Thursday, June 28, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

Live Free or Die Hard Poster

Oh Noes!
Terrorists stole teh Interweb!

The fourth installment of the Die Hard action franchise (Die Hard 4.0 in most non-US markets) pits Bruce Willis' everyman hero, Detective John McClane, against Internet terrorists bent on the destruction of the United States ... or are they?

The movie plays out like a watered-down Hackers (1995) meshed with Bruce Willis' own, more recent, 16 Blocks (2006), with more explosions, cursing, and improbable situations thrown into the mix.

And, since when was it decided the Die Hard franchise was to be turned into buddy movies?

Die Hard with a Vengeance paired Samuel L. Jackson with Bruce Willis. It was a departure from the previous two films; not only by adding a secondary "buddy" character, but by moving the location from New York, losing Reginald VelJohnson's Sgt. Al Powell, and not happening on, or around, Christmas. For all that, Die Hard with a Vengeance was a fun, entertaining action romp.

Live Free or Die Hard pairs Bruce Willis with Justin Long as Matt Farrell, a computer super-nerd. I was extremely worried Long would pull the movie down and was very surprised when he didn't. You actually begin to like the mousy computer nerd as he slowly transforms from the whiny, scared spitless punk in the beginning of the film into "a guy who does what is needed because there is no one else to do it."

Along the way we are also introduced to McClane's grown up daughter, who while not having a lengthy part in the film, plays an important role. Okay, she ends up playing a hostage, thus giving McClane more incentive to beat the snot out of the bad guys. It's not like he wasn't already trying to stop them from mucking up the country, now he's really pissed at them.

What is wrong with bad guys, anyhow? In every single action movie where a villain uses the protagonist's loved ones as a hostage, it always turns out bad. All it does is make the good guy madder, and sets him on a bee line straight for the main baddie.

If they absolutely have to use a beloved hostage, why take that hostage with you?

Put the hostage somewhere as far from where you are, or plan to be, as possible. then make sure the good guy knows exactly where the hostage is and how to get there. Send them to MapQuest for directions if needed. But make sure he goes after his daughter / wife / fiance /best friend / whatever far, far from you. While he's out saving the hostage across the state, blow up the world from the relative safety of your good-guy-free command center.

Better yet, don't actually have the hostage at all. Fake it. So when Good Guy finally arrives to save her, she's not there. Never was there. He can call her on a cell and find out she was okay, never in danger, just over at a slumber party enjoying make-overs, popcorn, and talking about boys or something. Good Guy is now tired, all his anger used up on killing disposable baddies, and now relieved to find out his daughter is safe. Bad Guy laughs and presses the Big Red Button ... BOOM ... plan completed.

Of course, if McClane didn't take out the main bad guy's love interest, he might have left his daughter alone. The baddie love interest is played by Maggie Q, and is a sexy computer nerd ninja. Seriously. And you get to see her and McClane go mano-a-mano. Or would that be man-a-womano? Talk about women gaining equality. ~.^

Timothy Olyphant plays Thomas Gabriel, the mastermind behind the Internet terrorists. He starts off a bit stiff, but quickly warms up to be a credible nemesis for McClane. He's brilliant, ruthless, and just a bit off his rocker. And, like all Die Hard villains, there is more under the surface of his actions than what it seems. Not terribly far under the surface in this guy's case, but still ...

What I liked is that he was the mastermind, the brains behind the whole thing, not the toughest SOB McClane has to face. He manipulates, he schmoozes, he gives the orders to do the dirty work, then watches it all unfold. Of course, as it unfolds, McClane begins to unravel it, and Gabriel becomes more and more unhinged. You can see the seething anger roiling beneath the surface of his carefully maintained calm exterior. The eruptions of anger, the losses of control, are interesting to watch.

Anyhow, McClane gets his ass kicked almost as bad as he kicks the bad guys', as usual. He always bounces back. Sometimes cleaner, and less bloody, than he was in the previous scene.

As Gabriel growls to McClane at one point, "I thought I killed you," McClane's "Yeah, I get that a lot," puts his violent day into perspective.

The action sequences are as good as ever, though Willis is showing his age in more than just his heavier features and lack of hair. He seems a little slower, a little stiffer, more world weary ... but this is counter-pointed by his experience with this sort of thing, and referenced, tongue-in-cheek, several times throughout the film. He is an anachronism in a high-tech world.

Over all, it was a good movie. Very fun, very entertaining, not too cerebral. It moved at a decent pace, though the beginning was a bit slow, and the various cut-aways to the FBI dragged down the pacing a bit. The action was what you would expect from a Die Hard film, as are the improbable situations McClane finds himself in.

I mean, he takes out a helicopter with a car. He fights a sexy computer nerd ninja girl inside an SUV inside an elevator shaft. He fights an F35 with a semi-truck. He even suddenly knows how to fly a helicopter ... sorta. The ending is a good, yet typical, McClane shocker, but you never get to hear his full catch-phrase.

The price they paid to get a PG-13 rating. Though, with all the other rampant cursing and heavy violence, you wouldn't know it.

I recommend seeing this in the theater for the Big Screen and the Movie Sound (and the Jumbo Coke Freezies). I'm also getting it on DVD when it comes out. Not the best action movie of the summer, or of the series. But it's better than Vengeance and a worthy addition to the fast fading (and fast aging Willis) Die Hard franchise.

Next up ... Die Hard with a Respirator!

Yippie Kiy Yay. Mother Fu ... *cough cough cough*

Raivynn Rating


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Jason said...

Very good review. You covered all the bases. Nice work.