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It seems the standard formula for putting together a sequel film is to get a few people together, brainstorm some ideas, settle on a couple that would be “cool,” add a few extra explosions, then hurry up and start making advertisements … without anyone suggesting time be spent on the script, characters or storyline.

“A Good Day to Die Hard,” therefore, must have followed the formula to a “T.”

Bruce Willis’ latest “John McClane” movie (what is this? fourth? fifth? whatever) sends us almost inexplicably to Russia, even more bizarrely to Chernobyl, so that John can chase down his wayward son (wait, he has a son?) and blow up a whole bunch of stuff in the process.

The movie itself is fairly entertaining, as far as action films go, and does attempt to have a heart, but it falls short of being memorable for its lack of real attention to building a compelling story.

Furthermore, it seems to have forgotten what made “Die Hard” so appealing in the first place: an ordinary cop in an ordinary place caught in extraordinary circumstances, trouble he didn’t go looking for, but doing what he must to save the day. This sequel, by taking us to Russia, just seemed too contrived and too much like every other action film ever made.

Rent it later if you like this sort of movie; skip it if you don’t.

Where the movie deserve some praise, however, is its attempt to weave in a bit of heart and speak to the father-son dynamic.

John McClane’s son, Jack, has long left his dad in the rearview mirror, running off join the CIA while John is left to keep tabs on his son via police reports. When Pops shows up in the middle of Jack’s mission in Russia, he’s far from welcome.

“D— you, John,” the estranged son says. “Shut up, you’ve done enough G– d— damage.”

For better or for worse, however, Dad is thrust into Junior’s world, and the effort to begin reconciliation begins.

“I believed work was all that mattered,” John tells another dad he encounters on why his son is so bitter. “I thought working all the time was a good thing.”

It turns out he was wrong, and it almost cost him his son.

In “A Good Day to Die Hard,” both father and son learn some lessons about themselves, about each other and about restoring broken relationships through love – all while trying to stop nuclear war and blowing up the bad guys.

It’s not altogether a bad premise for a film. It’s just too bad the brainstorming stopped there. With a little more attention to making a good movie … this could have been a good movie.

Content advisory:

  • “A Good Day to Die Hard” is rated R, with roughly 40 obscenities and profanities, many of them strong.
  • It’s an action film with plenty of violence, explosions, car chases, shootouts, random bloody injuries, one gruesome death and a pile of bones. The film does make light of “killing scumbags” and does glamorize violence, yet it isn’t as intentionally gory or blood-splattering as some other popular action films of the day.
  • The film is fairly light on sexuality, which consists of a couple of shirtless guys, a gal who peels off a motorcycle jumpsuit to reveal her bra, some flashes of leg, one joke about sex and a brief nightclub scene in which several women, perhaps prostitutes, are seen in revealing outfits. There are neither any romantic scenes nor explicit nudity.
  • The film has little to no religious or occult content.

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