REVIEW: Live Free or Die Hard [2007]

“Is the circus in town?”

Since I don’t consider watching movies on edited tv as really watching the movie, I have never seen an installment of the Die Hard series. As a result, the fourth film, Live Free or Die Hard has been my first foray into John McClane’s one man against the world antics. Now this is actually somewhat ironic because in order to get the PG-13 rating that the producers wanted, there has been a lot of overdubbing of lines, and it’s noticeable. So in effect, my first experience with this action series has been an edited theatre viewing—I’m sure I’m not the only one to find that humorous. Despite the cleaning up of language, however, this film really delivers on all promises. We are given non-stop action, explosions galore, a somewhat intelligent screenplay, and terrific one-liners to lighten up any overwrought moments. Like Mission: Impossible III last year, this film really opened my eyes to how entertainingly good action flicks can be.

Now, what I know about the first three films is that it is always a European baddie terrorizing the US so that McClane can save the day. Here, though, we have an American leading the destruction in order to show how vulnerable our government is. I found this an intriguing way to freshen the concept while commentating on current events and the need to look on all sides for the enemy. Because we don’t get the outsider foe, we in effect don’t get a one-man show to pit against Bruce Willis’ McClane. Sure we have Timothy Olyphant, doing what he does best as in films like Go and Girl Next Door, leading the crew, but as Willis cracks, he has many henchmen at his side doing all the dirty work. As a result, the enemy by committee doesn’t quite succeed in holding terror over the audience. Instead it is the total annihilation of all computer and electronic devices in the country that is the true feared entity, although Maggie Q does do a nice job at showing some martial arts activity. The fight between her and Willis is at once awesome, funny, and brutal. (Is it just me though, or is it weird that all the computer geeks on the good side are nerds and those on the bad side are built for war once their keystrokes are complete?)

Because of the high-tech storyline, Willis can’t do it all by himself. He does try, very admirably, and shows that age is not a factor in him still being one of the best action stars around. His comedic delivery is right on and he just knows how to kill and destroy with brute force. John McClane is definitely a guy that punches first and asks questions later. But I guess if he’s been on the other end of craziness like this for three past films, he has the right to do so. This old-school mentality can’t succeed alone in a film of this era of electronics and because of this we get the Mac himself, Justin Long, to help out. I will admit that although a fan, I really didn’t think any good could come of this casting. Thankfully I was wrong because he really does a good job at playing off Willis and getting it done as far as what is needed hacker-wise.

Besides Willis stealing the movie with his charisma, the film’s action sequences are fantastic. Len Wiseman, of Underworld fame, has really upped the ante and infused this movie with explosions left and right. Between a helicopter being killed by a car, an on-ramp bridge being destroyed by an F-18 at close range, and an elevator shaft sequence perfectly orchestrated, we also get Cyril Raffaelli doing acrobatic fighting and contorting in order to fall from huge heights and yet able to get right back up. The bells and whistles rarely interest me enough to keep from being bored, but I must say this one fired on all cylinders to great effect. Even Kevin Smith’s small cameo brought a smile to my face. Again like MI3’s Simon Pegg role, Smith delivers a gem of a comic relief part at just the right time to lead into our final car chase/utter destruction sequence. If this is the fourth installment and it is this enjoyable, I can’t wait to finally visit the originals, because if they are better, I’m in for a fun time.

Live Free or Die Hard 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

[1] Bruce Willis is reluctant everyman hero John McClane. Photo credit: Frank Masi
[2] Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) makes a big mistake when he kidnaps John McClane’s daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Photo credit: Frank Masi


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