Monday, July 7, 2008

Live Free or Die Hard

I finally figured out Live Free or Die Hard- after the bleh 3rd movie, McClane became superhuman when Bruce Willis starred in Unbreakable. That explains the crazy stunts which are exponentially more ridiculous than anything in the previous three movies, putting this into Transporter territory.

Which is a shame; Bruce Willis still looks like he can take a beating, and that's what McClane was always best at- perseverance, snappy one-liners, and a skeletal structure that rivals that of the Terminator. The first movie is one of my all-time favorites, and like the first, excellent Lethal Weapon movie it would be best remembered if no sequels had been made. This fourth entry does not change my opinion.

Hackers love Macs.
This feels more like "24" season 7, with McClane subbing for Jack Bauer. It's an entertaining film, but rarely feels like a Die Hard movie. Bruce Willis, thicker and older, teams up with the Mac Guy who rarely shuts up, as cyberterrorists shut down the nation's infrastructure. The henchmen are given little chance to stick out- whereas "Karl" from the first movie was as indestructible as McClane, here they seem to have that quality but are then pissed away in increasingly unbelievable set pieces that seem more at home in a Transporter movie.

And most of it is stuff we've seen before, just cobbled together differently. Examples- hanging in elevator shafts (Die Hard) and scrambling on top of a hovering fighter jet (True Lies). It's unfortunate, because I was interested in the movie, and liked the return of McClane's family- his daughter this time. Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Grindhouse) has good attitude and seems like she's carved of the same ballsy stuff her Dad is, but she doesn't get a chance to show it. Damn shame, too.

You want me to do you a favor?
It felt similar to Indy 4 in some ways-- the camera seems to admire and venerate its wizened protagonist, expecting us to believe he can survive anything. If Len Wiseman remade the first Die Hard, McClane would have kevlar feet. That's something the sequels have forgotten, the scene that made Terry Gilliam put Bruce Willis into 12 Monkeys-- the scene where he's pulling glass from his feet, washing them in the sink, making him vulnerable and human. Director John McTiernan was even smart enough to put a blood smear on the window when John has to perform Die Hard's most crazy stunt, hanging from a fire hose from the roof.

Yeah. Really.
That's a lot more believable than falling from a tractor trailer that's been sawed in half by a 30mm cannon onto the F-35 fighter that done it, skidding past its hover turbines to gingerly skitter down a collapsed freeway span as it explodes all around him. If Logan does that in the upcoming Wolverine movie, I'll buy it. McClane needs to stick with launching cars into helicopters. That scene got a lot of flack, but it wasn't that bad. At least he wasn't in the car. When the bad guy falls from the chopper to look like he survived, I expected him to end up in a drawn-out fight with McClane; Instead we get him beating up Maggie Q, which started great and ended silly. Speaking of villains, no one can be expected to top Alan Rickman's iconic Hans Gruber, but Timothy Olyphant (Go, "Deadwood") is given very little to do except scowl in this movie. He's better than that.

Not so smug now are ya?
There are plenty of callbacks to the previous movies, also like Indy 4; the gunfight through the board room table is mimicked here, but the gunfights don't have the frenetic realism, except for the first one in the dorm- that one was excellent. McClane actually looked afraid, but after that he acts like he knows he's invincible. That's not John McClane. The final emasculation is legendary- despite a PG-13 rating, the iconic "yippie ki yay, motherfucker!" is cut off with a gunshot here.

Not to pick on Wiseman for his silly Underworld movies, but McClane is about as invulnerable as the werewolves and vampires; it doesn't work here, and I think the director is wise to be helming a video game adaptation next. That being said, I'd watch a Die Hard 5, if Lucy hooks up with Justin "I'm a Mac" Long. The three of them had good chemistry. Mac-boy's come a long way from crap like Jeepers Creepers and Strange Wilderness.


J.D. said...

It doesn't help much, but the film is marginally better in its unrated form so at least you can hear Willis say the franchise's most famous line. Also, there is more cussin' and the violence is a bit more graphic.

tommy salami said...

I'll probably get the collection on Blu-Ray when I get a player (I chose unwisely, and have an HD-DVD player).
I didn't hate it, the story and actors were quite good, the stunts were just silly and took you out of the movie.

J.D. said...

I agree with you. The film didn't totally suck but was vastly inferior to the first one. And you're right, Timothy Olyphant was a totally ineffectual villain. And Kevin Smith's cameo made me laugh.

flyinsaucier said...

The best (and most ridiculous) moment of LFoDH: Bruce Willis uses his man-power to hold up the interstate. I also give them props for getting an SUV into an elevator shaft.

I like how you compared the plot of LFoDH to 24's seventh season, even though it hasn't aired yet. Technically, 24's seventh season feels like LFoDH, not the other way around...But by the time it comes on TV (next year) most people probably won't even notice.

24 has always been a sort of Die Hard rip-off. I feel like Bruce Willis made LFoDH as a response to 24's popularity. Then 24 copied the plot from LFoDH. The post-modern meta-ness hurts my brain...

Will there be another "Die Hard?"
"Old Habbits, Die Hard" perhaps?

Fletch said...

I would be a much happier man had both DH4 and Indy 4 not been made (not coincidentally, the 4 on your keyboard shares its space with the dollar sign).

Although I wasn't nearly as offended by DH4 as I was with Indy 4, it's still pretty bad. I don't know why sequels always must make any action sequence feel unbearably fake and treat their leads as invincible, but they do. The F-16/Semi bit here was not only retarded, but copped from True Lies - ironic all the more as True Lies was more or less a parody of action flicks.

And the emasculation at the end basically screamed "We're selling you out, fans!" Sure, a random curse ought not be a big deal, but I think they made it a bigger deal by including it in a castrated version.

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