Movie review: Live Free or Die Hard

Ellis J. Wells

Three Stars (out of Five)

Director: Len Wiseman

Writer: Mark Bomback

Composer: Marco Beltrami

Starring: Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Maggie Q and Timothy Olyphant

Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), a genius hacker, has organized the greatest team of hackers to reign chaos down upon the United States by taking over transport, power, databases, everything. The entire computer and technological structure of the most powerful country in the world is now in his hands, and he is literally bringing the country to a stand still. Only one man stands in his way: John McClane (Bruce Willis). Unintentionally foiling a plot to kill Matt Farrell (Justin Long), a hacker who worked for Gabriel, McClane is now waist deep in this mess. His job is to keep the hacker alive long enough to correct the damage done by Gabriel and his team. The problem is, Gabriel has access to McClane’s personal file, and now knows that McClane has a daughter.

This is an action movie. It is not supposed to win the Oscar for most original screenplay, nor is it contending for a Pulitzer Prize. This is a movie for entertainment. However, the movie, which one should figure for mindless fun, has a pretty complex plot. Why does it take over half the movie to find out what’s really going on? What was so brilliant about the original “Die Hard” was the simplicity. Tower, bad guys, money, guns. It was simple, and we moviegoers like simple in our action movies. If we wanted complex, we’d go and see a drama.

Director Len Wiseman, who directed “Underworld,” offers some very good action, but forgets one thing: McClane is not a super hero. There is no way he could physically survive a dozen of the explosions and casually walk away. I’m not a cynic unnecessarily. I buy that James Bond is a one-man army, Batman has always been more than human, and John McClane has always been the tough guy – but not super human. My main complaint about this movie is that it’s just not a “Die Hard” movie. “Die Hard With A Vengeance” is a wonderful movie and the original “Die Hard” is one of the best action movies around. This movie seems more like “The Bourne Identity” (another great action film). I didn’t pay money to see Jason Bourne, I paid to see John McClane, and that’s not what I got.

The action was decent, and there were some well choreographed moments, but sadly, within all these moments, there are some very unnecessary explosions that really come out of nowhere. Rather than three great action sequences that last 20 minutes, the movie has several nonsensical, two-second action moments that leave you wanting more.

The two strengths in “Live Free” were the new sidekick Justin Long and the villain Timothy Olyphant. Both were good, entertaining and funny. But both couldn’t live up to their predecessors: Samuel L. Jackson, Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons. Those three men made the Die Hard franchise. Villains and sidekicks so often lend themselves to scene stealing, it’s a shame that didn’t happen this time.

Best scene: The fight between Bruce Willis and martial artist Maggie Q, a beautiful femme fatale, is sizzling. Maybe in a perverse way, it’s unusual to see a man punch a woman in an action movie that made it new. One of the few moments we see classic John McClane. He’s not got time to try and subdue her – he’ll just punch her out.

Favorite performance: Justin Long is very good as the new blood. He’s funny, but also very believable, which is a big plus. Again though, it’s no Samuel L Jackson, but then again, few are as good as him in general.

Overall: Not as good as “Die Hard” or “Die Hard With A Vengeance,” but still vastly more entertaining than the train wreck of “Die Hard 2: Die Harder,” with most things nothing more than OK.

See it: Cinemark Movies 12

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, language and a brief sexual situation.

Running time: 130 mins.

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