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The Best of 2007: 'Live Free or Die Hard'

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Live Free or Die Hard


The Unrated Version is the prefered cut and the one this author is primarily reviewing. When this reviewer first heard the news that Twentieth Century Fox was planning to make a fourth Die Hard film, we all have to admit we got a pretty worried. We live in a period where action films are not necessarily dominated anymore by actual stunts and the presence and use of physical objects and locations. Given that this film's young director only had two films to his belt and that both were not all that impressive or believable (the Underworld films), it was this track record that made me believe that he was unfit for the job. A great big thanks has to go to this director Len Wiseman for sticking to the original film's formula of a man having a really bad day and that everything he literally touches (it actually exists and not only in the digital world-- the use of CGI in this film is fairly minimal compared to other films) does seem to go to pieces. By extension though, the real heroes of the piece have to go to the great success of writer Mark Bomback and the triumphant return of actor Bruce Willis as the 'cop who is just too damn proud to quit' John McClane. It was well worth the wait (12 years since 1995's Die Hard with a Vengeance) for us to watch the great Bruce Willis once again bleed and curse all over the movie as his most famous character is immersed in one of the most interesting concepts an action film has ever undertaken.

Techno terrorists commandeered by a splendidly sneering Timothy Olyphant of Scream 2 and Deadwood fame take control of the US by systematically shutting down the nation's entire infrastructure consisting of transportation, communication, and power networks and replacing every Americans' TV programs with patronizing reedits of speeches giving by every president since Roosevelt and CGI demonstrations of historical buildings being bombed (one of the most effective uses of movie magic to show the horror of virtual terrorism). McClane who has seemingly had a fairly quiet life since 1995 (the last seven years before that were a dozy) is simply trying to reestablish communication with his estranged daughter played by the adorable Mary Elizabeth Winstead, a literal echo of Bonnie Bedelia's character in the original Die Hard (who both later get a chance to throw some punches in as well), when circumstances beyond his control of course lead to finding yet another buddy scenario with hacker Matt Farrell played with such amusing cynicism and understandable reluctance by Justin Long (who is interestingly enough a spokesperson for Mac computers).

Mark Bomback's script, inspired by an article written by John Carlin, shows a very apocalyptic perspective on how the digital medium can be used as a means of attack, which is a very fresh take on the terrorist threats that McClane often finds himself pitted against. In the end though, the real fun of watching a Die Hard film is watching McClane kill tons of bad guys in the most extreme ways possible while still maintaining a dark sense of humor about it. For those who picked apart the film's climax for its supposed outlandishness, please recall all the other moments in the three previous Die Hard films when McClane jumps off an exploding rooftop saved only by a fire hose, ejects just in time out an exploding plane, and falls at least fifty feet off a crane onto a bunch very painful metal cargo containers. McClane versus an F-35 jet on an exploding freeway junction should be no surprise. Thankfully in keeping with reality for most loud Americans, McClane's cowboy sense of humor always come through even in the most tense, and fortunately well written, of instances.