Film review: A Good Day to Die Hard

WHEN did John McClane move from have-a-go hero to man-who-cleans up after his kids?

* *

I blame the last Indiana Jones film, with its unnecessary inclusion of Shia LaBeouf as Jones Jr, but also Taken, for giving Liam Neeson a new lease of life knocking ten bells out of Europeans who annoy his family.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

In Die Hard 4.0, McClane was peripherally infuriated by his daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Now in A Good Day To Die Hard, his other child Jack (Jai Courtney) comes even further to the fore, fighting bad guys with his dad.

Wait, you don’t remember talk of a Jack in any of the other Die Hards? Me neither. I also wonder why McClane sees so little of Mrs McClane in these movies. Does she work socially awkward shifts, or is she a woman in her 50s, and therefore too hideous to show to audiences, except in silhouette?

Poor Bonnie Bedelia, the original Mrs McClane. Or perhaps Lucky Bonnie Bedelia because Die Hard 5 is really very poor indeed. Thanks to Jack, McClane has to travel out to Russia to retrieve the glowering ball of resentment that is his son, who is a CIA operative trying to liberate a Russian ­political prisoner.

Why the CIA is so interested in Russian prisoners is never satisfactorily explained – it’s just an excuse for father and son to take a trip to Chernobyl, sniping at bad guys and snarking at each other along the way. The real intrigue is how long this series can keep spinning: originally viewed as adult entertainment, the Die Hards have lowered their sights to the teen crowd, so within five minutes there’s already a grandpaw joke at the expense of Willis. The youth demographic is presumably the reason for McClane’s kids drawing their dad into sorting out their mess-ups.

It’s as if everyone involved has forgotten what made the original movie so great: at this point in the franchise, McClane’s man-against-the-world dynamic has now changed so utterly that in Russia, he’s the authority figure. And thanks to McClane Jr, he’s not ­exactly alone any more either. The more serious departure from the original benchmark is that most of the ass-kicking is now dispensed by Jack, who punctuates each bout of fisticuffs with another whinge about his dad never having been there, when he should really be considering the statistics on inherited male pattern baldness.

Whilst father and son confront their connective issues, audiences will be having emotional crises of their own. Why isn’t this exciting? Why is Willis surrounded by line readings that recall extravagantly dull foreign-movie dubbing?

There’s no villain here that comes close to Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber from the first film, and the shoot-outs feel tired. Even more inexcusably, there are no decent one-liners for Willis, unless you count the self-aware “this one’s a stinker”. It’s A Good Day To Consider Retirement.

On general release