Live Free or Die Hard


Dir: Len Wiseman
Star: Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Let's get this out of the way first: Not As Good As The Original. Though having said that, few action films in the twenty years since have come close. Better than Part II? Certainly. Better than Part III? Yep. All told, not a bad effort, though there are a couple of problems, not least the immensely irritating geek (Long) whom Willis has first to rescue, then protect and, finally - after the bad guy (Olyphant) captures McClane's daughter (Winstead) - team up with. Naturally, the geek who previously had no idea how to load a gun, suddenly becomes a crack-shot. Similarly, McClane, who was previously a cop with smarts, now borders on the superheroic, casually launching cars to bring down helicopters, in what may be 2007's biggest "I'm so sure" moment, to borrow a line from Chris. The film desperately needs a villain like Alan Rickman; Olyphant doesn't cut it, and his henchwoman Maggie Q makes a better impression, in a brutal brawl with Willis in a power-plant. [She was also in MI:3, but really, go see Naked Weapon for a better use of her talents.]

Enough grumping. There are some glorious moments, both the aforementioned battle, and the "jet fighter vs. juggernaut" sequence which has echoes of True Lies, but does go in some impressively different destructive directions. McClane remains as fine a character as ever, particularly when taunting the villain that his girlfriend is now "at the bottom of an elevator shaft with an SUV rammed up her ass." The PG-13 rating is occasionally irritating, and one yearns for the unfettered aggression which marked earlier entries. Still, the two hours pass with admirable speed and few slack moments, though I could have done without quite so much hackerish explanation, especially since it turns out to be of little real relevance. That hardly counts as a spoiler, if you've seen the last three films: maybe some day McClane will actually meet some straightforward criminals, who are simply robbing a bank. That'd make a nice change.

B-
[July 2007]


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