Old-school action meets new-age technology in 'Live Free or Die Hard'

Bruce Willis beats the rush-hour traffic on foot.

***½ out of *****

We are long past the golden age of action, my friends. Movies like “Die Hard,” “Aliens,” “Terminator 2” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” just aren’t being produced; a dying breed roughly shoved aside by wire-fu, Michael Bay, bullet-time, Michael Bay and CGI-effects. And Michael Bay. The action genre, of late, has lost sight of what’s important.

But then Len Wiseman, director of “Underworld” and its less-than-stellar sequel, comes along with a hankerin’ to produce a third “Die Hard” sequel in true action fashion, complete with old-school pyrotechnics and stuntwork, and a refreshing lack of CGI. As Wiseman said before wrapping the film, “This one is for the fans.”

And how, Len Wiseman. And how.

“Live Free or Die Hard,” the fourth – and final? – film in the “Die Hard” franchise, pits NYPD detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) against a band of digital terrorists, led by Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), bent on shutting America down through a series of elaborate hacks and cracks into the nation’s vital computer systems. The bald-headed McClane is ordered to protect a young computer genius, Matt Farrell (Justin Long – no, he’s not a Mac), who may have inside information on the terrorist’s scheme.

As McClane sets out on what he thinks is a run-of-the-mill, risk-free mission, he lands smack-dab in the middle of things, once again. And, of course, in typical McClane fashion, bad guys start dying.

For me, a huge fan of the original “Die Hard,” this is a worthy installment to the franchise. The action is brazenly intense, with thousands of bullets expended and dozens of explosions blossoming across the screen throughout the film’s entirety. McClane kills the bad guys brutally; shooting unfortunate terrorists in the foot, sending them flying down flights of stairs, tossing their prone forms into bladed turbines. And he does it all with a squinty-eyed grin and his signature chuckle.

It’s vintage “Die Hard” at its very best.

And, for once, the villains have an interesting and highly original scheme. You won’t find any nuclear-weapon hijackings or dam destructions in this flick. This band of hackers infiltrates America to its very digital core. They gain control of the stock market, traffic lights, radio frequencies; they even activate the Anthrax alarms in every Washington government building. They watch McClane every step of the way through security cameras, and as he attempts to escape New York by car, they remotely set the flow of traffic against him. Their genius plot is a blast to watch unfold and come to fruition.

The performances are solid all around, with Willis reprising his role fantastically, and newcomer Long proving himself as a true potential. There’s also an amusing cameo by director Kevin Smith as a God-like nerd called the Warlock (I know, it’s a stretch for him, right?). The only actor whom I feel fell flat was Olyphant, with his performance as the terrorist leader. The only emotion he managed to pull of successfully the entire film was “slightly pissed-off.” As a villain, he just doesn’t stack up to Hans Gruber.

It’s so refreshing, though, to sit in a theater and watch an action film that does it the right way. No bullet-time, no slow-motion, no crazy camera-angles or stylistic jump-cuts. It’s good, solid, old-school action at its finest, and I had a blast with it. If you’re a “Die Hard” fan in the least, you owe it to yourself to see this flick in the theaters.


  1. I agree with everything except one thing: the villain was outstanding. He reminded me of Alan Rickman in his suave cool-headedness, but he was different for all the reasons you said. Anyways... He almost never lost his cool, and that was what was so terrifyingly awesome about him.

    Good review.

  2. What you saw as "never losing his cool," I saw as "never acting."

  3. I hate to nitpick, but they were escaping DC, not New York. Small detail, though. I just am not a fan of New York, so I felt the need to stick up for DC.

    I'm surprised you didn't cover the 'f-word'/PG-13 thing (or maybe I missed it; I tend to skim sometimes). Personally? I didn't notice it until I got home, so again, minor detail.

    I ahve to say my favorite scene was the elevator shaft, even though it was very similar to a scene in the first Jurassic Park movie.

    And one in the second Jurassic Park movie.

    Come to think of it, I think there was a scene like that in the third one. Whoever makes those movies sure loves suspending things in the air.

    I agree with you on pretty much all counts, except about the villain; I didn't think Rickman did a great job; sure, he was sinister, but the accent was convincing and the scene where he first meets McClane didn't seem to have been done very well. I prefer McClane versus henchmen.


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