25 years on, Bruce Willis is still out there, putting himself on the line, ready to shoot a whole new bunch of bad guys in the face even though they look very similar to the kind of bad guys he was shooting way back in 1988. You know the kind; bleached blonde hair, strange fashion sense, often one heavily muscled bad guy wandering about ready for a fight scene that lasts at least ten minutes and requires somebody being hit with an industrial chain on a meat hook. This one however breaks the mould, it isn’t just about John McClane, it’s about his relationship with his… hang on… his son? His son that he doesn’t get on with… which means that we’re going to have to put up with continuous ‘moments’ where the son repeatedly refuses to call his dad ‘Dad’, and instead just keeps saying ‘John’ over and over and over until they have a significant moment at the end of the film where the entire film set has been blown to oblivion and they can finally have a slow walk through the burning debris and realise that family is more important than depleted uranium?
McClane for some random reason has decided that now is the time to find his son and make amends for being a rubbish parent – 30 years too late you may well say but cast such thoughts aside because this time he really does care, and goes on holiday to Moscow to prove it. And you know this because throughout the film one of the four set phrases that Bruce Willis will utter is ‘I’m on holiday!’, along with ‘Jack!’ , ‘Arghh!’ and ‘Scumbags!’, usually whilst in charge of a vehicle that will imminently be exploded, driven off a bridge or thrown into a building.
His son, it turns out, is a CIA agent who is trying to rescue a Moscow political prisoner in order to get a particular ‘file’ which will tell everybody who was really responsible for the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl. Yes, Chernobyl was apparently the direct result of two men enriching uranium and ‘getting greedy’. ‘Scumbags’, agrees McClane. After a car chase across Moscow where approximately 450 cars get crushed by an armoured car that the bad guys got from somewhere unspecified, McClane and his long lost son start their bonding over high powered automatic weapons and throwing themselves out of windows.
Eventually, after half of Moscow is reduced to rubble, but with absolutely no police presence whatsoever, it’s down to CIA agent Jack, who for some reason seems to have been left to make things up by himself, and John McClane who is largely irrelevant apart from an occasional cameo where he squints and falls out of another building, to work out what happened at Chernobyl and what ‘the file’ contains. The real Chernobyl has become a tourist destination in recent years and would take precisely 12 hours and one minute to reach by driving according to Google maps seen as it’s in the Ukraine and not ten minutes down the road. However, in the world of Die Hard the gun toting good guys turn up seemingly a few minutes after the radiation-suit wearing bad guys at the nuclear reactor, which rather than the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident just looks like an abandoned factory.
They’re desperately trying to convince you that this is the the site of a terrible accident which is still highly dangerous, with the baddies goggled up to the eyeballs and waving ipads around that bleep at alarming levels, but this feeling of imminent evaporation by uranium depletion is slightly marred by the fact that Bruce and his son just stroll in with little more than a bullet belt to protect them. At one point they fall into what looks like a swimming pool, which was supposedly built inside a nuclear reactor mind you, after jumping out of yet another window and the son just shrugs this off because it’s ‘just rainwater’.
For a light hearted action film it fills 90 minutes with repeated explosions, guns, Bruce Willis either throwing himself out of windows or being thrown into windows, and helicopters rocketing around, but for a Die Hard film it really is dire. What’s happened to the character of John McClane? The wise cracking, vest-wearing one man demolishion machine? In this he’s just wandering about slightly out of focus just repeatedly saying ‘scumbags’ now and again and crashing jeeps. The plot is so poor it’s laughable. Chernobyl? Really? Chernobyl is a three story factory with a swimming pool is it and the largest nuclear disaster ever can be explained with one file? It’s difficult to understand why this even exists, or why just a bit more effort couldn’t be employed with the plot. There’s a political undertone but it’s so flimsy that the film merely rests on its action scenes, however ridiculous they may be. In the last Die Hard film we saw Willis launch a police car at a helicopter and jump out of the back of a lorry onto a fighter jet and this film just can’t compete. He’s out-ridiculoused himself and all he has left is sappy slow-mo shots where he has a family reunion with his grown children.
Overall, if you want a bit of silly fun it kind of does the job but the more you think about it the worse it gets so turn the brain off and enjoy the CGI explosions and ignore the fact that they turned up at Chernobyl with a gas that can apparently de-radify an area in a couple of minutes.