It's 25 years since Bruce Willis donned a sweaty vest to save the day in Die Hard. And 23 years since Die Hard 2, when he asked, disbelievingly, "How can shit like this happen to the same guy twice?" That question persisted right through to Die Hard 4.0, when Willis, as hard-ass cop John McClane, teamed up with an ace computer hacker (played by Justin Long) to save America, again.
The variations seemed all played out, but lo! McClane is back in A Good Day to Die Hard, this time to join forces with his equally fearless son. Did anyone know that he even had a son? The series seems to be taking on the disturbing aspect of a family business. I wouldn't put it past McClane to line up with his grandchild in time for Die Hard 8.
For now, though, we're in Moscow, where John has gone to bail his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney) out of trouble. Little does he know that the kid is not just a chip off the old block: he's on a mission for the CIA to rescue top-level scientist Komarov (Sebastian Koch) from a gang of murderous Russian goons. "So, you're the 007 of Plainfield, New Jersey," says father to son, pride mingling with envy.
The director, John Moore, delivers two huge set-pieces in quick succession, the first an explosive assault on a Moscow courtroom, the second a long car chase through heavy traffic and across floyovers that ends in a demolition derby. Scenery-trashing has been integral to the franchise from the off, the difference being that the first Die Hard cleverly confined itself to a single building (the Nakatomi tower!) and gave Willis one of the greatest adversaries in movies – take a bow, Alan Rickman, your beard and soft-voiced suavity live on. Here, the bangs come quickly but with less ingenuity, the rule being that if one loiters in a building for longer than five minutes a barrage of gunfire will shatter the windows.
As for Willis, he's pushing it as an action hero but doing OK. The patented smirk is still intact, as is the bellyaching about how he neglected his kids because he was too busy working. Any remorse over his selfishness, however, is forgiven in the face of his willingness to go out on a limb for his family and his country. The screenplay by Skip Woods (The A-Team) keeps reminding us exactly what sort of scumbags he's up against: they stand over their victims and sneer, "Do you know what I hate about Americans?" Pause. "Everything." What can you do with such people other than blast them to smithereens with a cry of "Yippee-ki-yay"?