Live Free or Die Hard
By: Kit Bowen
You can stop cringing at the idea of another Die Hard installment. Bruce Willis nails it in this fourth go-around, with just as much spectacular action to give any adrenaline junkie a good fix.
The story, too, is just as out-there as only a good Die Hard installment can be. Seems the enemy this time is a slick computer hacker, Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), who holds the U.S. hostage by systematically breaking down its digital infrastructure. First, he takes down the transportation grids, then creates panic on the financial market and finally, he shuts off all utilities—gas, electricity, et al. The hackers call it a "firesale'' (as in everything must go), but it isn't as far-fetched as one might think. Of course, what Gabriel doesn't figure on is one NYPD cop named John McClane (Willis), who inadvertently gets involved when he's called to pick up Matt Farrell (Justin Long), a young hacker being targeted by Gabriel. Ah yes, the old wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time adage, which follows McClane wherever he goes. Now, with Farrell in tow explaining to the fossilized cop exactly what the hell is going on, McClane has to become "that guy" once again to save the country—and his daughter (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who Gabriel tries to use to bring McClane down. Big mistake.
Come on, did we really doubt Bruce Willis could pull off one more Die Hard adventure? Look how long Harrison Ford did the action hero thing—and Willis looks to be in way better shape. The other thing Willis does to bring us in again and again is give his alter-ego humility. His McClane is one of the best Everyman heroes to grace the big screen, and Willis makes sure we know that no matter what dire situation McClane finds himself in, he's never going to stop doing his job—even if he gets the crap beat out of him along the way. Nobody—save for maybe Harrison Ford—plays hurt better than Willis. Of course, he gets hurt plenty in Live Free or Die Hard, but the quieter moments between McClane and Farrell—played by the scruffy sweet-natured Long (the guy in the Apple/IBM commercials)—are quite humorous and enlightening as well. McClane knows he's almost too old-school but is willing to learn a few new tricks—just so long as he can still do it his way. Olyphant (HBO's Deadwood) also does a fine job as the hacker villain whose uber-geekiness has given him the upper hand. He doesn't just think he's smarter than everyone else, he IS smarter than everyone else—except, he isn't very handy with a gun or a car or a helicopter or a semi-truck. That's McClane's department.
Wow, where to begin. Be it a car flying up a tollbooth and slamming into a hovering helicopter or a semi-truck outrunning a jet armed with close-range missiles or McClane hanging precariously from a boxcar in an elevator shaft while kung-fu fighting a key henchwoman, director Len Wiseman (of the Underworlds fame) knows exactly where the Live Free or Die Hard bread is buttered: the action. It's all we really want from our Die Hard movies. That, and maybe Bruce Willis' sexy bald head. And it doesn't really matter to us if the stunts were accomplished the old-fashioned way or with special effects. No, we just want to laugh at McClane muttering to himself just as he's about to engage in a car chase, "Sure, just go pick up the kid and bring him to Washington, D.C. No problem, piece of cake!" Then we want to sit through one implausible way the grizzled cop escapes death after another, grab our seats and thoroughly enjoy ourselves. Now, the wincing might start again if they decide to do a fifth one...
Bottom Line Hollywood.com rated this film 3 stars.