Live Free or Die Hard
Director: Len Wiseman (Underworld and Underworld: Evolution)
Writers: Mark Bomback, David Marconi
Producers: Michael Fottrell, John McTiernan, Arnold Rifkin, Bruce Willis
Starring: Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Maggie Q, Cliff Curtis, Kevin Smith
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 130 min
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reviewed by Enrico Banson
     This whole notion of an “analog hero in a digital world” seems to come in handy for this summer’s action heroes over the age of forty. It’s definitely the hinge that Ocean’s Thirteen swings on, and for John McClane, played in good form by Bruce Willis in Live Free or Die Hard, he’s not ashamed to admit it. It’s good to see McClane kicking major arse again, even if he’s older and . . . balder, especially for those, well, die-hard Die Hard fans who still remember McClane running barefoot through shards of glass, or wrecking havoc through Manhattan subways.

      The fourth installment in this unexpectedly resurrected franchise is welcoming and uncomfortable all at the same time mainly due to the film’s subject matter and plot. The film is based on an eerie Wired Magazine article by John Carlin titled “Farewell to Arms” explaining how our society’s increasing dependency on technology and computers only makes us more vulnerable to attacks on the system by techno-terrorists. We can be sent back to the Stone Age by having bad guys infiltrating our networks and selling our information—from our finances, social security, or worse, mess up our transportation systems and shut down our natural resources. Most techno-thrillers today deal with computers as part of the plot, yet here it feels frighteningly real and relevant.

      The upside to this is that McClane relishes in being out of sync with technology—“a Timex watch in the digital age”—and that the only way to survive a crisis like this is to do things the old-fashioned way. Well, at least to McClane. We’re reintroduced to him as a frustrated geezer who follows his daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) around on her dates. She’s so embarrassed by him that she’s changed her last name and avoids speaking to him at all costs. Soon after, he receives his latest orders—to pick up a young hacker named Matt Farrell (Justin Long) as part of a sweep to find out who and why someone has hacked into the government’s system. Well the real hackers want Farrell dead. Lucky for Farrell to have McClane as his protector.

      The film’s got tons of plot holes, implausible moments and is perhaps fifteen minutes too long. Still, it surprisingly keeps from dragging on and the action is so slick and so much fun that you forgive the atrocities. In keeping with McClane’s old school ways, the other saving grace in the movie are the amazing stunts. Sure, the movie still has its share of CGI (nowadays, which summer blockbuster doesn’t?) but it’s only to heighten the real-life stunts displayed on screen.

      What makes the movie work is Bruce. He seems a bit more fired up and completely invested in the character, unlike his recent performances of late. Here he’s reliably witty and commanding, rolling with the punches and having a good time. Also, the relationship that forms between the antiquated McClane and his techno-savvy youngster companion Farrell make for a good odd couple. Mac commercial guy Justin Long is refreshing as the geeky Farrell, a role that could have been annoying if miscast. As a matter of fact, the casting by Deborah Aquila and Tricia Wood is inspired. All the roles are multicultural, varied and are perfect for the actors that play them. New Zealander Cliff Curtis, who’s always reduced to playing Middle Eastern terrorists, gets to play on the other side of the law as the FBI honcho. Mission: Impossible 3’s Maggie Q gets to show an evil side and give Michelle Yeoh some competition. Kevin Smith even pops up as a trusty hacker with a Star Wars fetish. Perhaps it’s Deadwood’s Timothy Olyphant that seems a bit misplaced as the evil genius. All the villains in the Die Hard franchise are brainy, finicky types and Olyphant seems a bit too rugged for the role, even though his character’s background is intriguing.

      Sticking to your guns the old-fashioned way is truly what’s at the film’s core. Just like in the original films, John McClane is still just an average guy. It’s hard to believe throughout the film as he dodges millions of bullets from semi-automatics and jumping off F35 jets. He’s got a cleaner mouth, perhaps because of age, or the PG-13 rating (unlike the R rating for the first three). And perhaps now he’s virtually indestructible. But you learn to forgive all that with a guy who isn’t afraid to wreck havoc because “he ran out of bullets.” It’s a wonderful return for a great character, especially an action hero with wit and brawns all rolled into one.

      “I’m not heroic,” Farrell tells McClane during a pivotal moment in the film. “I’m not that guy.”
Well, as far as real action heroes go nowadays, John McClane is definitely That Guy.

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