Director: Len Wiseman
Starring: Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Maggie Q, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 77
Officer John McClane battles high-tech terrorists set on destroying the US infrastructure and stealing financial data.
Live Free or Die Hard succeeds as a nicely paced action film. Bruce Willis and Justin Long give the film a humorous and charismatic energy. For the most part we’ve got semi-intelligent enemies. The action is visually engaging and entertaining. However, this film falls well short of the standard set by Die Hard and Die Hard with a Vengeance. The action is simply too unrealistic, the plot too sloppy, and the premise reminiscent of the idiocy of Die Hard 2: Die Harder.
The first three Die Hard films defined the elements of this series: intelligent, hi-tech villains; a blue-collar, sarcastic hero; and rough and tumble action with a lot of give and take. I’m happy to say that the newly released Live free or die hard contains all these elements. However, in certain aspects the creators have taken things too far with Live Free or Die Hard. More, faster, and bigger does not always equal better.
I have two major problems with Live Free or Die Hard. First, accepting the premise of this film requires you to distort your sense of reality to an incredible degree. The thrust of the plot is that a group of terrorists operating out of a van could take control of the computer systems of the United States. These villains can do it all: switch traffic lights across a city; magically drop prices on Wall Street; and impersonate US military command. It’s amazing. Anything they want, they can plug into it and control it within seconds. The plot suffers greatly from this silly premise, but it gets even sillier as the movie goes on.
Alert: Minor Spoiler Paragraph!
For example, in a tiny nod to reality, a few select computer systems can only be accessed from within their respective geological locations, which forces the terrorists to actually go there to put them out of action. But conveniently for the terrorists, all of the electricity in the eastern United States runs through one huge power plant (huh?), which is guarded even more conveniently by a huge defense force of um, six men. Not six military men, mind you, but six men of such tactical brilliance that they run up to the terrorists and get killed instantly. If your sense of reality hasn’t snapped yet, it gets even a bigger test with what happens next. After the terrorists have their plans thwarted in shutting down the electricity from within the plant, they then blow it up by diverting an overload of natural gas to the location. Huh? Why didn’t they just do that in the first place? This is just one of several places where reality distorts to make the plot work.
The second problem I have with this film is the action. While the Die Hard series has always embraced a “Hollywood” nature of its action, in Live Free or Die Hard they go over the edge with this quite a few times. Officer John McClane, played by Bruce Willis, has always been given a liberal dose of Energizer Bunny Hollywood durability. However, in Live Free or Die Hard he even outdoes himself in this regard. A select few of his enemies, too, at times approach indestructible levels that badly stretch the sense of believability in this film. Also, in many cases the action in the film is spectacular yet unrealistic. A perfect example: there is the dramatic scene where McClane launches a speeding car high enough to take out a helicopter. The scene is beautifully shot and visually thrilling. At the same time, you find yourself shaking your head in disbelief. This happens over and over in this film, and it’s a shame, because the exaggerated action combined with the unrealistic plot take Live Free or Die Hard in the direction of the weak second film in this series.
Up to this point, you might be thinking that I hated this movie, but amazingly, that’s not the case. I actually had a good time watching this film. Live Free or Die Hard manages to get enough things right to overcome its ample weaknesses.
First, although the action does go well beyond the bounds of believability, it is still excellent action, fun to watch, and driven by some fair pacing. The visual effects are light, but that in no way pulls the film down. The explosions are top-rate. There are fantastic stunts in the movie. One of the villains, in particular, does a brilliant job with some acrobatic climbing and jumping. His final scene is actually so good that it’s too bad it ends so quickly. The fights are quick moving and intense. I especially liked the back-and-forth battle that occurs early in the movie. The “intelligent enemy” has always been a driving force behind the action in the Die Hard movies, and for the most part they manage to recapture that essence with Live Free or Die Hard. There are exceptions, however, where the enemy does have a dummy moment more typical of standard action films. The fighter pilot, in particular, deserves a Darwin Award for his performance.
Second, the acting and characters in Live Free or Die Hard overpower a script that ranges from solid to tired. Bruce Willis does another fine job as John McClane. I was concerned that his age would play a factor, but even at age 52, Bruce Willis still delivers the goods in fine style. His banter is top notch. I had some good chuckles throughout the film. His wit and sarcasm make him one of the more likeable heroes in action movie history. Also, Justin Long does a convincing job as a computer hacker targeted by the terrorists. McClane spends a good part of the movie trying keep him alive, and the two actors have good chemistry. Their interaction spices up the movie considerably. I liked Timothy Olyphant as the main villain, although at times he appeared a bit wooden.
And as an added bonus, check out the Babe rating of this film! The first three Die Hard films scored some of the lowest ever in terms of Kaboom Review Babe ratings. It’s obvious, however, that the makers of Live Free or Die Hard have been reading this blog, as they added the sexy Maggie Q as Mai Lihn to the villain’s ranks. Amazingly, we even get more eye candy in the pleasant Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who plays John McClane’s daughter. Disappointingly, she looks much better in other photos than she does in this movie, but on the whole she adds points to the Babe rating. Our Hunk rating doesn’t stand up so well, though. Bruce Willis, to be blunt, has seen better days. The rest of the cast is average at best.
In the end, Live Free or Die Hard succeeds as an action film. Bruce Willis and Justin Long give the film a humorous and charismatic energy. Pace is good. For the most part we’ve got semi-intelligent enemies. The action is visually engaging and entertaining. However, this film falls well short of the standard set by Die Hard and Die Hard with a Vengeance. The action is simply too unrealistic, the plot too sloppy, and the premise reminiscent of the idiocy of Die Hard 2: Die Harder.
Bruce Willis’ stunt double was hospitalized after breaking both wrists and bones in his face while making this movie.
Consistent Premise: 27
Body Count: 43
Time to First Dead Body: About 1 minute, 30 seconds
Special Effects: 70
Overall: 77 (A Touch Too Much In Every Way)
[tags]Live Free or Die Hard, Len Wiseman, Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Maggie Q, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, movie review, action movie, film[/tags]