Before John Moore and co. could begin showing us new ways to break a helicopter using Bruce Willis, they faced a glaring problem in the production of the fifth Die Hard instalment. This was of course the fact that the fifth film of any franchise has never been good, ever. Apparently, their agreed solution was to write “A Good Day to…” in front of the title and start filming.
We reunite with John McClane (Willis) on holiday to Moscow, where he checks on his unruly sprog Jack (Courtney) who has a run-in with Russian police. A relationship between neglectful father and criminal son might have set Die Hard 5 apart from other generic actioners, but this little spark of potential is promptly extinguished as we find that Jack is in fact “doing spy shit” for the CIA. Wooden father-son bonding and monotonous shoot-outs inevitably ensue.
At best, Willis is visibly uncomfortable in his reprisal of a once iconic action role. At worst, he looks like an aging tourist stumbling on set – either in self-parody or genuine confusion – shouting “I’m on vacation!” while under heavy machine gun fire. But since real-world Willis is 57 years old, you can’t fault A Good Day… for being ageist. Nope, sexist or xenophobic would be far more accurate descriptions.
Despite the film’s supposed focus on family, McClane’s daughter Lucy (Winstead) is excluded from most of the movie. Although this makes her better off than the cinema audience, it seems that the inclusion of a woman in an action scene would be one step too far in a film where plate glass is considered a soft landing. Meanwhile, John McClane punches a Russian man in the face because he doesn’t understand Russian.
As for the people doing all the dying throughout Die Hard 5, well, who cares who they are? Certainly not the McClanes, as they struggle to decide whether to name them “scumbags” or the “bad guys”. Any sense of threat posed by the villains is epitomized by a showdown with their leader, who tap-dances whilst loudly chewing a carrot in a half-hearted attempt at being frightening.
In essence, A Good Day to Die Hard is gratuitous explosion porn punctuated by very forced hugs and witless banter – and action films are moving on from this. If there was any hope for Die Hard 6 (yes, they are making another one), it would be that the old dog would at least try learning some new tricks.
For the final act, John and Jack cover over 400 miles in a car from Moscow to Chernobyl in what seems to be a few minutes. Let’s just take this as a metaphor for the distance that Die Hard 5 is from the 1988 original.