Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

Len Wiseman

STARRINGBruce Willis - John McClane
Justin Long - Matt Farrell
Timothy Olyphant - Thomas Gabriel
Maggie Q - Mai Lihn
Kevin Smith - Warlock
Mary Elizabeth Winstead - Lucy McClane

Year - 2007

Score - 3.5 Howls Outta 4

It took 12 years, but the DIE HARD franchise was finally resurrected in the summer of sequels. Why it took that long for Bruce Willis to bring John McClane back to the screen, I have no idea. But I'm glad the guy is back. However, a lot has changed in the action genre in 12 years. CGI has begun to take the place of stunt people. Asian influences are now part of American action films. John McClane is an outsider in this new technologically advanced world. But then again, that would make a pretty good film, wouldn't it? Actually, it makes a pretty darn great film.

PLOTJohn McClane (Bruce Willis) is dealing with his estranged family [this time his daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead)] who want nothing to do with him. While he deals with this, McClane is on a case for the FBI to arrest computer hackers. Unfortunately, someone has hired people to murder many of them. He comes across Matt Farrell (Justin Long), one of the last surviving hackers, ready to arrest him. However, McClane and Farrell are attacked by assassins, creating an uneasy partnership between the two. The two learn that a technological genius named Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) is behind the murders and plans on attacking the country through its technology by shutting everything down. McClane is once again stuck working on a case he wants nothing to do with, but that all changes when things get personal as Gabriel kidnaps Lucy.

REVIEWWhile it's not the best DIE HARD film in the franchise, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD is probably my second-favorite. Action from beginning-to-end, decently interesting characters, and an interesting plot for a DIE HARD film. I know a lot of fans didn't appreciate the technological plot when it concerns everyday man John McClane, but I thought it was refreshing from any of the other films in the series. It showed how old school McClane is and how behind he was when it came to understanding the future that's ahead of him and all of us. To have a partner like Long's technological-saavy Farrell was a great dynamic because they complimented each other well. McClane started to understand how important technology is to the world, in good and bad ways. I thought the plot was very realistic and a great social commentary on the state of technological dependency. The question Olyphant's Gabriel posted, "What if help will never come?", if every single bit of technology doesn't work is a frightening one that makes us think. What if help will never come if we can't call 911 or use computers to get our information about situations and events? It shows how dependent we all are on technology and how sad it would be if we lost it. There was a time when we didn't have all this futuristic stuff and we've forgotten how to live without it all. It's a scary thought and something that could possibly happen. What would we do if it did? What would we do?

Len Wiseman [who directed the UNDERWORLD films] does a really good job directing the action and bringing the script to life on screen. I liked how the colors of the film seemed a bit washed out and how the camera shook as if it were a documentary. It reminded me a lot of THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, giving a more realistic and gritty feel to the film. I, however, do feel as if there was too much action [I didn't mind the action - loved it but I know others felt indifferent to it] and not enough room for the audience to breathe and absorb what was really going on. Especially when it concerned the villains, because I didn't think they had enough substance for their evil reasoning. Were they doing this just to prove a point? Was there something bigger? We get the answers to those questions, but at the same time, we don't. Plus at his age, McClane shouldn't be taking hits that he wouldn't have survived when he was younger and walking away from them with just cuts and bruises. I don't mind giving the audience a sense of disbelief for 2 hours, but it seemed kinda silly to me. I don't really fault Wiseman for that [I don't think he wrote the screenplay], but things like that take away from a film and leave plot holes when there shouldn't be any.

The acting was very good for an action film. Bruce Willis played John McClane as if he hadn't been gone 12 years. Combining the smart-aleck nature of the first two films with the seriousness of the third, Bruce Willis has matured McClane and does it with justice and believability. Even at his age, Willis is still better than many of his younger counterparts. While most of the work was done by stuntmen, McClane has perfected the art of surviving explosions and gunshots and a whole bunch of other dangerous shit that would kill most people. Sure, he's ignorant when it comes to battling internet terrorism, but in the real world, he doesn't need gadgets and gizmos to kick your ass. Yeah, Willis plays McClane as a predictable hero. But this hero is predictably badass and cool. Bruce Willis is still the man and I'm glad he's back in his best role.

Justin Long surprised me at how well he fit in. He's witty, has great comedic timing, and had great rapport with Willis. He was totally believable as a computer geek [he's a Mac] and was not a distraction to the action that surrounded him. Maggie Q was intimidating as Mai Lihn, having the best fight scene in the film with Willis. She totally turned me on with her fast kicks and take no bullshit attitude. I just wish she were in the film more. Mary Elizabeth Winstead was also very good as McClane's daughter, Lucy. Her anger towards her father was totally believable [she used the same Gennaro method to piss off McClane like her mother did in the original DIE HARD] and was extremely tough against the villains. She's basically in the film towards the end, but she does very well with the screen time given to her. If they do another DIE HARD film, I'd like to see Long's and Winstead's characters come back. I think they could offer the franchise a lot more than was allowed here.

The one actor I had a problem with was Timothy Olyphant as villain Thomas Gabriel. I don't blame Olyphant because he's a good actor, but this role clearly wasn't made for him. I dunno, I just wasn't really all that interested in his methods or in the character. He wasn't threatening [at least not until the end anyway] and just seemed so out of his league in his own plan. He wanted to get revenge on his former superiors because they wouldn't listen to him about a risk of a technological blackout that could destroy the world - wow, that's so 5th grade! He was nowhere the level of villain as Alan Rickman or Jeremy Irons before him. Olyphant's role could have been played by ANYONE and it wouldn't have really changed a thing at how badly the character was written. I wouldn't even consider the guy an evil threat. He does bad things, but doesn't really explain why or give an inkling as to how this all effects him and why we should even care about what he does. I've seen better villains in bad Steven Seagal or Jean-Claude Van Damme films. Again, I don't blame Olyphant for this. I blame whoever wrote the script because he wasn't allowed to do much of anything but react to how McClane was ruining his plan. Without an iconic villain for an iconic hero, what's the point? Gabriel was just there and that's no good.

LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD is a great action film from beginning to end. In a summer of disappointing blockbuster sequels, this stands at the top of the heap. If the film had less action, a bit more story, and a more interesting villain, this film could have topped the original. But it comes darn close due to its high entertainment value. If this is Bruce Willis' last hoorah in the action genre, then what a great way to go out. Younger action stars could learn a thing or two from Bruce Willis and John McClane. This is what an action film is supposed to look and feel like. I salute you, Mr. Willis. To the rest of you wannabe action stars - Yippee-Ki-Yay, Motherf**kers!

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