Film

Cyberterrorists vs. a Hard Body

A Review of Live Free or Die Hard

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Most self-respecting film critics shy away from graven-in-stone statements, but here goes: I consider Die Hard to be just about the perfect movie, boasting a nigh-unbeatable combination of explosions, humor, and the seminal performance of Bruce Willis, who came as close to an ordinary schlub as the action genre would permit—a guy who cursed a lot, bled even more, made bad jokes, and genuinely didn't want to be in the middle of the action. Even after nearly 20 years and lord knows how many spin-offs (Seagal on a boat! Keanu on the bus! Van Damme on a... hockey rink? Really?), it would still take major surgery to drag me away from a viewing.

Judged against its predecessors, Live Free or Die Hard falls somewhere in the middle: less dopey and unpleasantly brutal than the second, not quite as inspired as the underrated third. Even accounting for some major flaws—lumpy storytelling, an unfortunate decision to dilute the carnage into PG-13 land, the presence of Kevin Smith—it still manages to deliver an agreeably retro kick.

Inspired (loosely, one assumes) from an article in Wired magazine, the premise finds the now-divorced John McClane stumbling into a cyberterrorist scheme to monkey with the nation's infrastructure. The concept of a PDA-spawned apocalypse may strain credibility (one imagines the leetspeakers already warming up keyboards in disdain), but it makes for an amusing backdrop for the hero to smash his way through. As the head bad guy, Timothy Olyphant is a shade colorless, but he's got some strong second-banana support from District B13 human slinky Cyril Raffaelli and (especially) Mission: Impossible 3 über-babe Maggie Q, whose knock-down, drag-out clash with McClane is worth the price of admission by its lonesome. As usual, though, the main virtue is Willis, who continues to refine his grumpy, balding, blessedly un-Matrix-y mojo. He's still not too old for this shit, thank god.

 

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