There are few constants in life, but now we’re on to the fifth ‘Die Hard’ movie, Bruce Willis pulling a face like a tight arsehole and spraying a room with bullets is surely one of them. The title is oddly gnomic, but everything else about ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ is as workmanlike as men in fluorescent tabards repainting the white lines on the North Circular on a wet Tuesday. Try some keywords for size: Russian bad guys, American heroes, Chernobyl, weapons-grade uranium, double-crossing, guns, helicopters, explosions... Lots of explosions. Lots and lots of explosions. And a car chase through the streets of Moscow that leaves a trail of debris behind it that will keep Russian scrapdealers in business for years to come.
It might sound like we’re back in the world of 1980s action movies, but the story is contemporary. Retired detective John McClane (Willis) heads to the Russian capital after his son Jack (Jai Courtney) gets in a spot of bother. It turns out Jack’s on the side of the angels (well, the CIA) and he and papa become embroiled in an attempt to defend a nuclear scientist (Sebastian Koch) from some cookie-cutter villains (one of whom does a ‘sinister’ tap dance) who want to get hold of a file in his possession. This meathead-and-potatoes plot is accompanied by a drip-drip thaw in father-son relations.
Apart from the odd weak one-liner (‘There’s a two-year contract on that phone,’ says Willis when someone smashes his mobile), the whole thing is played as straight as a die. There are no knowing winks to Willis’s age as you might expect, which is probably sensible, as he does a reasonable job and still manages – just – to hold his own as an action star, even if he’s trading on past glories and doesn’t appear to do much heavy lifting himself. It’s everything going on around him that’s so laughable, and it’s especially hard to imagine his charm-lite new sidekick, Courtney, taking his place in the series… if that is the plan. The whole thing is a tedious, trashy throwback.