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Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

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Score: 7/10

Genre: Action Running Time: 2 hrs. 8 min.

Release Date: June 27th, 2007 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Len Wiseman Actors: Bruce Willis, Timothy Olyphant, Justin Long, Maggie Q, Cliff Curtis, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kevin Smith, Zeljko Ivanek, Cyril Raffaelli

B

ruce Willis returns as an older, balder, but no less intimidating John McClane in this fourth installment in the legendary “Die Hard” series. Audiences looking for heartfelt drama and a realistic plot are certainly courting the wrong movie. For everyone else, “Live Free or Die Hard” promises nonstop excitement, over-exaggerated villains, and unavoidably high-octane destruction (for anything McClane can get his hands on). With each progressively larger and more devastating terrorist threat, McClane steps up to counter it with crazier, insaner stunts. It’s mindless action on the grandest scale, with vigilante justice and revenge served up colder than an avalanche of dry ice.

A disruption in the government’s Cyber-Security Division headquarters finds familiar New York detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) guarding cynical computer hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long), who may be connected to those responsible. When former government official Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) and his crew of expert blackhats (including the conspicuously attractive Maggie Q) start a full-scale attack on the United States via a “fire sale” – and begin taking over the country’s power, financial records, utilities, and traffic controls – it’s once again up to McClane to stop the menace and restore peace to the nation. But this time, it’s even more personal when Gabriel kidnaps McClane’s daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), prompting the hard-boiled cop to battle everything from machinegun-toting maniacs to military jets to save what matters most.

Though the characters play out as expected, their development is still surprisingly entertaining. Willis reprising his most iconic theatrical role is the epitome of tough-guy machismo, unflinchingly taunting the antagonists, protecting the innocent, and rescuing the luckless – all heroic activities that just don’t get old in an action movie setting, especially when it’s updated with youthful players and advanced technology for compatibility with modern viewers. Justin Long provides plenty of laughs to play off Willis’ snide remarks, while Winstead shines as McClane’s daughter, a resourceful, sassy rebel who is anything but the typical damsel in distress. And Olyphant as the villainous leader of the hacker group displays a grounded contrast – he’s not the emotionless brick wall of an enemy like those found in the second and third films, but rather an ostensible roughneck who barks louder than he bites – and one who is visibly intimidated by the relentless New York supercop. His henchmen are a different story, however, as they mimic mindless automatons lining up to be overcome, like so many nameless, disposable thugs planted in McClane’s path for the sake of extra confrontations.

Even though scant visible bloodshed is the result of a clearly restrictive – and unfortunate – PG-13 rating, director Len Wiseman musters up some inventive action sequences to live up to the title’s name. As the film picks up speed, each action scene gets bigger, flashier, and more annihilative than the last. Cars take down helicopters, trucks careen down elevator shafts, and jet planes duel semis (in one of the most outlandishly wild stunts ever conceived) – all with plenty of style and enough gusto to make the protagonist’s snappy one-liners moderately tolerable.

While this latest installment in the franchise may be watered down in the violence and cursing departments, the action remains nonstop, supplemented with plenty of laugh-out-loud humor and noteworthy supporting characters. Diehard “Die Hard” fans will inevitably be a little disappointed due to the studio’s lack of faith in its target audience, particularly when it comes to braving the MPAA, but the unrelenting adventure and the bad guys’ tendencies to genuinely die hard make it difficult to walk away feeling too cheated. And if there’s anything viewers will have learned from McClane, it’s that a single man can thwart an army of terrorists, spout sarcastic insults after defeating any obstacle, and make everything look cool – even beating up a pretty Asian girl.

– The Massie Twins

 

 



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