June 27, 2007
Live Free or Die Hard
According to interviews with Bruce Willis, what sold him on a fourth Die Hard was the pitch: John McClaine is still an analog surviving in a digital world, and when the digital baddies try to hurt his country, he stands up to show that the analog can kick major ass.
I'm sure the hefty paycheck Fox forked over for B.Will to reprise his 19-year-old role had something to do with it as well.
First thing's first: it was entertaining. Second: It was another unnecessary, generic, ridiculous, money-hungry action flick - obviously the least imaginative of the franchise.
And let me stop here to observe how far we've come since 1988's genre-shaping classic genuinely blew audiences away. The original (for those of you born after the advent of DVDs and the Internet, it was just called Die Hard) was a tight, white-knuckle actioner that lay down the rules for nearly all of the blow-'em-ups that followed. Part One took place in an isolated, more claustrophobic setting (a little ol' skyscraper). Part Two expanded slightly to an airport. Part Three went all out and involved an entire city under siege.
Part Four? The whole frickin' United States of America is under attack, and (you guessed it) only one man can stop it!
Part One virtually created the action-movie cliches we're now indifferent to, and Part Four painfully recycles the shit out of them, ironically borrowing from past blockbusters (True Lies quickly comes to mind) that had been influenced by Part One.
Of course you have the federal bureaucrats running around in an underground headquarters, staring at ginormously detailed computer screens that glow with propmastery glory.
Of course you have a young, bespectacled technogeek who assists the villain, who barks out commands with increasing frustration every time our hero breezes through one of said villain's deadly obstacles.
Of course you have the token, hot Asian bad chick who promptly gets all Crouching Tiger on our hero's ass (whatever happened to The Gritty Fistfight?)
And of course the mission has to become personal during the third act. Our hero needs all the motivation he can get in order to carry the film to its preposterous ending. Here, Daddy's Little Girl becomes a POB (Prisoner of Baddie), and what was once fractured between father and daughter becomes mushily mended (Where the hell is Bonnie Bedelia when you need her?).
As for Timothy Olyphant (a First Echo favorite), his Deadwood alter ego would eat his villain for brunch, shit him out, and then feed him to pigs; Ladies and gents, we have a winner for Most Toothless Bad Guy in a Die Hard Film.
Justin Long (The Mac Kid, The Jeepers Creepers Boy, The Dodgeball Nerd) is perfectly cast as a slacker hacker who gets thrown into this game of flying cars and crumbling freeway structures. However, his role is transparent; you can't help but envision studio execs gathering around a table, forcing the writer to add a gimmicky sidekick who can draw box-office receipts from those darn kids who are so preoccupied with those darn Playstations and that darn MySpace nowadays (Of course the studio had to employ Underworld's Len Wiseman to bring a Grand Theft Auto quality to a franchise that never needed it).
Earlier I mentioned that this movie was entertaining. It was. I clapped when Maggie Q met her match in a fiery elevator shaft. I loved the bird's-eye-view shot of Washington D.C.'s car-crash-clogged arteries. I even enjoyed the harrowing tunnel scene that is sure to be every commuter's nightmare come true.
However, deep down I was hoping for something more substantial, a reminder to America of what an action movie should be, and all I got was another numbing summer movie that just intensified the growing cynicism I have towards Hollywood. Die Hard 4.0, or whatever you want to call it, was just another classic example of a classic neutered for the masses.
By the way, if anyone knows anyone (who knows anyone) who works at Entertainment Weekly...call me.
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