3 stars out of 4. Closer but still no twinkie.
Twelve years after the fact, John McClane returned to say “yippee-ki-yay mother”gunshot.
Yeah, this is a PG-13 Die Hard. Much has been made of this controversial rating for a beloved franchise but it actually isn’t too distracting…until you see DH4 a second time.
The first time around in the theater it actually felt like McClane was back. You didn’t question it, for fear of it all tumbling down in front of you like Die Hard with a Hangover did. Of course, this was now the 21st century, and the man who struggled with faxes would be out of his depth in a computerized world, right?
But they went overboard with making McClane feel alienated and seem like like an ancient dinosaur. In fact, with his typical energizer bunny determination he clambers about more like a Terminator than a significantly older NYC cop. This time McClane faces Thomas Gabriel, a disgruntled defense programmer who has decided to strike back at the government which casually destroyed him once his theories became too far reaching.
His method of attack is a “fire sale”, involving the systematic control and shutdown of the nation’s infrastructure. And of course, only one man stands in his way…well actually two.
McClane is once again saddled with a sidekick, this time his unfortunate companion is ace computer hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long). While you may have seen the nerdy hacker bit done to death, this pairing actually works in the context provided. McClane and Farrell argue about nearly everything under the sun, and McClane seems flabbergasted at how ineffective this kid is. Their relationship underlines the way the writers decided to age McClane for this fourth outing. Since it is now 2007, the hero cop of the 80’s is out of his depth in everything save for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Why is Kevin Smith in this movie? He’s as extraneous as Lucy McClane!! Yes, McClane’s daughter who was briefly featured in the first film is now all grown up so that she can be kidnapped by the villain in the last act! What a lovely surprise! I don’t think it was that necessary to give McClane another reason to kill the bad guy. It’s not like he hasn’t already spent the entire film trying to take him down! And then we come to the sticks out like a sore thumb Kevin Smith. The whole film just comes to a screeching halt so that he can have his extended cameo. It serves no purpose!
Of course, the villain is completely one note, monotonous and becomes grating in his sheer blandness. Criticize Col. Stuart from Die Harder if you must, but at least that guy did something of interest! all Gabriel wants to do is stand around in various bare rooms and order his hacker minions around. Oh, that’s so very villainous..so compelling…so boring. In addition, the CGI employed gets a bit too out of hand at times. Since this is a 2007 film it is a necessary crutch and yes even a Die Hard sequel cannot be done out of the digital domain. And then there is that jet sequence. In the last major action sequence, McClane must fight off a army fighter jet while driving an eighteen wheeler rig on the interstate. And of course he survives, but not by his sheer stupid luck or the skin of his teeth or anything at all feasible. He survives this so obviously faked sequence by the magic of some pointing and clicking. Woo.
It’s not great, it’s not bad, but it gets the job done as it would have had you believe, but no! In the end Live Free or Die Hard cannot even accomplish this small feat. There are just too many modern gimmicks, shortcomings and way too many scenes that rely on a computer to have the simple human element of the first two entries.
All of this is a shame because it should have worked better for a Die Hard. Bruce Willis seems to have grown into the role and he actually looks like he’s enjoying himself this time around.
But at least some of the one liners worked. There was a glimmer of energy in this commercial product.
And the bald McClane worked. It actually worked so bring on Die Hard 5! (set for release in 2013) And since you’re setting it in Russia, in honor of getting McClane out of the States let’s do something really special. Let’s get him back into a single confined space again with no sidekicks! Oh wait, he’s supposed to rescue his son or something. What happened to Lucy?
EDITIONS: Live Free or Die Hard looks and sounds excellent both on DVD and Blu-ray. It’s status as a system workout is still upheld. However the Unrated edition is really a faked rush job to try and create a hybrid version between the original conceived film and the compromised PG-13 theatrical edition. The Unrated cut feels more rushed than the PG-13 cut and lacks the sweep of the theatrical edition. There are numerous errors, obvious ADR, line changes and even dropouts in video and audio. to further the case of a rush job this cut wasn’t even released on Blu-ray because that disc was being produced simultaneously by another team!
The Blu-ray is a great demo disc for video and sound. So unless Fox finally puts out an actual unrated version by the director, skip the “Unrated” version and enjoy this bit of modern fluff.