Where is Jeb Stuart when you need him? Because renegade cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) sure could’ve used a good screenwriter for his fifth time getting caught in a very bad situation while not in the line of duty. Stuart, the screenwriter of 1988’s Die Hard, created a character that was both a classic American anti-hero and an endearingly vulnerable law enforcer. And so McClane became one of those Hollywood icons revived periodically (most recently in the far superior Live Free or Die Hard in 2007) to satisfy fans and make a pile of money. A Good Day to Die Hard, however, was scripted by Skip Woods with uninspired formulation. Which is surprising, since Woods would seem to be the right writer at the right time, having revived X-Men with Origins: Wolverine, the best of the bunch. There are no origins being explored in this junker, as McClane flies off to Russia to aid—he thinks—his alienated son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who is imprisoned for murder. The plot is a string of barely related concepts, beginning with an overlong and heavily digitalized highway chase during which Jack makes off with a Russian scientist scheduled for execution.
In between big-vehicle pile-ups (director John Moore seems to be missing in action), Jack makes his disdain for his absentee father known while John tries to make it up to him by stubbornly refusing to let his son go it alone. Willis seems game though somewhat aware that his character isn’t accomplishing anything and hasn’t a single one-liner worth uttering. Courtney is, if nothing else, believable as a McClane offspring.
What could’ve been a comic moment—when John realizes his son is actually a CIA operative—is dulled by the inane dialogue. John doesn’t even get a chance to deploy his old-school beat cop instincts as their relationship consists of bland exchanges that serve as dead-air respites from all the clanging and grinding of mindless property damage. Only once is the father-son relationship shown with any verve (probably unintentional) and that’s when each receives a brutal pistol-whip to the skull and both absorb it with the same hardheaded resiliency. But that’s after the pair are betrayed by a Russian femme fatale (Yulina Snigir) while preventing the heist of a secret cache of plutonium. The post-Perestroika settings are underutilized while vehicles ceaselessly crash and burn, and the plot rotates like the blades of stalled helicopter. Guess it wasn’t such a good day after all.