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Number four put my jaw on the floor

January 10, 2008
“Have you done stuff like that before – killing people?”

“Yeah, but not for a long time.”

Not for 12 years to be exact…. but despite the long lay-off Detective John McClane still manages to dodge death and bump off the bad guys without even breaking a sweat.

Bruce Willis is back for this fourth instalment in the ‘Die Hard’ series and, boy, is it great to see him again!

LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD is a wild, seat of the pants ride from start to finish and I loved every moment of it.

McClane gets shot at, beaten up, dropped down elevator shafts, thrown across rooms, crashed into, and hurled through walls in a series of increasingly ambitious and implausible set pieces guaranteed to have your jaw resting permanently on the floor.

When he’s not enduring grievous bodily harm he’s driving police cars and tractor trailers, flying helicopters, outrunning exploding gas pipelines and – in the most ludicrous stunt of all – surfing on the wing of an airborne fighter jet.

And the magic of McClane is that he manages to make all this ludicrous and ridiculous action totally believable!

The piece of dialogue which opens this review is spoken just moments after McClane has rescued a terrified young man from a murderous attack by a gang of heavily armed and extremely athletic professional killers.

McClane’s been sent to pick-up Matt Farrell (Long), and bring him in for questioning about a cyber attack on the main computer system at the FBI’s Cyber Crime division.

McClane knows nothing about Farrell, and neither of them has any idea why these killers want Farrell dead, but the middle of a full-on gun battle doesn’t feel like quite the right moment to start asking questions.

The plot, as it is gradually revealed to us, concerns an attempt by renegade computer genius Thomas Gabriel (Olyphant) to bring the United States to her knees by hacking into the computer systems controlling transportation, telecoms, financial services, and utilities, and shutting them down.

Farrell realises he’s inadvertently helped Gabriel create the program which is wreaking so much destruction: now he must unsheathe his keyboard and venture into cyber battle against Gabriel to stop him putting the final part of his plan into action.

McClane’s job is to keep Farrell alive by deflecting the bullets while expressing continual bafflement and bewilderment at the cyber jargon spouted by the computer geek as he tries to explain what he thinks Gabriel is going to do next.

Willis and Long (who’s best known as the human Mac computer in the tv commercials knocking Microsoft’s new Vista system) make a very entertaining mis-matched buddy team, and the interplay between McClane the action man and Farrell the youthful hacker is funny and totally natural.

McClane is old enough to be Farrell’s dad and the two of them bicker like father and son, with jokes and jibes about the age gap and lack of understanding of the other’s culture.

But beneath it all there’s a mutual respect and an appreciation for the other’s talents. McClane displays a surprising degree of tolerance for Farrell’s lack of street smarts, while Farrell is clearly in awe of McClane’s prowess with guns and violence, and his seeming imperviousness to bullets.

There’s a golden brown glow exuding from Willis, which cynics might suggest is created by the thick make-up plastered on his head, the filters on the camera, and the special lighting all designed to minimise signs of ageing, but whatever the source it acts as a force-field deflecting the thousands of bullets fired in his general direction over the course of the film.

McClane’s immortality is part of the fun of watching LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD. It’s an action fantasy video game brought to life. The story’s set in the real world but it doesn’t pretend to be real life; Willis’s John McClane is a believable character but his feats of survival are completely unbelievable.

In the informative and entertaining commentary track which accompanies the film Willis says he feels this ‘Die Hard’ is closer to the spirit of the original movie than either the second or third instalments.

It’s been a while since I have seen any of the other three adventures and the stories have rather blended together in my memory so I’m not entirely sure whether McClane took on Jeremy Irons’ Simon Gruber in part two or part three.

But the great thing about LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD is it doesn’t matter. This film works as a superb action thriller whether or not you’ve seen the other three films.

If you have you will want to buy this film. If you haven’t you will definitely want to rent it.

— — —

Laurence Tuccori is a journalist with nearly two decades’ experience in newspapers and radio in his home country of Great Britain. He has taken a career break to move to Lock Haven, a place he first visited in 1985, and is studying for his master of liberal arts degree at Lock Haven University. He also has visited 48 of the 50 states and has plans for Hawaii and Alaska.



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