Bruce Willis is back in action - mind-blowing, heart-stopping, rip-roaring action - as John McClane, the heroic New York cop with a knack for being in the wrong place at the right time. John's latest predicament takes him all the way to Russia to track down his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who has been imprisoned in Moscow. But the mission takes a deadly turn as father and son must join forces to thwart a nuclear weapons heist that could trigger World War III!
The world has changed a lot in the 25 years between Die Hard and this fifth franchise rehash, but Bruce Willis is still the indestructible force of nature who is followed by gunfire and explosions everywhere he goes. In fact, he seems to have gotten more powerful and his body grown more resilient in spite of the crags in his face and the gray stubble over his ears. This time around, New York Police Department veteran John McClane has trekked to Russia for what he claims is a vacation, a running gag that lets Willis keep on quipping with the impeccable insouciance of a pedigreed action hero. What he's really up to is tracking his wayward son Jack (Jai Courtney), who John believes is on trial for murdering a mob kingpin. In the first of the movie's many dazzling set pieces, father and son meet cute just as Jack has broken out of a heavily fortified courtroom with a mysterious Russian businessman named Komarov (Sebastian Koch), who is in possession of some sort of information that's valuable on the world stage. Don't worry, the details aren't important as there's no room for plausibility in any direction. It's no spoiler to reveal that Jack is a covert CIA agent in pursuit of Komarov's file, and that instead of helping his estranged child, the senior McClane has actually bungled Junior's operation. This sets off a lengthy chase on the streets of Moscow (actually Budapest) that has father zooming after son with a tank full of caricatured Russian bad guys in the middle. Hundreds of vehicles sacrifice themselves for the hyperkinetic demolition derby between the three factions as they race through traffic-jammed streets, flattening everything made of metal and glass along the way. Though far less elegantly staged, the sequence recalls the opening chase in Skyfall, and the story rolls on in a similarly dumbed-down series of spy-movie showdowns that are all cranked up to 11. A Good Day to Die Hard is the most cartoonish sequel, given its superfluous plotting and nonstop spree of gratuitous destruction. There are a few plot twists--ultimately it's all about money, of course--but mostly it's an exercise in extravagant violence and automatic-weapons fire, with emotionless moments of rapprochement between John and Jack dropped in around the gunfights. Both of them survive beatings, car crashes, and ludicrous falls from tall buildings without injury as Komarov is lost, then found, then lost again. Dad helps his son mop up the mess by doing what they both like to do best: kill scumbags. The dizzying editing and breakneck pace builds to a crescendo at Chernobyl, where a magical anti-radiation gas explodes many things, a truck is driven out of a flying helicopter, buildings and people are shot to pieces, and a paroxysm of fetishistic, slow-motion digital mayhem turns the decrepit nuclear facility to rubble. Bruce Willis is firmly in charge throughout, delivering the mother of F-bomb catch phrases with a succession of increasingly eye-popping fireballs hot on his heels. Yippee-ki-yay, indeed. --Ted Fry