Even by Die Hard standards, the circumstances that place John McClane (Bruce Willis) in the middle of a terrorist plot in A Good Day to Die Hard, the series’ fifth installment, are pretty flimsy. McClane’s propensity for finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time was already a running joke by the franchise’s second movie, but the creators of Good Day barely bother justifying the coincidence that finds McClane in Moscow, squaring off against Russian criminals who are after a political dissident named Komarov (Sebastian Koch).
Ostensibly McClane is in town to track down his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney), who just happens to be a CIA agent and just happens to be attempting to extract Komarov from the country on the day his dad arrives. Screenwriter Skip Woods and director John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines, Max Payne) don’t give this a whole lot of consideration, though; they care only about maneuvering father and son as quickly as possible into chaotic, loud action set pieces, including one of the most ludicrous (and violent) car chases of all time.
At this point, McClane is essentially invincible, which negates a lot of the character’s appeal. In the first Die Hard, he ended up beaten, bruised and bloody, and there was a real sense of danger to his fight against Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber. Here, both McClane and Jack might as well be superheroes, which means the generically staged action sequences have no real stakes. Good Day also lacks a compelling villain; instead of Rickman or Jeremy Irons or Timothy Olyphant, we get a succession of anonymous baddies whose efforts to double-cross each other are completely uninteresting.
In 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard, Mary Elizabeth Winstead made a strong impression as McClane’s daughter Lucy; here she’s relegated to a tiny role, and Courtney definitely makes for a poorer McClane offspring. If the producers are hoping to hand off the franchise to the next generation, they’ve made a poor choice in the bland, affectless Courtney. Then again, Willis himself seems a little sleepy, half-heartedly tossing off weak one-liners and emotional pleas for family reconciliation. No one expects Good Day to replicate the excitement of the original Die Hard, but this assembly-line product doesn’t even live up to its immediate predecessor.