DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD

Monday 6 August 2007


Live Free or Die Hard (2007) dir. Len Wiseman
Starring: Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant


I miss John McTiernan, I miss Reginald Veljohnson, I miss Alan Rickman, I miss Jeremy Irons, I miss Michael Kamen, I miss Steven E. DeSouza. These are just six reasons why “Live Free or Die Hard” bored me. It’s the equivalent to “Terminator 3” – long over the hill, with an attempted injection of youth in the form of a new director and young co-stars. And the results are the same - a kick at the can one too many times.

Computer hackers led by ultra-hacker Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), who spends more of his time barking orders and shooting guns than at a computer screen, has infiltrated all the traffic and communication networks in order to shut down the infrastructure of the United States. One of the hackers whom Gabriel employed to do his dirty work is Matt Ferrall (Justin Long, piggybacking on his Mac character). When Gabriel sends his euro-trash henchmen to Ferrall’s house to kill him, he’s met by our hero John McClane, who’s been assigned to bring Ferrall in to the authorities. With Ferrall still alive, he’s the only one who can prevent Gabriel’s team from e-terrorizing the entire country. And the only one who can protect Ferrall is John McClane.

Somewhere along the line Gabriel finds out about McClane’s daughter, attending Rutgers and kidnaps her to blackmail McClane into giving up Ferrall. As if. This only makes McClane angrier and the punishment more severe. Ferrall and McClane hop around the D.C. area taking down bad guys, blowing shit up and cracking one-liners. In the end the good guys win.

The film feels old and antiquated. It feels like a mid 90’s Bond movie or a knock off “Die Hard” film. Some of the essential elements of the “Die Hard” franchise are missing. First, there’s the confined setting. In the first film, it was L.A’s Nakatomi Plaza, the high rise that became the jungle ground for the close-quarters action. In the second film, it was Dulles Airport on a snowy day, in the third it was Manhattan. With McClane driving, running and flying all over the East Coast, lost is the “poisoned pill” aspect of McClane’s character – the wrong place at the wrong time.

The film is also missing the wonderful Michael Kamen score, which was the signature sound of the series. Sadly Kamen died a few years ago, and Marco Beltrami fills in, with a sampling of his themes, but the feel just isn’t there. Imagine if Marco Beltrami scored the new Indiana Jones film? It’s just not the same.

The third missing link is a charismatic bad guy. Timothy Olyphant was cast for his looks, but the part needs charm to make it a “Die Hard” film. Also, Wiseman holes up Olyphant and his crew in a truck for most of the film and they never have to lift a finger to do the work. I know we live in a digital age, but hackers stealing money by typing on a keyboard just isn’t exciting. And remember the introduction of the McTiernan bad guys – Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons? We first see Olyphant turning his head toward camera in a close-up. There's no visual panache.

Wiseman casts the always wonderful Cyril Raffaelli, the parquor master from France, as his Alexander Gudonov. He is great and shows off his tremendous skills. And it is a shame when he eventually gets killed by an overmatched McClane. Maggie Q, as a hacker/kung fu master, is ridiculous and ripped out of a lame Bond film.

Len Wiseman looks comfortable with the action and stages some good scenes, but at times it looks as if he’s biting off more than he can chew. The addition of a fighter jet firing missiles at McClane’s truck went way over the top, not to mention the digital car that flips about 10 times and flies over McClane and Ferrall’s heads in the highway tunnel.

The original “Die Hard” seemed to be rooted in some kind of logic. But here, physics and geography are thrown out the window. John McClane is no longer the everyman, working class cop in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ he’s now the equivalent of a Marvel superhero and a self-parody like “The Terminator”. John McTiernan wouldn’t have let this happen.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

I thought it had good effects and a lot of action. The story was typical ridiculous crap where hackers can, in 5 keystrokes, link up to any security camera in the world or hack into any site. Bruce Willis was snarky and there was lots of gun violence. It was enjoyable in a brainless adrenaline way but beyond that it was fluff. Sometimes you want fluff.