Monday, July 9, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard

What happens when Bruce Willis's John McClane comes across something he doesn't understand? A lot of things blow up. I mean a lot of things. In the fourth installment in the Die Hard series, Willis is this time pitted against cyber-terrorists bent on shutting down all of the country's major information, communication, and utilities centers. To make up for his technological ineptitude he is joined by Matt Farrell (Justin Long), a hacker who inadvertently helped the bad guys led by Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant).

I was dubious about this movie, especially following the disappointments of the second and third installments. Bruce Willis is in his fifties- can he really still be a viable action hero? At least by the fourth Lethal Weapon, Mel Gibson and Danny Glover were acknowledging their age. Willis (and I suppose movie magic), put those fears to rest. He's just as hard as ever. Long adds an enjoyable bit of geekiness, creating a comical foil to McClane's machismo. A guest appearance by Kevin Smith as "Warlock" just enhances these juxtaposed personalities.

It wouldn't be a Die Hard movie without gun fights, car chases, and many many explosions. Director, Les Wiseman takes these action movie cliches to a new level. A helicopter chase, a confrontation between a semi, and an F-35, and even a gunfight in car- while suspended in an elevator shaft (likely a reference to a pivotal scene in the first Die Hard) are all action packed sequences.

For the most part I loved the action. There were some parts that were just overdone a little, however, and brought down my enjoyment a bit. The sequence with McClane taking on a fighter jet, was dare I say it, a little dumb. A few too many things blew up, treading the border of absurdity found in a James Bond movie. It's difficult for an already well established action star to still pull off the reluctant hero role. One of the things that made the first movie so good, was that Willis was not an action hero yet. He was literally just someone in the wrong place at the wrong time. That can only be convincing so many times.

For this movie they tried to play up the reluctant idea a little too obviously. His daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), is brought into the conflict, playing a rather unnecessary role as a bargaining chip. We never really get to know her. I don't like the idea of John McClane having a daughter. It tried to humanize him a little, but instead just made him flat. There was no convincing chemistry between the two, and I never felt he truly cared for her. Willis was obviously trying to wrestle with portraying McClane as a father, without cracking his tough guy shell. The end result was a little messy on all fronts.

Perhaps I was looking a little to much at character. After all, it is the fourth movie in an action franchise dating from fifteen years ago. I might have enjoyed it more if they didn't even attempt the failed character development, and just went straight ahead on the action (but still toning it down just a little). Despite all of this, the movie was fun- even though they censored his trademarked "Yippee Ki Yay Mother F*****." I guess that's what happens when you take a rated R franchise, and make it PG-13.

Watch the Trailer



Anonymous said...

To be fair, the daughter was around in the first Die Hard (and a son too). Remember when the TV reporter went to the house to try to interview the kids? Although I agree that they did a really bad job incorporating the character, considering you forget about her by the time you see her for the second time in the movie.

Although now I have an overwhelming urge to see the Mythbusters hit a helicopter with a car. Either that, or figure out how to make your delete key blow your computer up...


Harry said...

I'd personally like to see Mythbusters try to balance Buster on the back of a fighter jet.