John McClane comes full circle in "A Good to Day to Die Hard," the fifth entry in the "Die Hard" franchise. The unsinkable New York City cop played by Bruce Willis began by battling vaguely East German terrorists in 1988, then kept up with the times by hunting a Latin American dictator, a fiendish bank-robber and, in 2007, some "cyber" criminals. Now he's back to Cold War containment, trying to stop renegade Russians from going nuclear.
"It's not 1986, you know," says the Moscovite villain Alik (Rasha Bukvic), but tell that to the filmmakers. "A Good Day to Die Hard" feels like an ancient throwback, with sneering Russkis, weapons-grade uranium, even a showdown in Chernobyl. This film is so dated that its climactic explosion engulfs a statue of Lenin.
One new wrinkle is McClane's estranged son, Jack (a serviceable Jai Courtney), now a Moscow-based CIA agent. For vague reasons, John shows up and helps the kid rescue Komarov (Sebastian Koch), a political prisoner with dirt on a Putinesque ruler. Gruff attempts at father-son reconciliation occur between gunbattles and daring escapes.
This "Die Hard" includes crunchy car chases and spectacular fireballs but forgets to give Willis' McClane the grit, wit and lip that made him such an action icon. Everything is handed to him (guns, grenades and stylish leather jackets appear out of nowhere), yet he seems cranky and tired. He frequently mocks his injured son ("You need a hug?"), and his new refrain, "I'm on vacation!," sounds more like a tourist's complaint than a zippy tagline.
Frenetically directed by John Moore from a sketchy script by Skip Woods, "A Good Day to Die Hard" has the dubious distinction of making John McClane unlikeable. He's had some bad days in the past, but this one finally got him down.
PLOT New York City cop John McClane returns for his fifth round, this time fighting the Russians.
CAST Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch.
BOTTOM LINE Willis, at 57, still looks good with a gun, but this loud, hollow sequel has none of the smarts or heart that made the original film so iconic.