Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
Directed by Len Wiseman
It’s “another day in paradise” when John McClane (Bruce Willis) enters the cyber age in “Live Free or Die Hard.” Oops, I promised myself I wouldn’t use the word “age.” Sorry, Bruce. You were still just as badass at 52.
When an off-the-grid former FBI tech guy decides to show America what can be done with a little computer hacking (full electricity shut-down, rerouting of utilities, large-scale public panic), the FBI eventually finds the help of NYPD detective John McClane, who gets help from computer geek Matt Farrell (Justin Long). How they both get involved is a longer story than needs to be related here. When these cyber bullies find McClane’s now-college-aged daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) it gets personal. Will McClane and Farrell be able to find the man in charge (Timothy Olyphant), or will his hack-turned-heist (why not get paid for all his hard work, he says) go off without a hitch?
Justin Long proves that badass can be taught. It’s a classic underdog story that everyone tries to hate but just can’t. Who cares if it’s cliché? Long is a hoot. I love sarcasm, which is why (I’m just now discovering?) these movies appeal to me so much. His snarky remarks are truly comical, not only in their delivery but in their writing. He goes from zero to hero, and we love it. Kevin Smith adds his own comic grace to the mix. He’s a bunch of fun. Do I need to say anything more about Bruce Willis? A dozen years after “Die Hard: With a Vengeance,” Willis is still at the peak of action movie perfection. He’s still the man.
With the progress in technology also comes a heck of a lot more stunts and SFX, and John McClane embraces these like we expect him to. Sometimes the crazy SFX (as realistic as it may be) does come off as a tad bit unlikely. But it does give “Live Free or Die Hard” perhaps the most firepower of the franchise so far. Lots of explosions, lots of shooting, lots of wreckage. Not a lot of deaths if we’re counting on our hands, but with that much fire we don’t care. It’s virtually overflowing with excitement (get it, virtually?). The stunts, too, are very impressive – especially considering Willis’ age.
“Die Hard” epitomizes good vs. evil. But in “Live Free or Die Hard,” the audience doubts that the good guy could possibly win. Then McClane shows you why it’s so dangerous to doubt him. Is McClane getting older or are his villains getting younger? In fact, I don’t recall a single notable character in the movie that surpasses Willis in age. A sharp contrast to the previous films. But it works, so much so that they do it again 6 years later, partnering McClane with his son (we’ll get there when we get there). One beef: “Live Free or Die Hard” marks the only “Die Hard” movie (including the newest) that was rated PG-13. You know what that means? McClane’s famous line is reduced to “Yippee-kai-yay, motherf—” and a gunshot. Thankfully they realized their mistake and prioritized, once again putting the possibility of more money behind the possibility of more awesome.
“Live Free or Die Hard” effectively brings this classic franchise to a new audience and a new generation without ruining the awesome of John McClane. Honestly, what more could they try to do?