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Overall Rating
3.27

Awesome: 9.82%
Worth A Look47.32%
Average: 14.29%
Pretty Bad: 16.96%
Total Crap: 11.61%

9 reviews, 58 user ratings


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Live Free or Die Hard
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Hackers With A Vengeance"
3 stars

In “Live Free or Die Hard,” Bruce Willis is forced to do battle with cyber-terrorists, high-kicking kung-fu babes, helicopters, exploding gas lines, flying cars and fighter jets with nothing more than his fists, a few guns, the occasional flying car and the more-than-occasional quip. Of course, his triumphs in each of those various battles is all but assured–while he may be beaten down and battered beyond anything resembling the limits of human endurance, I can’t imagine anyone out there doubting for a second that he might actually lose in any of these conflicts. No, the real battle–the one where the results aren’t quite as clear-cut–is the one to find out whether or not a fourth “Die Hard” film has any appeal after a pair of so-so sequels, an avalanche of knock-offs of wildly varying quality (the best probably being “Speed” and “Under Siege” and the worst probably being “Speed 2: Cruise Control” and “Under Siege 2") and one hit TV series, “24,” that have pretty much done the wrong man/wrong place/wrong time formula to death. As it turns out, that particular clash has ended in a split decision–it passes a couple of hours in a reasonably painless and explosion-heavy manner but anyone hoping for something on the level of the original film is going to walk away from it slightly deafened and slightly disappointed.

“Live Free or Die Hard” begins with a hack into the FBI’s supposedly impenetrable computer system, a move that only a small number of hard-core computer geeks could possibly pull off. The Feds decide to drag all of these hackers out of their basements and chat rooms to find out who did it and since they are short-handed because of the 4th of July weekend, they farm out the job to local cops. As a result, our hero, the seemingly unstoppable John McClane (Willis) is sent off to fetch irritating computer jockey Matt Farrell (Justin Long) and bring him to D.C. for questioning. What the Feds and McClane don’t know, however, is that many of these hackers are being eliminated one by one by mysterious hit squads with, near as I can tell, explosive computer viruses and that Matt is next on the list. Luckily, McClane arrives in the ta-dah nick of time and rescues Matt from both the bomb and a hellacious gun battle that no neighbor seems to notice at all.

It turns out that Matt, along with the other hackers, was an unwitting pawn in a diabolical plan constructed by embittered computer genius Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), a former Department of Defense employee who was drummed out when he tried to warn the powers-that-be just how vulnerable our country’s computer infrastructure was to attack from outside forces. Instead of simply posting these details on a poorly maintained blog and hoping for a Drudge Report link, he has decided to exploit them himself by hiring himself an army of nerds and thugs (the sexiest of the latter is henchwoman Mai, played by Maggie Q) arranging a “fire sale,” a three-pronged shutdown on said infrastructure that will essentially serve as an unwanted reboot for the entire country. Of course, Gabriel’s reliance on technological precision never accounted for a rogue element like McClane and so he uses his magical computer powers to throw cars, exploding gas lines, a fighter jet and even McClane’s estranged daughter, Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in his way to stop him in a series of increasingly over-the-top action set-pieces that ensure that even if McClane does somehow manage to save the day, there will be so much collateral damage to deal with that most people will hardly notice.

Although there were many reasons why the first “Die Hard” was such a hit, I tend to think that there are three reasons as to why it had such a lasting impact on viewers once the razzle-dazzle of the special effects wore off. For starters, the hero was not an omnipotent killing machine a la Schwarzenegger and Stallone–he was an ordinary guy who was both alone and decidedly vulnerable (you never saw Rambo painfully pulling shards of glass out of his feet while wincing in pain). The idea of setting all of the action within the confines of a 40-story skyscraper was another stroke of genius in the way that it ratcheted up the tension level considerably while still allowing viewers to vicariously indulge in what was essentially the wildest game of Tag ever seen. Finally, in the form of then-unknown Alan Rickman, it had one of the all-time great screen villains–a silky-smooth Eurosleaze whose evildoing skirted the edge of cartoon super-villainy without ever going over the edge.

The problem with “Live Free or Die Hard”–and, to a lesser extent, the previous sequels–is that these particular elements have been largely abandoned and the resulting film is just another mediocre action film. John McClane is no longer the vulnerable Everyman that we knew and loved. Instead, he has transmogrified into just another quip-dealing macho man who has yet to face an obstacle that he can’t punch his way out of–not even the last-minute imperiling of his daughter is able to make him seem any more human–and pairing up his low-tech persona with the annoying techno-geek into what I presume was meant to suggest an iMac commercial with a higher body count was a not-so-smart idea that is further done in by the lack of on-screen chemistry between the two. Instead of confining the action to one locale or even one city, the action is spread out over seemingly half of the Eastern Seaboard–McClane spends so much time traveling from one location to another that the film never develops any sense of sustained tension. However, the film’s biggest failing is that the bad guy just isn’t very compelling–while the previous villains in the series were willing to mix it up and get their hands dirty, Olyphant spends most of his time ordering minions to type things into their computer terminals that will allow him to do his dirty business via proxy. Let me put it this is–once you’ve seen the likes of Hans Gruber, it is impossible to get that worked up over a guy whose idea of a menacing announcement is “Prep the video package!”

If you can somehow forget about all of that–or if you have somehow never gotten around to ever seeing a “Die Hard” film before–“Live Free or Die Hard” does sort of work on the level of mindless eye candy. Although director Len Wiseman doesn’t have the visual flair of a John McTiernan (or even a Renny Harlin, for God’s sake) and has a tendency to rely a little too heavily on the intrinsic appeal of giant fireballs to make his action points (especially the bit where our heroes outrun an exploding gas line), some of the set-pieces on display are undeniably effective. The claustrophobic apartment shootout that kicks off the mayhem is a strong sequence that serves as a reminder of the glories of the original film. The scene in which McClane finds himself trapped in a darkened tunnel with traffic bearing down on him from both directions is a nicely staged ballet of automotive chaos not seen since the days when John Landis was making movies worth watching. And while the scene does have a nasty edge that the film doesn’t really seem willing to deal with, the central smackdown between Willis and Maggie Q is a brutally efficient bit of filmmaking that effortlessly segues into the latest bit of elevator-related mayhem that has become as much of a trademark of the “Die Hard” series as the signature “Yippee Ki Yay. . .” line (which does sort of make an appearance here, though in a form truncated enough to earn the film its PG-13 rating). The other winning aspect of the film is the performance by Bruce Willis–even as the film flies further and further into the outright ridiculous (this is the kind of film where a car is somehow launched into the air in order to knock a helicopter out of the sky and it isn’t the most implausible moment on display), he does a reasonably decent job of putting a human face onto the proceedings and while some (hell, most) of his one-liners are corny at best, he sells them as well as anyone possibly could.

Although “Live Free or Die Hard” is easily the weakest of the “Die Hard” films–even though one does not typically go to a film like this for the narrative complexities, the storyline is so slapdash that the filmmakers are forced to drag Kevin Smith into the third act as a character who exists solely to tie all the loose ends together–and it doesn’t rejuvenate the series in the way that “Rocky Balboa” unexpectedly did for the “Rocky” films last winter, it isn’t the disaster that some might have feared from a long-overdue revival of a moribund franchise that has been tailored to attract an audience that wasn’t even alive when the first film was blowing audiences out of the back wall of the theater. Hell, if this film was made in the mid-1990's with someone like Andrew Davis or Peter Hyams behind the cameras and Steven Seagal or Kurt Russell in front of them, it might have gone down as one of the better “Die Hard” knock-offs. The problem, though, is that it isn’t a knock-off but a successor to the real thing. “Live Free or Die Hard” has some good action set-pieces and is a reasonably entertaining bit of summertime nonsense but as a successor to “Die Hard,” a film generally regarded as one of the all-time classics of the action genre, it simply comes up short.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=15580&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/27/07 14:16:06
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User Comments

9/22/17 morris campbell good action sequel alot better than die hard 2 4 stars
3/17/16 Charles Tatum 'Salright 4 stars
7/08/12 BongThom Perfect review. 1 stars
2/03/11 Richard79 Almost unidentifiable as a Die Hard. Just another superhero movie for teenagers. 1 stars
12/17/10 fartvenugen preposterous and completely lame. 1 stars
10/27/10 Stirling Review by brianorndorf is spot on 1 stars
10/17/10 Stirling Spot on review. Disgraceful sequel. Die Hard 5? No Thanks! 1 stars
10/11/10 Eduardo It features the most stupid plot ever. Even an action movie has to have a plot, this doesnt 1 stars
12/24/09 brian i hope they make another one so everyone will be yelling "please die already!" 2 stars
12/03/09 R.W. Welch Too over-the-top to really get into, but lively enough. C+ 3 stars
10/01/09 Zefram Way better than expected. 4 stars
8/20/09 Jeff Wilder Gets the job done. Better than the second. But not as good as the original or third. 3 stars
10/09/08 jojo22 i loved it!! go BRUCE! 4 stars
9/27/08 Ian Can you explain why Asian hooker jokes are funny and not racist? 2 stars
7/25/08 Adam Too much of a mockery and an insult to the Die Hard series. 2 stars
7/22/08 the dork knight I am a staunch defender of Die hard 3. But not this one 2 stars
5/14/08 PAUL SHORTT CLATTERS NOISILY DOWN THE LIFT SHAFT INTO OBLIVION 2 stars
3/31/08 Monday Morning I don't want to spoil it for anyone but Bruce Willis and The Mac Guy save America. YAY!!!! 3 stars
3/15/08 Lucifugerofocale Brilliant took an out of date franchise and revamped for the modern audience 5 stars
3/03/08 ladavies If you like non stop action you will love this 4 stars
2/08/08 Anthony Feor Bruce Willis obviously knows how to keep tradition alive 4 stars
1/25/08 Tim A compleIe sellout and ludicrous in the extreme. Sinks a series that started off great. 1 stars
1/18/08 X Wang Decent action movie - obiviously not as great as the previous ones 4 stars
12/30/07 Austin Wertman loved it 5 stars
12/21/07 MP Bartley Decent enough, but too tame to really thrill. Smith's cameo is horrendous. 3 stars
12/13/07 ES Sadly the best part of this film was that it could be turned off. Die Hard has finally die 2 stars
12/05/07 dude loved it 5 stars
11/25/07 Servo Worst of the Die Hard flicks ... means it's still well worth watching 3 stars
11/20/07 Matt Plain impossible, plain daft-but who cares? Great fun, welcome back Bruce! 4 stars
11/17/07 mr.mike Willis and the movie are great.The ending borrows from "License To Kill" 4 stars
11/05/07 mb Love Bruce Willis. Awsome action movie from begining to end. 5 stars
10/06/07 Descent Passable but lacking in genuine tension and drive 3 stars
9/20/07 Johnnyfaye Okay plane and simple, if you didn't like this movie than you're not a die hard fan. 3 stars
9/06/07 Charles R.L.Power Clichéd and implausible, but carries the viewer along anyway 3 stars
9/03/07 Drooch Shallow, noisy cream-puff for teens. Total sellout. Where's the real McLane? 1 stars
8/31/07 Alex Hosking Nonestop computer enhanced action from beginning to end. A total waste of time. 1 stars
8/27/07 Private Obtuse and absurd but still manages to be moderately entertaining genre film. 3 stars
8/14/07 jimmy This movie was just a tv movie of the week with a 100 million budget and Bruce Willis in it 1 stars
8/07/07 David Graham Best of the sequels, an action flick to die hard 4. 5 stars
7/30/07 matt the swearing and smoking has to return in 5..sort it out fox 4 stars
7/28/07 Jiz Delivers the goods, Justin Long is a terrible actor though. 4 stars
7/28/07 Harry An insult to the series...shame 1 stars
7/22/07 jdm I loved it, non-stop action start to finish, best of the summer so far 5 stars
7/21/07 ben dover mclane is the man fantastic 5 stars
7/20/07 Brian Mckay The Techbabble is almost as retarded as on "24", but I don't watch porno for the plot, dig? 4 stars
7/17/07 Alexander Not a classic, but so wasn't the third one. Oldschoold action-movie with not too much CGI. 4 stars
7/05/07 Quigley Just go see it for the car crashes, stunts, explosions, and...of course...John McClane. 4 stars
7/05/07 damalc just more of the same for John McClane 2 stars
7/04/07 zaw Action Packed as I expected!!!! 5 stars
7/02/07 ahnold It was ok. Formulaic plot lines hurt movie (e.g.daughter=hostage);as did impossible escapes 3 stars
7/01/07 CrazyJayy Never thought twice about the PG13 or 12 years ago...this was fun--point blank!!!!!!! 5 stars
6/30/07 Blizz A total disgrace to the series, no matter what anyone else says...don't listen! 1 stars
6/29/07 KingNeutron Unabashed 5 *'s, hopefully the DVD will give us the Director's cut. 5 stars
6/29/07 Ole Man Bourbon It's what it should be, good action, good performances by Willis and Long. 4 stars
6/29/07 Mick A bunch of flag waving crap that is so 80's. 1 stars
6/29/07 Matt I thought this was a good movie true to the franchise. PG-13 may have cripled it somewhat. 4 stars
6/28/07 Steve Big fan of the series and disagree with the reviewer. I thought it was great! 5 stars
6/28/07 Paul Might not be "artistic" but it was a lot of fun to watch from beginning to end. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  27-Jun-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 20-Nov-2007

UK
  04-Jul-2007 (15)

Australia
  09-Aug-2007 (M)



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