Image courtesy of impawards.com
Bruce Willis……….John McClane
Timothy Olyphant……….Thomas Gabriel
Justin Long……….Matt Farrell
Maggie Q……….Mai Lihn
Mary Elizabeth Winstead……….Lucy McClane
To put it mildly Live Free or Die Hard is an outrageously overblown action flick. But then one remembers that the film is part of the Die Hard franchise and the disappointment starts to gnaw the soul. Twelve years for this, Bruce Willis? How dare the money-grubbing whores at Fox attach the John McClane character to this juiced-up tech-geek concept? Even the plot insists that McClane is a non-factor while at the same time lionizing him as the country’s only hope.
It becomes easy to sympathize with cyber-terrorist, Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), at least as it pertains to his feelings toward McClane. When Gabriel isn’t being made to look pathetically unprepared, McClane is reminding him how woefully outmatched he is. Sure, Gabriel’s plan to collapse the entire structure which the United States is built upon could be construed as evil of the highest order, that is, if the execution were not so implausible. There are far too many plot holes to address them all, especially when I am still trying to figure out when John McClane became such a brash, mean-spirited, braggart in the last 20 years. He was always cocky and self-sure (the franchise would be nothing without that plucky underdog vibe) but he never told a villain outright he was going to win so long before the final showdown.
It is a most welcome conclusion when that showdown finally does come. It signals the end of the tiresomely unrealistic buffoonery and incompetence of every single character in the film, besides John McClane of course. Better still, it comes just in the nick of time to keep the movie from completely consuming itself in its own can-we-top-this absurdity. Live Free or Die Hard brags more action set pieces than the last three films combined, and the overkill is exhausting. The movie moves so quickly from stunt to stunt that viewers can hardly catch their breath or enjoy some of the more inspired setups. The most realistic of which was the anxiety creating Washington, D.C. tunnel scene in which Gabriel unleashes traffic from both openings on McClane and his ward, computer programmer, Matt Ferrell (Justin Long).
That scene, and many like it, is eye candy at its old school best, but it does not jive with the plot’s overall framework. When the action slows down enough to pay obligatory lip service to the film’s plot that is when the biggest explosions occur. They take place in the viewer’s brain as synapses misfire trying to make sense of the ridiculously dense scheme hatched by Gabriel and his cohorts.
The fuse is lit as the audience ponders the minor role Ferrell had in helping set the plan into action. The Fire Sale, as it is cryptically called, is the massive shutdown of all government run amenities, namely everything. Banks, traffic, communications, power, and water are all shut down in systematic fashion. It is important to ignore the fact that the program used to cause the Fire Sale was created by myriad programmers, but it is kept running by a small room full of operators. And pay no attention to the government’s complete ineptitude at doing anything useful or remotely logical to stop the Fire Sale. Let alone that every aspect of finding a solution has apparently been dumped into the lap of Deputy Director Bowman (Cliff Curtis). Isn’t there anyone else who can help in any way at all? There is no time for that silly question when there are chases to be had and things to be blown up.
With that attitude firmly entrenched, Live Free or Die Hard is a rousing success. But I think we have all come to expect more from our action movies, let alone the Die Hard franchise. It is a sorry sight to see the franchise that redefined the action film finally fall in line with the rest of the cookie-cutter crap that dots the action movie landscape today. Perhaps I am too sensitive, but I wish Fox would have been more prudent in its use of the McClane character. Anybody could have done what McClane did, but John McClane does his best work when he is the only one who can save the day.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):