on any of them. Lip service was paid to the idea of Bruce Willis representing the "old school" cop and his son being a modern spy type, but the movie didn't do all that much with that premise. There was some gesturing towards playing up the quirky cliches of Russians, but they limited themselves to one surprisingly restrained taxi driver scene. Why not ham it up guys? Have a little fun with it!
Another odd aspect of this movie was that whereas Bruce Willis, in the first four movies, is barely dragging himself along by the end of the film, this time he was basically invincible. It pushed the limits of absurdity, and it made the movie a lot more bland. Of course we know he and his son aren't going to die. But come on, if you pull a 4 inch screw out of your guts, you're probably not gonna feel so hot. And you can only fall from such great heights a few times before your body just gives up and breaks. Come on now.
It was not a good day to die hard. Not a very good day at all.