I like the title Live Free or Die Hard insofar as it’s better than “Die Hard 4: Die Harderer” but it doesn’t have much to do with the movie which isn’t about personal liberty or anything, and as much as I hate the sound of Die Hard 4.0 (as it’s titled here), at least it alludes to the film’s cyberterrorist plot. But for a movie that advertised “an analog cop in a digital world” being the only hope when the country’s electronically controlled infrastructure is disabled, John McClane sure does rely a lot on his geeky charge to to do geeky stuff in between his physical heroics.

They, after all, are the point of an action movie, and this fourth Die Hard film delivers more than its expected share. The first time I saw the trailer I naturally went bonkers over the anti-chopper auto-projectile, but at the same time was disappointed that the money shot had been given away in the trailer. How could anything in the rest of the movie possibly be better?

I needn’t have worried. McClane kills the helicopter with his car by the end of the first act, and thereafter the movie somehow manages to top itself — more than once. Fans of the original will be glad to hear there is another elevator shaft scene, and this one is to end all elevator shaft scenes. By the time an F-35 shows up… heck, I didn’t even know there is such a thing as an F-35.

It admittedly feels different than the other Die Hard films, but that is mostly due to the pervasive blue saturation, no doubt an idiosyncrasy of Len Wiseman who also directed the Underworld movies. McClane himself also behaves somewhat differently than in his earlier adventures, but his abstinence from profanity seems due (besides box office considerations) to the maturing fatigue of age, as is his lack of the incessant smirk that was the second movie’s primary flaw. Somewhere along the line Bruce Willis learned not to purse his lips, and no longer looks deserving of a slap. But although Willis doesn’t reprise the role by simply mimicking his previous performances as he did in Die Hard 2, McClane’s personal habits of muttering to himself and trying to intimidate the villain by talking trash are still intact, even if he never lights up.

Storywise, the movie is an amalgam of the police escort plot of 16 Blocks and the hostage daughter plot of Hostage in the context of a terrorism plot worthy of 24 and sprinkled with a dash of parkour a la Casino Royale. But most importantly it doesn’t borrow the aesthetic of Bourne‘s hand-held camera, ensuring all the action can be appreciated. With its dark monochrome, DH4 isn’t as pretty as the gold and turquoise hues of Casino Royale, nor as good of a film, but it is more exciting and possibly even a better action movie (high praise from me). Moreover, Justin Long’s character isn’t as annoying as Mos Def’s 16 Blocks counterpart, and the geographically diverse plot works better than the silly scavenger hunt of Die Hard With a Vengeance. In other words, the best Die Hard movie since Die Hard. For a director’s third feature it is an impressive achievement.

7 thoughts on “LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD

  1. jeri says:

    Glad you liked it! We did too. I’m glad I watched the first three beforehand so I could compare/contrast.

  2. Beady Eyes Al says:

    Hey. I’ve got a pitch for the fifth film: “Die Soft”, in which John Maclane brings his characteristic tact and thoughtfulness to the issue of Euthanasia. I picture him running from ward to ward ripping out the plugs on life support machines and shouting “Those goddamn religious fanatics won’t take your dignity from you now lil’ buddy” into the faces of frightened old men. How about it?

  3. Nobody says:

    Nice one, unfortunately you’re three years late. That movie’s already been made with Dirty Harry as the hero.

  4. Nobody says:

    By the way, Jeri, I’m surprised my review got a “spoiler” tag on the BBS since I particularly avoided mentioning any details that weren’t already in the trailer — but I guess that just goes to prove my pet peeve that trailers themselves are unnecessarily spoiler-filled.

  5. Beady Eyes Al says:

    Damn it. Nothing more embarrassing than a belated gag. Actually I stole it from the Simpson’s send up of Death Wish, in which an aged Charles Bronson lies in a hospital bed saying “I wish I was dead”. I’ve got to get my own material from now on.

  6. Nobody says:

    Sorry to spoil MDB for you or anyone else.

    As far as stealing material, I’ve adopted more than one phrase from Adam Carolla, a radio personality (gosh that sounds terrible) in LA, so obviously none of my students recognize his lines.

    Actually it was just as fun in California to scan my class for signs of recognition, to see which 8th graders were listeners of his somewhat ribald show. It gave us a kind of inside joke to which the rest of the class was oblivious. But I guess that’s how all allusions work, Simpsons references being the most ubiquitous, and Family Guy ones the most annoying.

  7. jeri says:

    A little late, but I don’t think I put that spoiler tag on in the movies folder… Occasionally, the other mods actually kick into gear and do something! Haha.

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