July 10, 2007 > Movie Review
Live Free or Die Hard
By Jeremy Inman
Twelve years after he made his action debut in the first Die Hard, Bruce Willis finally returns as John McClane, the cranky New York cop who's always in the wrong place at the wrong time. This time around he's a little older, a little more experienced, and apparently a little less in shape, even though he's doing things in this installment that are far crazier than he's ever done in the past.
Die Hard has always been about a fairly regular guy getting caught up in a much larger plot and then using his unique brand of cunning and panache to save the day. His exploits are usually fairly believable, especially in the first film, even if it does seem improbable for the same thing to happen to him so many times in a row. In the latest installment, Live Free or Die Hard, Fremont native director Len Wiseman manages (somehow) to inject the franchise with his brand of over-the-top action while still maintaining that classic Die Hard feel.
In Live Free or Die Hard, angry master hacker Thomas Gabriel is systematically disabling all of the country's important utilities. Phone lines are shutting down, power is going out, and people are beginning to lose it all over the country. Someone's got their finger on a big red Armageddon button. Wouldn't you know, John McClane was called in the night before to keep an eye on the one hacker that hasn't been killed yet and knows how to stop it. So it's up to McClane and the hacker, Matt Farrell, to stop the entire country from shutting down. Over the course of the film, we're briefly let in on the status of McClane's personal life, outlining his heroic past. His wife has left him and his kids hate him. McClane wrestles with the notion of being a so-called "hero" - his reward, a lifetime of lonely meals. McClane solves other conflicts in the film by shooting, punching, blowing up, or crashing an SUV into someone, then spouting off a one-liner that ONLY works because Bruce Willis is saying it.
Now, McClane was crazy in the past. That's his appeal. The attraction was that while jumping off a building with nothing but a fire hose wrapped around you isn't necessarily something that happens every day, it's not something that couldn't happen. It's simply something that only someone who's completely insane would ever even consider as an option. McClane is a man who knows what needs to happen and is usually left with one of two options, a completely insane thing or die (hence the title). Live Free or Die Hard still has that sort of appeal, but it seems unlikely, no matter how elaborate the setup, that anybody (let alone, a guy Bruce Willis' age!) can be outrunning a military grade jet in a semi truck and then miraculously wind up on top of the jet! Then again, it's hard to complain when it looks as cool as it does. Plus, it helps that McClane usually looks back on the destruction he causes with his own feelings of disbelief.
Audiences will be in disbelief, too, especially since through all the craziness, he never suffers a debilitating injury. But they'll be too entertained to care. The fact is that John McClane is one of the coolest action heroes ever, and his exploits this time around are some of the most elaborate stunts in recent cinema history. You'll be too entertained to care whether or not one man can cause so much mayhem and still have time to come up with witty banter. Frankly, that's what makes a good action movie: the ability to show you all of this crazy stuff and this ultra tough guy while suspending any judgment of whether or not any of that stuff can actually happen. Live Free or Die Hard achieves this goal better than most blockbusters but lacks that old school action appeal that made the original so cool.
Directed by Len Wiseman