Die Hard isn’t just a film franchise, it’s a description of the state of the franchise. The original film is brilliant, save for one annoyance. The second film is largely good, but too open and over the top. The third, with some hindsight, is quite effective but deviates from formula and has a stupid ending. The fourth is utterly terrible and features someone outrunning a jet in a very slow lorry. So, what then, of the fifth film?
It’s not the worst Die Hard film. That is possibly the nicest thing that I can really say about it. My idea of what a Die Hard film is cemented by the first film. The second largely follows the same formula and the third and fourth cheerfully ignore it. So does the fifth. That means that Die Hard films are actually more unlike the first film then they are like it, character names aside. But they bear the name. And it doesn’t feel like Die Hard.
John McClaine sets off to Russia to find out what trouble his estranged son has managed to get himself in. His son is embroiled in a Russian conspiracy and works as a spy. This, actually, is not the biggest stretch of belief that the film will ask you to make. From the very first chase (which makes little to no sense) we have baddies who are ruthless and decisive when tension is needed or to show how bad they are and then utterly ineffective when the heroes need to accomplish anything. And physics and momentum are gleefully ignored.
The thematic link to the parallel stories/arcs in the film is what people will do for the children and the sacrifices they will and won’t make. The twist is that the two fathers aren’t as far apart from their offspring as it appears, even if this makes them less similar as people. It’s not a bad underlying idea, but it is paid lip service by the film as a whole and the rest of the film is really quite stupid.
Bruce Willis, as usual, is eminently watchable. Unfortunately he is starting to look a little slight and old for the pure gung-ho heroics. To make things worse, the gunfights degenerate into John Wayne style shooting at each other with no cover. People being shot seems to only have a bearing as per plot demands and there is little of the tension and sense of danger that you see in the first 3 films.
Worse still, the villains are easily dispatched and the entire thing feels largely anti climatic. Even the bits that aren’t predictable come across as no surprise. Still, at least no one outruns a fighter jet in a truck or saves the world from the internet by shooting things.