A Good Day to Die Hard movie review: Cheers from Chernobyl

Feb 14, 2013 at 9:00 a.m. ET

Bruce Willis and Jai Courtney are together for some unusual father and son bonding. But what American family doesn’t enjoy blasting Russians at a melted-down nuclear power plant? Though there's nothing romantic about this fifth film in the Die Hard franchise, it does deliver on exciting action with the tough, joke-cracking John McClane we know and love.

A Good Day to Die Hard

3.5 Stars: Perfect for the new generation of "Die-Hards"

Trouble is brewing in Russia on the day former billionaire Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch) is due to go to trial. With massive protests on the streets of Moscow, Russian defense minister Victor Chagarin (Sergey Kolesnikov) meets Yuri in prison to offer a plea deal: if Yuri tells him the location of the precious “secret file,” Victor can make the trial go away. Yuri refuses to cooperate.

After saying goodbye to his daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), John McClane (Bruce Willis) heads to Russia to find and return his son Jack (Jai Courtney) to the States. Jack is a risk-loving rebel who seems to have lost his way and gotten mixed up with some primo bad guys — nothing McClane can’t fix.

A Good Day to Die Hard

In Russia, father and son are soon reunited after an attack at the courthouse where Yuri was supposed to go on trial. Turns out that Jack is now CIA and has orders to protect Yuri.

From the get-go, tensions between McClane and Jack are running high. While Jack wants to do things his way, McClane can’t help but think his son is making a mess of things. Turns out, both father and son are terribly stubborn and too much alike for their own good.

Underneath his sarcastic exterior, however, McClane is truly worried about his son and wants to protect him at all costs. Jack, though, is consumed by bitterness, holding a grudge against his often-absentee father. But if they want to stay alive, young and old must come together to battle the ruthless Russians, who are developing weapons-grade uranium.

A Good Day to Die Hard

The American-Russian showdown takes place at the abandoned nuclear power plant at Chernobyl, infamous for melting down in the 1980s. There are many witty references to the Cold War, including a dastardly Russian gangster telling McClane, “It’s not 1986 anymore. Reagan is dead.” True enough, but freedom is alive and well.

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Bottom line: Bruce Willis still delivers an exciting action experience with non-stop thrills in the last 20 minutes, including an amazing helicopter scene that is a cinematic first. Australian actor Jai Courtney shines as the next generation of "Die-Hards." Surely we'll be seeing him in future action flicks.

The runtime is 1 hour, 37 minutes. There are no extra scenes after the credits.

Photo credit: 20th Century Fox