Theatrical Review: Live Free or Die Hard

A plot has been hatched to take down the United States from it’s very infrastructure, by disabling communications and utilities, the United States has become gripped in a very real terror of just not being able to go about their everyday lives… all of this at the will of a former NSA security specialist who seeks revenge on the USA for shutting him down. NYPD Detective John McClane has been dispatched to retrieve a hacker that unwillingly participated in this scheme and from there, finds himself in a situation where again, he must stop terrorists from completing their acts, and saving family along the way.

And that’s the premise to Live Free or Die Hard, the fourth film in the Die Hard series featuring Bruce Willis as John McClane. This time around, director Len Wiseman (Underworld) is at the helm of the film and what they deliver here is for the most part a very entertaining thrill ride, with Bruce Willis in fine form, still quipping as McClane, but also certainly a little more weathered by time.

Wiseman moves this one at a rapid pace, and even it’s “quiet” moments feel kinetic. There’s some real nice set piece stuff at play in this movie (including one scene near the start of this film which is liable to send some fanboys in tears in regards to the what is being destroyed on screen), some of which is quite intense. To me anyway, this is better paced than either of Wiseman’s Underworld films and feels right at home with the prior Die Hard’s directed by John McTiernan and Renny Harlin. The one little misgiving I have with it, and I don’t hold this against the movie, is that some of the action might be a little more over-the-top than some of the other films (in particular a scene near the end involving a jet plane).

Wiseman’s well aided in this movie from composer Marco Beltrami who’s music score is certainly evocative of the first two Die Hard films.

Bruce Willis is terrific, always fun to watch and even still there with his patented horse-eye look when firing his guns at the bad guys. Justin Long (who you know as Mac in the Apple computer commercials) is really good here as the young hacker that’s forced to team up with McClane and he really holds his own with Willis. Timothy Olyphant is Gabriel, the mastermind behind this plot, and he’s also magnetic to watch and just as much a threat as Alan Rickman or Jeremy Irons was in the other movies. And look out, even Kevin Smith is in the film, maybe giving the most animated performance that he’s ever given as a cohort of Long’s.

This is the very definition of a popcorn movie, and yet I tend to think that its scheme is maybe one of the scariest that I’ve seen in a movie in awhile. Having gone through almost two full weeks in the last year without power in my home, I know just how helpless that makes a person feels. There’s just a couple of niggling points in the film as far as consistency of action goes, but easily forgivable as far as I’m concerned. It’s a fun movie as it is, though, and I’d certainly recommend it, as long as you’re a little willing to just give it a few points.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

03. July 2007 by Darren Goodhart
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