Written by El Articulo Definido
Never in my life have I seen so many goddamn explosions. In fact, I think that might have been the original working title for Live Free or Die Hard, the fourth installment of the Die Hard series starring Bruce Willis. Of course producers backed off when they realized having “Goddamn” in the title might have negated that PG-13 rating. Live Free or Die Hard is a joke.
I know I will probably take one on the chin for this as most movie-goers are going to love this film. Bruce Willis is back as John McClane and he’s taking on more terrorists. For some, that’s worth the price of admission alone. Then you add blowing up a helicopter with a car, a battle with a bad-ass kung-fu chick, lots of gunplay, a battle between a semi-truck and a jet plane, and most fans are going to go nuts for this movie. However, those people don’t mind that there’s no plot, even though the first act began with a pretty good attempt at one.
The first act introduces us to our baddie Thomas Gabriel (played by Timothy Olyphant, who I like a lot, and even like in this role), a jilted computer engineer who decides to use computer technology and a group of hackers to bring America to its knees over the Fourth of July weekend. There are some extreme leftist ideas, speaking to the disenchantment of those who would ring the phrase, “I love my country, but fear my government.” At times, it almost feels anti-American, and that, to me, was extremely interesting and bold considering the political climate that we currently live in. Obviously, John McClane is going to save the day, but not before the ideas of those who live comfortably as capitalist fat cats, and blindly follow their government are questioned, right? Well, no. Actually, what begins as an interesting premise dissolves into everything exploding, with the plot being a mere backdrop, and never actually living beyond the plot devices of the sequels that preceded it.
I like Justin Long (the Mac kid, who doesn’t actually use a Mac in this film), who is the buddy in this go-round of Die Hard: The Buddy Sequels, playing a computer hacker and unwitting accomplice to Thomas Gabriel’s meltdown of technology. This is pretty much the starting point of the story as there can be no witnesses and John McClane finds himself protecting the hacker with a criminal record. There are some nice ‘buddy’ moments, admittedly, and I did like this film through most of the first and second acts, but the third act becomes a parody of itself.
The filmmakers have forgotten every reason why it is that they have a job making a fourth – yes fourth – Die Hard film. You make sequels when you have a successful film. I understand that, but none of the sequels have lived up to their predecessor, and Live Free or Die Hard might be the worst offender. Die Hard is a perfect action film that reinvented action movies, as well as reinvented what we expect from the action hero. The entire film takes place in one building, and a shoeless John McClane takes on the terrorists and defeats them because he is brave, cool, collected, and smarter than his adversaries. He is a regular guy who saves the day against all mathematical probability.
As the sequels have progressed, however, the filmmakers have forgotten or just ignored these facts. Sure, I want to see big action, but I don’t need to see it at the expense of plot. When there is little story making me truly believe the action occurring on screen is even partly feasible, then my attention is already lost, which brings me to my complaints about the third act. I’ll forgive the weak CGI in the highway tunnel scene that we’ve all seen in the trailer, depicting a car flipping into the air and Willis and Long ducking just in time. I’ll forgive the ridiculousness of a car going up a ramp and crashing into a helicopter. I will not forgive a semi-truck battling a jet plane while pieces of the highway are crashing all over the place only to wind up with Willis surfing on top of said jet. That was it. The over-the-top aspects that I could buy into as summer popcorn fun, disappeared into mockery.
People will like this film if they’re looking for two hours and 10 minutes of non-stop cartoon-like action, with a few catch phrases sprinkled in there, and if they can also accept the fact that it starts out with promise only to fail in its storytelling. I could not be so forgiving.