Nothing good can ever come from an action hero introducing his son into the mix – it's the reason James Bond has remained childless. First Indiana Jones dropped a stinker when he invited little'un Shia LaBeouf on his adventures, and now John McClane is reconnecting with his estranged son, Jack, in A Good Day To Die Hard. While the resulting film isn't as catastrophic as Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, the Die Hard franchise has now exhausted all but its most barrel-scraping ideas, leaving behind a generic action flick that bears little resemblance to the original.
With Bonnie Bedelia steadfastly refusing to return as McClane's beleagured ex-wife Holly, presumably out of the picture for good, John's kids now make up the family quota. In Die Hard 4.0 we were introduced to kickass daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who returns – briefly – in A Good Day To Die Hard, eventually making way for brother Jack (Jai Courtney) to take the stage as a CIA agent causing chaos in Moscow. John (Bruce Willis) ups sticks to try and straighten him out but winds up ankle-deep in corpses when he becomes embroiled in a conspiracy.
John McClane hasn't acted solo since Die Hard 2 back in 1990, partnered in Die Hard With A Vengeance with Samuel L Jackson (shouty) and in Die Hard 4.0 with Justin Long (geeky). In A Good Day To Die Hard, McClane has finally met his match, his son moulded in his own image: stubborn, obstinate, headstrong and seemingly impervious to explosions. The banter between them might feel a touch forced – not to mention the rather clunky scenes in which they connect – but on the whole, Jai Courtney is a worthy partner to McClane, and matches him for wit and vigour.
Deal with it, Bruce.
As odd as it may sound, A Good Day To Die Hard is the first movie in the series to be written specifically as a Die Hard movie – the first four all started life as existing stories which were only adapted to fit McClane's sensibilities after they were spurned as sequels to existing franchises (Commando, Lethal Weapon). Consequently, it feels like a collection of Die Hard clichés, instead of a story that develops organically.
Bizarrely, given it was built from the ground up to fit Bruce Willis like a grubby vest, A Good Day To Die Hard has almost nothing in common with the 1988 original (zero claustrophobia, no isolation, not much in the way of ingenuity). Instead, it feels like a progression of 2007's cyber-sequel Die Hard 4.0 – probably not the direction most fans were willing Willis and co to take. Aside from Willis' leathery skin, there's no concession to McClane's age – he's still flung out of windows, into helicopters and all over the road. He's the human crash test dummy and emotes accordingly.
The best way to watch A Good Day To Die Hard is to separate it from the original three movies and consider it – and Die Hard 4.0 – an alternative universe sequel, in which McClane didn't retire after his run-in with Simon Gruber to settle down with Holly. Divorced from the real franchise and featuring synthetic characters, incapable of being harmed or showing emotion, A Good Day To Die Hard becomes far more tolerable.
It certainly ticks all the boxes required by a modern action movie: car chase (check); exploding helicopter (check); improbable fall from a large building (check and check). It's just a shame that John McClane – who started life a vulnerable cop in way over his head – is now less human than ever. Still, if we must stomach a Die Hard 6, we'd still rather it was him than his kid. 3/5