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"Live Free or Die Hard"

Directed by Len Wiseman ("Underworld" AND "Underworld: Evolution").
Written by Mark Bomback.  Story based on an article by John Carlin; lead character based on a character from the novel "Nothing Lasts Forever" by Roderick Thorp.
Starring Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant and Maggie Q.
Release Year:  2007
Review Date:  6/30/07


It is safe to say that between "Die Hard", "Die Hard 2" and "Die Hard with a Vengeance", I've watching Bruce Willis play John McClane in over a hundred viewings of the three previous adventures.  Love them all.  If pressed, I might say that "Die Hard 2" is the best in terms of action, but "Die Hard" is better from a character perspective (maybe the best characters ever written/played in an pure action film); "Die Hard with a Vengeance" is a truly great movie tied to the fact that McClane doesn't even shoot anybody for the first hour of the film as he runs around New York City trying to diffuse mini-bombs and answering phones.  Somebody thought that would work and it does, right up until a really shitty, letdown ending that had me saying at the time "John McClane can't go out like this!"

But he did.  For a dozen years.  But, in "Live Free or Die Hard", we get a movie that never quite delivers on the McClane angle (from a character perspective) but gets back to the roots of "Die Hard 2" a bit by providing a sheer action rush--occasionally fueled by a nice adrenaline high--and much of the absolute ridiculosity that has made the series such a blast.  The plot is ridiculous so there's no sense in covering it, but what is important is that John McClane (Willis) is still a cop in NYC, and while out in New Jersey tracking down his now-distant-emotionally daughter (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), he gets a call to pick up a rogue hacker (Justin Long) who is wanted by the government.  From there, a lot of people have to die while McClane and the hacker make their way from Jersey to DC to West Virginia to Baltimore to...Woodlawn, Maryland as McClane tries to stop a former information security expert-turned-killer (Timothy Olyphant).

I went to see this on opening night with eight other people, and we were kind of a mixed bag on what we thought; a number of folks thought the action was even more ridiculous than they expected it to be, and most of us agreed that Olyphant's baddie is certainly not Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber from the first "Die Hard" film.  Due to a PG-13 rating, "Live Free or Die Hard" isn't nearly as profane as any of the other films, which is one of its major for occasionally calling someone a "jerk-off"--the staple of the McClane vocabulary--Willis' on-screen creation is kept to mostly snide cackles after he offs each successive bad guy.  This fourth "Die Hard" film is also much less bloody, which is also too bad--the series' violence is what makes it what it is.

Now, all of that being said, I had a great time watching "Live Free or Die Hard."  From a stupidly-ridiculous standpoint, the action set-pieces here are not NEARLY as stupidly ridiculous as any of the following moments from the first three films:

  • Having a bad guy survive strangulation-by-chain-link noose AND a rooftop explosion to try and take out McClane at the end of the first "Die Hard" when he reaches street level;

  • McClane blowing up an airplane by lighting a trail of gasoline...and, oh yeah, the plane was already IN THE AIR;

  • Being drowned, blown out of an air duct 100 feet into the air and then shoved into a car, only to spin that car out of control--while driving--to shoot a bad guy three times in the face in another moving car on a rain-soaked road in the third "Die Hard"

Of course, all of these moments were awesome, and in this fourth iteration, watching McClane have the consensus "True Lies" moment when he jumps onto a jet that is about to crash, then jump down a just-destroyed off-ramp while plane wreckage is flying all around him, then takes a few minutes to brush himself off before shooting another half-dozen bad guys...none of this even remotely made me angry.  Nor did watching him take out an enemy chopper with a moving car propelled off of a cement ramp.  Nor did watching him get shot at for the majority of this 130-minute film and only get hit a couple of times.  This is JOHN MCCLANE, people!!!

Is this one as good as any of the first three films?  Nope, not even close.  But, as an action movie, it gets the job done--high body count, cool special effects, much-toyed-with-realism and Maggie Q (from "M:I-3"), who is crazy-hot and is even allowed to whoop that McClane ass a few times to boot.  If they make a fifth one, please rate it "R" and allow Mr. McClane to drop more f-bombs.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09