Reviewed by: John DeYoung
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|Featuring||Bruce Willis (John McClane), Timothy Olyphant, Maggie Q, Jeffrey Wright, Mary Elizabeth Winstead|
|Producer||Arnold Rifkin, William Wisher, Michael Fottrell|
|Distributor||20th Century Fox|
“Yippee Ki Yay!”
Sequel: “A Good Day to Die Hard” (2013)
The man who is always at the wrong place at the wrong time is back. Bruce Willis returns as Detective John McClane in the fourth installment of the highly successful “Die Hard” series, “Live Free and Die Hard.” McClane is back on New York’s finest as a senior detective to take on cyber terrorists who want to shut down the entire eastcoast infrastructure. Heading up this evil organization is Thomas Gabriel (played by “Deadwood”’s Timothy Olyphant), who was a former NSA agent that tried to convince the Joint Chiefs how easy it is to shut down a country. After being ousted by the government, Gabriel takes revenge and causes chaos and mass calamity across the nation.
However, Gabriel never thought that a wise-cracking cop with a never-say-die attitude would gum up his plan. Along with trying to stop Gabriel and his computer cronies, McClane must also protect a computer hacker, Matt Farrell (portrayed by Apple Mac computer guy, Justin Long), who unknowingly helped in Gabriel’s cyber scheme. Now Gabriel wants Farrell dead, but McClane needs Farrell’s computer skills to help stop Gabriel before he turns the country into anarchy. With all of this happening, McClane is also trying to establish a relationship with his daughter, Lucy (played by “Black Christmas” star Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who winds up being Gabriel’s bait for McClane. Will this old school detective be able to take down this new kind of criminal?
It has been 12 years since we’ve seen Bruce Willis as John McClane, and let me tell you, he hasn’t lost his step. It was like seeing an old friend again, doing what he does best. If Willis was doing most of his stunts, as he claims he did in various interviews, than Willis’ athleticism at the age of 52 hasn’t changed much since he first took on the role. The man took a licking and kept on ticking. As for Willis recapturing McClane’s demeanor and character once again, 12 years seemed like it was just a few months ago. The McClane laugh, style, attitude and humor were back like it never left. It was fantastic.
When Willis was asked why people should shovel out the shekels to see this flick, his reply was, “It’s like looking at a visual rollercoaster,” and how right he was. This is an adrenaline pumping, heart-racing picture that keeps you on the edge of your seat. A lot of people thought that the PG-13 rating, instead of the R-rating like its predecessors, might take away the tone and the intensity of this latest chapter, I can unequivocally say that, if it did anything, it made it better. Even his moniker line, Yippee Kai Yay, M.F. was cut off at the last part, but how it was cut was pure genius. Keep in mind, there is still quite a bit of profanity in it, but not as bad as what it could have been. If anything, with all the action taking place, you don’t even really notice it.
What is also interesting is how the writers managed to combine a “Die Hard” type of scenario with computer crimes. How is an old school cop, who doesn’t know squat about computers, going to stop a cyber criminal? In this case, cleverly. The one thing that definitely worked was teaming the tough, rugged, wise-cracking McClane up with the cowardly, sarcastic, computer savvy Farrell, making them the perfect brain and brawn combination. While Farrell and Gabriel have their, what I call, keyboard wars, McClane is knocking out Gabriel’s gun totting goons and his attractive, butt-kicking assistant, Mai Lihn (played by “Mission: Impossible 3” star Maggie Q). Together the actors and the characters have such a better chemistry than with his last unwilling partner, Zeus Carver (played by Samuel L. Jackson) in “Die Hard With A Vengeance.” What also helped was getting the right actor to play Farrell, and picking Justin Long was a perfect fit. It’s ironic that they got the Apple PC spokesman to play the hacker, but thinking about it, I really can’t think of anyone else who that could fit the persona and make it believable.
I didn’t think it was possible to mix a “War Games” (Mathew Broderick flick) type of drama into “Die Hard” type of action, but the combination comes together beautifully. No matter what angle it comes from, you always get high octane action and suspense. My compliments to writer, Mike Bomback, on putting together a story, which, at first hearing, I thought couldn’t be done (or done well). He surprised me. What is also made evident is how this country is totally dependent on computers. Not only did Bomback give me a plot that I thought couldn’t go together, but he gave me a story that made me think about how we rely on technology too much and how that reliability could be our downfall.
Speaking of downfalls, some of the stunts and action sequences were just a little too far-fetched. One in particular is McClane hanging off the tail end of an F-15 fighter plane while the pilot ejects. I don’t think so. The other thing is with McClane’s daughter. When McClane first meets up with her, she tells her Dad that her last name is Gennerro, but when Daddy is coming to the rescue, she introduces herself to Farrell as Lucy McClane. I don’t know if this was like a tribute to the first movie or just something they felt they needed to do again. To me, if you want to keep something new and fresh, don’t use old material.
“Live Free or Die Hard” is one you should put down on your summer movie, must-see list. All the elements that made the “Die Hard” franchise so popular are in this last incarnation, so if you are looking for a “visual rollercoaster,” as Mr. Willis put it, I highly encourage you to see McClane back in action. Yippee Kai Yay! I know. Overkill.
On a grading scale, I give “Live Free or Die Hard” a B+.
Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: None