Bruce Willis returns as NYPD’s finest terrorist/master-thief-killing Detective John McClane, once again in the wrong place at the wrong time; this time with his son.
McClane is horrified to find his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney) has been arrested in Moscow for killing a man in a nightclub. He flies to Russia, heeding the warning of his daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) not to make a bad situation worse. He then, of course, proceeds to make it catastrophic. Jack is actually an undercover CIA operative trying to protect Komarov (Sebastian Koch), an oligarch become political prisoner. Komarov has incriminating evidence on ex-business partner Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov), a man sympathetic to terrorism and on the point of becoming Defence Minister. Jack’s cover comprehensively blown by dad he retreats to the safe house run by his Agency handler, Collins (Cole Hauser). But the unstoppable killers Alick (Radivoje Bukvic) and Irina (Yuliya Snigir) seem to be one step ahead of the McClanes, and Jack mulishly refuses John’s advice…
Director (and Dundalk native) John Moore proved with Behind Enemy Lines that he could deploy every weapon in the stylistic arsenal, but since then he’s been serving time putting a glossy sheen on mediocre material. This is his shot at the big time, but you suspect, despite his unwarranted criticisms of Die Hard 4.0, that he’s still putting a glossy sheen on sub-par material. The spectacular car-chase following John pursuing Alick tracking Jack and Komarov doesn’t stint on the vehicular destruction and Alick’s beast of a machine is a joy to watch. Moore also has a lot of fun with the thudding ballistics of a helicopter gunship tracking the McClanes down the façade of a hotel. But, this film is half an hour shorter than all previous instalments, and that missing 30 minutes would’ve usefully housed humour and character moments.
Skip Woods’ script shares with his Wolverine plot a terribly disguised early twist that vitiates a later great twist, and despite being written as a Die Hard it really only latterly feels like one. There is a glaring reference that cleverly transforms into a traumatic character death, but while there’re nice moments of musical homage by Marco Beltrami to Michael Kamen’s iconic score and its appropriation of Beethoven, frequently we’re treated to Zimmer/Howard Bat-rumblings, and Moore’s hand-held direction lacks the geographic clarity of McTiernan’s template; something which Len Wiseman wisely amended his style to synch with in Die Hard 4.0. Acting wise MEW’s bookending cameo is delightful, while Snigir may (and I say this as a Nikita fan) actually be better than Maggie Q’s 4.0 villainess; her nihilistic rage in the finale is astonishing. Courtney is physically imposing but he lacks the endearing charm of Bruce Willis past and present.
This lacks the gleefulness that ‘Yippee-Ki-Yay Mother Russia’ teased, but it’s an entertaining outing that doesn’t disgrace the franchise.