As he prepares to fly to Moscow to discover why his estranged son Jack has been arrested for murder, John McClane is handed an Idiot’s Travel Guide To Russia by daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
Someone behind the scenes should’ve followed suit and given director John Moore an Idiot’s Guide to Die Hard movies, for this fifth outing for Bruce Willis’s fly-in-the-ointment detective is a Die Hard in nonsensical name only.
The reason why 1988’s Die #1 is so iconic, beloved and imitated is down to its economical, no-nonsense simplicity. (One cop, one building, 13 terrorists. It’s hardly rocket science, is it?)
But with each successive installment, the franchise has travelled further away from its USP, a flaw magnified tenfold here by taking McClane off home turf completely.
Writer Skip Woods makes one concession to the original by squeezing the action into one single, manic day. To do so, unfortunately, he must throw logic under a bus, most egregiously by suggesting that the 400-mile distance between Moscow and Chernobyl can be driven in a couple of hours.
In truth, if A Good Day To Die Hard is homaging anything it’s the Bourne series, a frantic car pursuit through Muscovite traffic entailing more noisy auto-vehicular destruction than Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum. It’s a spectacular set-piece to be sure, rivalled later by a shoot-out in a hotel ballroom and a climactic face-off involving a miraculously deradiated Chernobyl and an exploding chopper fireball.
It’s what Moore inserts between them that drags the story down, the charmless interplay between a semi-comatose Willis and Jai Courtney’s petulant, arrogant Jack - not the fuck-up he initially appears, but a CIA operative on the trail of AWOL weapons-grade uranium - squandering the familial dynamic that should have been the flick’s trump card.
Die Hard 5 is no less wanting in the villain department, Rasha Bukvic’s tap-dancing, carrot-chomping Alik being to Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber what a Lada is to a Mercedes.
Good Day in a nutshell? Father-son bonding with heavy artillery, a lot of big bangs, a triple-figure body count and little else. Listen carefully over the opening credits and you’ll hear a few bars of Beethoven’s ‘Ode To Joy’, the Die Hard series’ unofficial theme tune. But it’s no more than a flickering shadow of former glories, barely there and soon forgotten.
“That was exciting!” says Willis after he and Courtney survive a 20-storey leap through a plate glass window. “Want to go again?” Frankly, Bruce, we’re fine to leave it here.