The “Die Hard” series continues with its fifth installment, “A Good Day to Die Hard.” Compared to previous entries the film lacks substance and forgoes character development as it moves toward its climax. The action scenes are often stunning and well done, but lack credibility.
The film opens with series hero John McClane (Bruce Willis, “Looper”), discovering his son Jack (Jai Courtney, “Jack Reacher”), is to be put on trial in Russia. Upon arriving in Moscow, John witnesses the courthouse explode and his son escape with a political prisoner, Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch, “God Loves Caviar”). After assisting Jack in a car chase, John becomes involved in a plot to keep Komarov safe from the forces trying to capture him and to recover a file in Komarov’s possession. This file contains incriminating evidence on politician Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov, “Cold Souls”). Along the way John has to mend the broken relationship he has with his son.
One of the film’s major problems is the lack of character development. Unlike previous films where John has meaningful dialogue, he is relegated here to speaking mostly in puns. The few catch phrases he has for the film are repeated numerous times to the point of annoyance. The plot point of him developing his relationship with his son has potential, but ultimately falls flat. The characters barely talk about their issues with one another. John just shows up in Russia and is thrown into the plot. Jack is given even less of a back-story. Aside from being John’s son and being a CIA agent, he is given little personality. Most of his time is spent complaining about his father being in the way. The villains have little motivation as well. The plot makes an obvious twist before introducing new villains several times. We also never know what information is supposed to be in the file that is so dangerous to Chagarin. When the final bad guy is revealed and he reveals his plan, little of it makes sense.
This leads us to another problem with the film. The plot is very bare bones and races toward an obvious ending. Plot development grinds to a halt as the action scenes stretch on. The plot becomes more confusing and messy as the second main villain is revealed at the end. There are so many double-crosses going on with the villains the audience is left questioning how they are able to pull off any plans without revealing themselves.
Several times John has apparent super senses, as he is able to feel something is off about certain situations. Whenever this happens he is always right about whichever deductions he makes regarding what is wrong. This does not matter because, rather than doing anything about, it the villain outsmarts the McClanes so the plot can continue.
The best aspect of the movie by far is the action scenes. John is shown to be as good a fighter as in any of the previous films. The car chase scene, despite some improbability, stands out as one of the best scenes in the film. The final standoff is well done and enjoyable. The problem with these scenes is the ignorance of the characters. For example, one villain rams a helicopter into a building in an attempt to kill the McClanes, but misses and dies in an explosion while the two men survive. Despite jumping out of a window, the pair barely has to move to avoid such a large projectile. These scenes often stretch on too long as well, taking up most of the running time.
Though this film is a decent entry into the series, it is bogged down by numerous problems. Fans of the franchise will be happy that the action the series is known for is still present. Those hoping to see a well-developed story, however, are likely to be disappointed. Willis performs well in the film, and brings as much of the character as he can, but it is obvious that he has gotten older and the filmmakers are straining to keep him in the series.