Film Reviews

LIVE FREE or DIE HARD

By • Jun 27th, 2007 •

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20th CENTURY FOX
MPAA rating: PG-13 / Running time — 128 minutes

Yippee-ki-yay!

As expected, #4 in the DIE HARD franchise oozes with testosterone, taking you on a roller coaster ride of non-stop action, phenomenal F/X and off-the-wall stunts guaranteed to leave you both exhilarated and exhausted. Also possibly a bit bored by all the frenzy.

Think a season’s worth of “24” compressed into 128 minutes of running time. In fact, you can take the comparison a few steps further. Like the TV series (a favorite addiction of mine), the plot centers on terrorists intent on destroying the entire U.S. superstructure (by infiltrating the nation’s data banks and shutting down all our country’s electricity, phone and satellite communication, computers, and NY Stock Exchange). Or, as they call it, creating a “Fire Sale” – Everything must go!

In fact, the baddies plan a literal bang-up Fourth of July for the breakdown. Led by evil computer mastermind Gabriel (Olyphant), his crew of cohorts expertly man keyboards, use techie lingo that is impressive (tho naturally incomprehensible to us mere mortals), intermingled with enough shoot-em-ups to burst your eardrums.

To the rescue: Bruce Willis’ NY detective John McClane, now older and bald, but just as likeable and smart-assed as he was as the young cop who saved L.A.’s Nakatomi Corp. in 1988’s first DIE HARD flick. Since then – and two sequels later – the question is not “Can he stop the bad guys?” Of course! It’s a given. Rather, it’s how.

Plot: When the FBI finds their entire computer network infiltrated and its data compromised, McClane is drawn into the battle when he’s ordered to round up one of the nation’s few master hackers savvy enough to be responsible for the damage, and bring him to Washington.

Before long, he realizes Matt Farrell (Long), the computer nerd, is no terrorist, especially when the real culprits try to blast them both off the face of the earth (and off bridges and roads) en route to D.C. All hell breaks loose as cars crash (when computer-generated traffic lights all turn to green), buildings crumble, helicopters and tunnels explode. Phantastico F/X (though one can only wonder at what expense – unless, of course, it was all done by computer imaging. Hard to tell). McClane saves Matt’s life dozens of times, takes him under his wing, and trains him how to protect himself. (i.e. About guns: “Think of them as hardware to your software.”)

And the finale, at a secret government location where, after 9/11, all the accumulated data of America’s wealth is stored – ingenious and marvelous mayhem.

In other words, DIE HARD 4 is a non-stop interface of the good guys vs. the bad ‘uns, where you’d do well to suspend disbelief (at least 98% of the time) and go with the flow of over-the-top derring-do & bravado.

The Good News: Willis’ McClane remains an icon for the action-adventure crowd. In the twelve years since #3, and at a bald 52, he’s still sorta sexy (tho no spring chicken); and despite being outnumbered, beaten bloody but unbowed, yet/still remains believable as he matches wits and fists with the much younger digital daredevils.

The Bad News: For one, as chief villains go, Olyphant’s Gabriel hardly seems threatening; he doesn’t hold a candle to Alan Rickman’s menacing Hans Gruber of DH1. For another – too much action and not enough heart. Guess I’m a bit old-fashioned, but my favorite scenes are those of a more personal nature. Don’t expect to see Bonnie Bedelia as his ex-wife Holly – they’re long divorced. But what really registers are the few times spent with his estranged daughter Lucy, now 19 and a student at Rutgers, who, when she’s initially introduced to Matt as Lucy McClane, angrily blurts out “It’s Lucy Gennero!” – just as her mom did in the first film. Her presence, and their brief personal exchanges, helps to elevate the action to a more human, humane level.

My main regret: I sorely missed Mary Lynn Raiskub’s Chloe O’Brian from “24” – that cerebral gyno-geek mans a computer better than any guy I know.
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Trivia: Don’t tell NJ Governor Corzine, but during the innumerable car chases, I don’t think McClane and Matt were wearing seat belts; and I wonder how the enemy’s private helicopters were allowed to freely fly over D.C.


Credits:
Director: Len Wiseman
Screenplay: Mark Bomback
Story: Mark Bomback, David Marconi
Producers: Michael Fottrell, John McTiernan, Arnold Rifkin, Bruce Willis
Director of Photography: Simon Duggan, ACS
Production Designer: Patrick Tatopoulos
Editor: Nicolas de Toth
Music: Marco Beltrami

Cast:
John McClane: Bruce Willis
Gabriel: Timothy Olyphant
Matt Farrell: Justin Long
Bowman: Cliff Curtis
Mai: Maggie Q
Lucy McClane: Mary Elizabeth Winstead

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