A good day to quit while they were ahead was the day they wrapped production on Live Free or Die Hard. This is one too many times drinking from a very dry well.
The original appeal of the Die Hard movies was that John McClane (Bruce Willis) was an everyman hero, the antidote to a decade of quasi-indestructable commie-killin’ supermen. By 2013, he has become exactly what he wasn’t in 1988: a cartoon.
We start in Russia, where an ambitious politician named Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov) has imprisoned a rival named Komarov (Sebastian Koch), promising to let him go if the man hands over a file of some sort. In the meantime, a young man walks into a Moscow night club and guns down another man before being tackled by what we assume is the bouncer.
Back in New York, John McClane receives word that his son, Jack (Jai Courtney), is in a Moscow jail on unspecified charges, but will be lucky to escape with just a life sentence. He flies off to Russia, although what exactly he expects to accomplish is unclear.
Dad? Just try... try not to make an even bigger mess of things.
Back in Russia, the shooter from the nightclub offers to testify against Chagarin, placing him and the Russian in the courtroom at the same time. Just as McClane arrives at the courthouse, a team of gunmen led by a man named Alik (Rasha Buvkik) blast their way into the courtroom using car bombs, but the younger man helps Chagarin escape, stealing a van in the process. During their get away, the van nearly runs over McClane in the middle of the street, and the New York detective recognizes the driver, the night club gunman, as his son and the younger McClane is not happy to see Dad.
It turns out that McClane the younger has not actually been screwing up his life in Russia, but working for the Central Intelligence Agency, and Dad has just stumbled into the climax of a three-year-long operation, which has just gone pear-shaped in a big way.
The big problem with this movie is pretty simple. Nobody knows exactly why anyone is doing whatever they’re doing. That includes the characters, the audience, and apparently the filmmakers, too.
Jack is bitter and disrespectful toward his father, but we never really understand why, other to create some sort of ill-defined dramatic tension between the characters. The plot itself seems like one of those hack screenwriting exercises where every character eventually betrays every other character, for no better reason than such twists are required to move the story, what little there is of it, along.
Everything fails to really build to the long, unfocused, and meandering climax deep in the bowels of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.