Sunday, December 6, 2009

Die Hard with a Walker

by Pa Rock
Citizen Film Critic

I spent three hours tonight, three hours that I will never get back, watching Live Free or Die Hard, the fourth entry in the Die Hard movie franchise. It was, as one would imagine, highly formulaic and completely engrossing. Bruce Willis does his best to bring New York Police Detective John McClane back to life in a believable fashion as he battles cyber terrorists, jumps on an F-35 fighter jet in mid-air, and moves heaven and earth to rescue his daughter, but every move that Bruce makes literally screams into the camera, "I am an old man!"

The original Die Hard was filmed in 1988 when Bruce Willis was a mere boy of thirty-three, still young enough to be a believable, well-oiled, tough cop with a death wish. In that film he battled East German terrorists who held his wife and many others captive in a Los Angeles high rise building.

Die Hard was followed two years later in 1990 by Die Hard 2: Die Harder, in which Willis's John McClane was fighting mercenaries who had taken over Dulles Airport in Washington, DC, in an attempt to free a drug lord.

The series then took a five-year hiatus before returning in 1995 with Die Hard with a Vengeance, a film in which Willis, by then forty, revived John McClane as a struggling alcoholic ex-policeman who was drawn into a game of "Simon Says" by the East German brother of the main terrorist in the first film. Simon was a bit peeved at McClane for killing his brother.

And that is where it should have stopped. But no, Hollywood felt the need to squeeze one more Die Hard out of the forever boyish Mr. Willis.

Live Free or Die Hard, completed in 2007 when Willis was a sprightly fifty-two, is good in the way that Hardy Boys novels were good when I was a kid. The settings and some of the characters are different in each one, but you know basically what is going to happen - the mystery will be solved in the end - John McClane will take on platoons of evil terrorists to save the world and a family member, he will jump through fires, dangle from scary high places, and kill dozens with his bare hands - and in the end truth, justice, and the American way will triumph.

Willis is far too old to be believable as a rogue cop who has the strength and agility of someone half his age, but he was propped up by several really good young actors who brought off their roles in a realistic fashion. Timothy Olyphant was the sinister hacker who managed to bring most of the commerce, power, and traffic of the United States to a complete standstill. He was cool, and slick, and wicked. Justin Long played Matt, a young computer hacker who became Willis's reluctant partner in the drive to bring down Olyphant's cyber gang. Mr. Long had the energy and acting talent to nail his role. He would be a good candidate to carry on the franchise when Bruce Willis is mercifully turned out to pasture.

Live Free or Die Hard is a grand way to waste an evening. It is predictable in every sense of the word, but that doesn't stop it from being great escapist entertainment!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh come on now. How can you not like a movie where they kill a hellicopter with a car??