I just got home from the press screening for Live Free or Die Hard (aka Die Hard 4.0, which woulda, coulda and shoulda been the film’s official title). With any sequel, everyone immediately asks how it compares to the previous films in the series. There really is no way to review a fourth film in a series on solid ground because you walk into it with hours (in this case six hours) of expectations. We go to a movie like this expecting to relive our cinematic, pop-culture childhood. Unfortunately it’s a promise which is almost never fulfilled. And you might be saying, “Why doesn’t he cut to the chase” or “just spit it out and tell us that you hated the movie!” But the truth is that I had a GREAT time. The problem is that I feel like I shouldn’t have. I now watch movies with a more critical eye. Hey, it’s become my job. That said, the stunts and action are non-stop but may-be too over-the-top for some, and the story is filled with gaps of logic. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention these two things. For some of you it might be a deal-breaker, but I have a feeling that most of you are probably like me, and are willing to sit back and enjoy the movie.
Live Free or Die Hard feels less like a Die Hard film than the three films that preceded it. May-be it’s because John McClane is no longer fighting terrorists in a skyscraper or chasing to stop a mad bomber from blowing up New York. This time around he must save the United States from a total systematic shutdown which would result in the loss of pretty much everything, and in effect our freedom too. Willis is called to transport known hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long) to Washington, DC for questioning. But the bad guys, lead by Timothy Olyphant, have other plans.
They intend to kill Farrell, and all the other hackers that unknowingly helped them before the cops can ask questions. Why, we’re not sure. All we know is that it is important that the die. This is where the gaps of logic begin to appear. Case in point, the bad guys have secretly broken into each one of the hacker’s houses and have installed a remote bomb in their computer. The bomb can be activated remotely, but somehow still requires the hacker to hit a keyboard delete key to detonate. Wouldn’t it be far easier to remote detonate? And wouldn’t the hackers, who are notoriously privacy freaks notice that their houses were broken into and equipment modified? And why is there a team of five hitmen dispatched to each of the hackers houses? For no other reason but for McClane to kill? And don’t get me started on the retarded “movie” computer technology used in this movie. That stuff always offends me.
Anyway, back to my point: there are many holes of logic in this film. The further you get into the story, the bigger the holes get, and the more ridiculous stunts and situations McClane is forced to endure. But this shouldn’t be a problem for anyone who is willing to sit back and enjoy themselves. Len Wiseman has made a great popcorn action flick, and I’m really surprised, as I wasn’t a fan of the Underworld movies. Willis delivers the scripted bad-ass John McClane one-liners like he never stopped. And Justin Long isn’t nearly as annoying as he seems from the commercials. I would actually venture to say that he is perfect in the role as the smart ass sidekick character. And Kevin Smith makes an extended cameo as “The Warlock”, a “digital jedi”-like hacker who still lives in his mother’s basement. His scenes are a great break from the nonstop action. And the action is non stop. Some of the stuntwork seen in the film’s first action sequence outside Farrell’s apartment is better than anything I’ve seen in recent years. And there is a scene involving a elevator shaft which will have you at the edge of your seat.
And yes, John McClane does go one on one with a fighter jet, while rocking a big mac truck on an elevated freeway. At this point in the film the action got so over the top that some of the people I talked to following the screening were turned off. But it’s something I knew about going in. It’s featured in the trailers, and heck, like I said I just sat back and enjoyed.
I also must applaud the film for allowing no-holds-barred fights between men and woman. In today’s politically correct times, it’s not often that we see a Woman take a punch in the face. And I’m not applauding on screen woman violence. I’m just saying that Maggie Q played a real bad chick who deserved what she got. Plus, McClane also takes quite a beat-down from Q. But I applaud a Hollywood film for having the guts to show that a villainous woman can get hers too.
There is even a point in the film where the dialogue becomes self referential, and takes a few stabs at the action movie conventions. My biggest disappointment, and correct me if I’m wrong, but they cut out my favorite bit of dialogue which was used in the theatrical trailer. The part when McClane says “I’m gonna go kill this guy and get my daughter. Or go get my daughter and kill this guy. Or kill all of ’em!” I’m pretty sure it was missing from the film, and a few people after the film confirmed my suspicions. But why would they cut that line? It was so bad ass.
My other major complaint is that the bad guys are one-dimensional and boring at best. And that’s sad because I consider Timothy Olyphant to be one of the most underused and misused actors of his generation. And Maggie Q’s sole purpose is to look hot, kick butt and as I mentioned before, take a beating. Even the secondary good guy characters (ie the government) are lifeless stiff-looking morons who can’t seem to figure out what’s wrong. But when John McClane is on screen, you really don’t care.
Live Free or Die Hard is ridiculous or may-be even ridiculously fun non-stop action movie. But I wonder how John McClane will stand against Michael Bay’s Tranformers. And more importantly, will McClane return one more time (this time to presumingly save the world)? I hope so.
/Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10