Live Free or Die Hard
Director(s): Len Wiseman
Writer(s): Mark Bomback
Cast: Bruce Willis, Timothy Olyphant, Justin Long, Maggie Q, Kevin Smith and Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)Jun 27, 2007 - Wide
It’s been 19 years since NYPD officer John McClane first Yippee-ki-yay’d his way onto the screen to protect us from the bad guys in Die Hard and 12 years since we last saw him in Die Hard with a Vengeance. In all the years that have passed, some things haven’t changed: cars still fly through the air, things still blow up real good and Bruce Willis’ John McClane is still quick with a cynical punchline.
This time, McClane finds himself up against cyberterrorists led by Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), a former federal computer security expert who’s gone rogue after his warnings about America’s vulnerability to cyber-attacks gets him fired and his reputation tarnished. Gabriel begins to kill several of the country’s top hackers to prevent them from stopping him unleashing his revenge and the FBI orders McClane to escort hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long) to D.C. for safe-keeping. They narrowly escape an assassination attempt by Gabriel’s assassin Mai Linh (Maggie Q) but soon find themselves plunged into operating in a country where Gabriel begins to take everything over from power grids, stock markets, to the TV networks, thereby exposing the modern-day world’s reliance on computers.
A lot has changed in the 19 years since the first installment. In that film, one of the characters quipped “Pearl Harbor didn’t work out so we got you with tape decks.” and now the characters deal with MP3s. Twelve years ago, in the last installment, Bruce Willis’ character was aided by Samuel L. Jackson, while this time around it’s the less intimidating figure of Justin Long, best known for his role in the “I’m a Mac” commercials. While things are still blowing up like they did in the “old days”, most of the time the carnage is being controlled from the keyboard of somebody’s laptop.
Bruce Willis’ McClane is a little more weathered and a little more bald than before but that’s to be expected after two decades. McClane always had good luck surviving the gun battles and explosions but this time around his ability to survive is superhuman. When Gabriel exclaims at one point that “I thought I killed you already”, McClane replies, “I get that sometimes.”
McClane is a fist-wielding, ass-kicking, bullet-shooting anachronism in a world prone to cyber-attacks. Gabriel tells him that he’s a “Timex watch in a digital age” but let’s face it, when nothing’s working anymore, you need a guy who can take on the bad guys old school. Justin Long’s Matt Farrell may be handy with a keyboard and a USB key, but he’s just along for the ride when the action gets physical. Kevin Smith’s cameo as a basement-dwelling, sci-fi loving super hacker just shows how far one can get from McClane’s muscled physique. The evil side of the coin has the brains and the brawn as well. Olyphant is slick and psychotic as the rogue hacker, while his sidekick, played by Maggie Q, is a parkour wall-climbing martial-arts expert. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who plays McClane’s estranged daughter, Lucy, also exhibits that the wise-cracking, ass-kicking apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
Director Len Wiseman keeps the action fast, the explosions loud and, in once scene, destroys so many cars that he must have received fleet pricing from the dealer. If I had one quibble, it’s that McClane is too unstoppable, but I guess the guy needs to be around for the inevitable fifth installment.