Live Free or Die Hard
|Bruce Willis||John McClane|
|Justin Long||Matt Farrell|
|Timothy Olyphant||Thomas Gabriel|
|Mary Elizabeth Winstead||Lucy|
|Directed by||Len Wiseman|
John McClane (Bruce Willis) is older, balder, not much wiser, and every bit as tough as he was when we last saw him a dozen years ago, racing around Manhattan with Samuel L. Jackson trying to foil a mad bomber.
Six years later, the appeal of bombing Manhattan suddenly lost its movie moxie, and three “Die Hard” installments seemed to have used up all the gas the series had in its tank. Bruce Willis went on to other things, from being dead people to taking interesting cameo roles in independent pictures, just because he felt like it.
When an actor says he’s decided to revive a moribund film franchise because the script was just too good to pass up, we can be forgiven a soupçon of cynicism. There’s always the suspicion that the writing that really caught his attention was the stuff on the check. But the script for Live Free or Die Hard takes terrorism off the streets and relocates in cyberspace, drawing on an article in Wired magazine by journalist John Carlin about our vulnerability to super hackers as our civilization becomes increasingly and irretrievably in thrall to computers.
The story begins with McClane on an unusual kind of stakeout. In a recent Playboy interview Willis admitted to being a little overprotective of his daughters, and here art imitates life by having him bust a college kid who is putting the make on his daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in a parked car on the Rutgers campus. Does she appreciate it? She does not. Kids!
Since he’s in the neighborhood, McClane is dispatched in a dragnet of hackers to bring in a New Jersey computer geek to try to find out who’s been messing with the FBI’s Department of Cyber Security. He goes to collect the kid, and that’s when the violence erupts, and keeps up for most of the next couple of hours.
The kid is Matt Farrell (Justin Long, the Mac character in the ubiquitous Apple ads on TV.) He’s one of a gaggle of hackers who have unwittingly lent their skills to help Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), a former Defense Department official who has gone over to the dark side. Gabriel has now extracted everything from these computer nerds he needs to rule the world, and he’s the kind of guy why doesn’t like to leave any loose ends. Farrell has the good fortune to be taken into custody by the finest of New York’s Finest just at the moment that the bad guys start spraying his apartment with firepower.
Such firepower! You’d think that kind of thing would draw the attention of a squad car, or at least a couple of irate neighbors pounding on the ceiling with a broom handle and yelling “Turn it down!” But plausibility is not what we go to a Die Hard movie for. And in its own way it does have a certain amount of plausibility, the kind that derives from total confusion so thick we can’t have the faintest idea of what’s going on anyway.
Farrell is a reluctant sidekick. He doesn’t see himself in the hero mold. But then, reassuringly, neither does McClane. “I’m no hero,” the cop says modestly. “I’m just doing my job.” Farrell recognizes that the bad guys are triggering a cyber-apocalypse known to cognoscenti as a Fire Sale. With his brains and McClane’s brawn, they may just be the only hope the world has of staving off disaster.
Director Len Wiseman gets the spirit just right. The tricks are outrageous – a helicopter is brought down by McCane sending a car hurtling like a missile off a take-off ramp, and that’s only one of the early ones. The computer stunts are just as mind-bending, to most of us who find opening an email attachment a daunting challenge. Most impressive of all is the ability of McClane and some of the villains to take physical punishment. They fall down elevator shafts, they survive collapsing buildings, they leap from planes, they get kicked, pummeled, shot, blown up, whacked with great slabs of heavy stuff, and much, much more, and it hardly slows them down. Maybe there’s a wince, maybe there’s blood and sweat and dirt, but they take it all with good grace and come back for more.
As always, the ratio of mayhem, death, and destruction to mission accomplished is a dubious bargain. For the most part the only people we see being killed are bad guys who need killin’ (several of them speak French!), but simple logic tells us that untold thousands more must have perished in the shenanigans that crowd the screen for the heavy side of two hours.
This is not Merchant-Ivory, it’s not Shakespeare. It’s not sophisticated, or elegant, or romantic, or cerebral, or remotely believable. The wit is clever but minimal, the plot is anybody’s guess. But what this is, is myth. Movie characters like McClane are the Paul Bunyans and John Henrys and Pecos Bills of our age, the stuff of tall tales spun with the technology of an age whose campfires are found in multiplexes with stadium seating.
© Text 2007 Jonathan Richards - Filmfreak.be
© Pictures 20th Century Fox