Hey guys, the Filmcoyote back again. Still in England and yesterday saw another press screening, Live Free Or Die Hard (or Die Hard 4.0 as they are lamely calling it in the UK, why?). Basically it’s kinda fun and in a summer full of disappointments it’s an entertaining time but at the same time it doesn’t really feel like a Die Hard film for much of its runtime (I would say about two hours, five/ten. I guess it’s like Godfather 3 or Predator 2. On its own it’s an okay film, pretty entertaining, solid, fun summer flick but seen as part of a bigger whole, compared to what’s come before it, it doesn’t really measure up that well. That said only the first Die Hard is truly great. Two is a xerox, three is really fun entertainment but again doesn’t always feel like Die Hard. It does now because we’ve all had 12 years to absorb it and I suspect Live Free will be the same. After a few viewings it will feel like it belongs as much as With A Vengeance. I think I found it less disappointing a sequel than the others so far this summer simply because I had low expectations. I didn’t believe there was a hope that the director of Underworld, the writer of Godsend and the producer of such recent Bruce greats (!) as 16 Blocks, Hart’s War, Whole Ten Yards and Tears of the Sun could possible deliver a good film. The thing is, despite them it is fun. I suspect David Marconi (who only gets story credit but wrote the script to the entertaining Enemy of The State and the under-rated The Harvest – worth seeing for a pre-fame Clooney cameo alone!!) had a lot to do with what’s good in the story but the real reason it kind of works is Bruce. He knows this character so well and just slides right back into McClane’s banter, brio and grubby shirt. Its two biggest problems are the set up and the bad guy. It starts weakly. Die Hard wastes no time getting to the terrorists; Die Hard two is with a naked William Sadler before you’ve finished sitting in your seat; With A Vengeance is straight into the department store explosion and next thing you know Bruce is in Harlem. And you know what none of them have credit sequences. Live Free takes its time, you watch a lot of computer screens and keyboard tapping, inter-cut with a credits sequence. I was silently screaming – this is not Die Hard! For much of its run time this could be any film, only made a Die Hard film by the presence of McClane. However, about 45 minutes in the set pieces start stacking up and then it feels more like a Die Hard movie. The scene when it feels like you’re finally in a Die Hard film is a brilliant brutal fight scene between McClane and Maggie Q’s Mai. This is superb. And yes you did read that right, I said brutal. A lot of people have been worried about the PG-13. Don’t be too concerned, all it means it that that the results of the action are less bloody and there’s no swearing but you don’t really notice it too much (except when they sound-effect cover the “ucker” at the end of that famous line!). Bruce has not toned down McClane and his fight with Maggie Q is every but the street fighter McClane we all love. Editing may have softened some of what you see but this fight is so well edited together you are swept up in it and you feel every blow, every crunch. If you are not cheering when the line “enough of this kung-fu shit” is delivered and the immediate following action, and then a few minutes later when McClane is getting typically creative (I won’t say but it is sheer joy). You honestly won’t have a moment to think about the lack of blood and swearing until you look back on it later, by which point you won’t care. But thank God for the gorgeous Maggie Q because Timothy Olyphant is just a lame, lame villain. And this is the film’s biggest issue. The great thing about the Die Hard franchise is they’ve always had wonderful villains. Alan Rickman was a tough act to follow but both the creepy William Sadler and fun Jeremy Irons (who was clearly having a ball in Vengeance) delivered. Olyphant just can’t. He doesn’t seem that clever or dangerous. This may be the problem with having a computer-geek villain but you know what this reminded me of – Jonathan Pryce in Tomorrow Never Dies. It’s that sort of rubbish, nonthreatening villain, and a big let down. Ultimately though it does entertain. Bruce delivers; the set pieces are cool; Justin Long is not half as irritating as I thought he’d be; Bruce’s daughter is the right mix of feisty and Holly-substitute anger - not on good terms with her Dad but appreciates him still; the Maggie Q fight is worth the price of admission alone. It may not quite stack up with the other Die Hard sequels but it’s not a mile off and it’s good to see an old school hero back. And make no mistakes PG-13 worriers, McClane is back and he came to play.
A little history. I, like most people, LOVE Die Hard! Clearly the best action movie ever made, mostly because McClane wasn't a superhuman killer like Arnold and Sly movies. I LOATHE Die Hard 3. Hate it. Only had a few good moments (McClane killing a few terrorists in an elevator within seconds!). DH2 was true to the character and had some great action (except the lame grenades in the cockpit which apparently took 30 minutes to explode). Coming into LIVE FREE or DIE HARD I was skeptical. I wanted the sequel, if not just to see McClane in action again, but the trailers seemed to show that McClane was more of a superhuman hero now. BUT, after seeing a final cut (they stopped it once to check a sound spike or something, but started it back at that point) I have to say that I had a hell of a time watching it! It is not without its faults... no different than Die Hard 2... but damn it's good to see the wisecracking McClane back in action! The good? The action is spectacular. Plenty of true DH scenes where he's in a shaft or trapped in a building/tunnel. Willis' wise guy attitude is there in full swing, something we've been missing for many years. The fight sequences are classic and brutal, just as in the previous films (except the LAME DH3). Willis going at it against the chick terrorist is hilarious and again, pretty brutal at the same time. This is clearly a Die Hard flick to say the least, albeit on a more amped up level compared to the others. Olyphant isn't the classic villain that we saw in Die Hard 1 and 2, but he is far better than the skeleton that was in DH3. The bad? Kevin Smith's part is a bit distracting because, well, it's Kevin Smith... and he can be a bit over-the-top here. The role would have been much better had they cast either a lesser known actor OR a better one like Steve Buscemi or someone like that. McClane's daughter has her good moments and bad. Overall I guess you could say that she's a none issue here. It's more of an extra plot device to raise the stakes for McClane... not needed, but not bad enough to take away from the overall plot. The Mac guy isn't as bad as you'd think, but it would have been nice to see McClane alone again. The end jet vs. the big rig scene is WAY over-the-top and belongs in a different movie all together. A poor decision from the director to include that scene. Everything else? It's a kickass flick. If you manage to enjoy the hell out of Die Hard 2, then you'll love this one as well. One note: I've heard in other reviews that the movie doesn't feel like a true Die Hard experience. I can understand why, but my impression is that this is due to the fact that we're watching a new Die Hard movie. I felt the same way when DH3 came out. But at least this one is worth the watch. It's weird seeing Willis in the role again, this time with no hair (I do miss the receding hairline), and its weird seeing new villains. But after the first ten minutes or so, you settle into the story and realize that yep, it's a Die Hard movie. It's on more of a grander scale with multiple locations, but somehow they manage to create some enclosed tension throughout that somewhat matched and maybe even took a nod to the first two Die Hard flicks. Where does it rank? It is actually pretty close to the original. But I'd say it's more like Die Hard 2, if not a bit better and more focused. It kicks the shit out of DH3... trust me. Basically, it reintroduces McClane very well, and is not thankfully a mere copycat of the first Die Hard, which may have been satisfying but would have been a bit redundant. The whole PG-13 thing is kind of a non-issue in the long run. Strange how you do miss some more f-bombs, but it's nothing to get your panties in a bind about. The numerous kills are still worthy of a Die Hard flick, just a little less bloody. LIVE FREE or DIE HARD delivers though. My expectations were low, but I'm pumped to see it again with a large audience. It may not be as good as the original, but its the next best thing and a hell of a lot better than the shit we see starring The Rock, Vin Diesel, and all of those other bland wannabe action heroes. I'd even go so far as to say that a DH5 would be welcome... but maybe have Stallone direct it;) Wouldn't that be a sight to see.