Review: Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
PLOT: When a now grizzled John McClane is asked to pick up a suspected hacker, per usual he gets more than he bargained for. Once he arrives, the detective and his new “partner” find themselves at the wrong end of the gun – or computer - in the hands of a ruthless cyber terrorist.
REVIEW: Perhaps after twelve years we are a little more cynical. In 1995 with the release of DIE HARD: WITH A VENGEANCE, the character of Detective John McClane had his issues, but he somehow didn’t seem as jaded and dark as he appears in 2007’s LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD. In a movie that features the destructive power of technology there is a real sense of loss for the one time “everyman” that was beaten, battered and bruised by the end of each film. It is almost as if he has accepted his fate and developed a superhuman ability to survive nearly every single situation. There are sequences here that would feel right at home in another familiar franchise, namely FINAL DESTINATION but clearly we just don’t see the grisly side of the destruction in a big budget action flick.
Director Len Wiseman is often criticized for his expertly stylistic films because they can feel cold and unapproachable – some would even say they are just plain dumb. Yet I sometimes can appreciate what he has to offer, and that is true of this film as well. The heavy emphasis on how dependent on technology we are seems perfect material for the director. The opening scene here where two computer geeks discover that somebody messed with their PC the hard way is actually quite terrifying. It is unfathomable the real world damage that can happen if somebody decides to hack into somebody else's bank account or worse. The concept here is handled appropriately enough with Wiseman at the helm even if, for better or worse, he had a major part in changing the world in which Willis’ McClane exists - credit must go to the screenwriter Mark Bomback as well as Fox.
What about McClane? Let’s get this straight, Bruce Willis has never let me down with his solid work in these films – and that includes the latest chapter A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD. I certainly miss the comedic edge he brought to the first three films because it made him seem very approachable. Yet twelve years after the last film he has become more akin to the typical unstoppable action heroes DIE HARD was seemingly a response to. This guy survives tons of vicious hand-to-hand combat, being thrown out a moving car which he uses to destroy a helicopter and so much more. Is this the same guy that was freaking out over having to walk on glass in the first film? Thankfully Willis is able to pull this character off in his sleep, no matter what the writers have in store for him.
What this DIE HARD does have in common with the three earlier films is a good supporting cast. Justin Long plays a young computer hacker McClane is asked to escort to the police department and he is likable enough. Although there are times that he borders on Kate Capshaw and THE TEMPLE OF DOOM annoying. Even still he offers a little vulnerability that used to be found in the film’s main star. The same can be said about the criminally underused Mary Elizabeth Winstead as McClane’s daughter. She in introduced early on and then simply becomes a pawn in the game being played by the film’s villain, Thomas Gabriel played by the charismatic Timothy Olyphant.
As far as bad guys go, the gun-toting computer experts here are serviceable. Yet as a fan of Olyphant, his character comes across as more of a child throwing a tantrum as opposed to a serious threat. The one nemesis that stands out here is the stunning Maggie Q who is a far more interesting villain than her sniveling boss. Perhaps if this had been any other franchise Olyphant would not have seemed so weak, but looking back on Rickman, Irons and even Sadler, this is not what you’d expect from a DIE HARD movie.
After all these years you have to hand it to this particular franchise, they’ve managed to stay reasonably relevant. You can credit this to taking on original stories and placing them into the DIE HARD-verse. It also may be the fact that the franchise has been allowed to change. I miss the old McClane as much as the next guy, but would that kind of hero in this series still work after twenty-five years? I don’t know about you but if I was constantly having to battle terrorists at inopportune times I would probably grow a little jaded and cold myself.
In the end, Wiseman has crafted a spectacular looking action flick. Much of what you see on-screen is bigger and badder than ever before. While you’ve always had to have a sense of disbelief within DIE HARD, this is especially true here. Willis still brings a lot of character to McClane and the latest tradition of partnering him up with someone younger works well enough with Long. It is however a shame that his own on-screen daughter is wasted but at least there is a fun cameo with Kevin Smith as “Warlock,” the brain that lives in his mothers’ basement. After a few years of adjusting to the redux version of this iconic character, it seems to me he may just be changing with times. One thing though… what the f*ck is with these guys having McClane deciding to stop putting money in the swear jar for this flick. Those little F-bombs’ really have become part of his character that adds to the fun! Yippee ki-yay just ain’t the same without it.
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