No one does sarcastic action hero better than Bruce Willis. There, I said it. And no matter how many people try to top him at it, it just doesn’t play as well as if it were Bruce Willis. Why is this so important to state, though? Because there are many pretenders to the John McClane throne and even though it’s been twelve years since the last time Willis has donned the McClane mantle, in Live Free or Die Hard he slips it on like he’s wearing an comfortable old suit and man is it great to see him back.
This time around, McClane is back to his hard-working, NYPD ways and the intervening years have not been kind to his life and family. He’s divorced and his daughter wants nothing to do with him (not exactly sure where his son went, but that’s okay, doesn’t really matter). Of course, being McClane, he can’t help but get involved with his daughter’s life and ends up just making things worse. And this is where he is when he gets the call to pick up Matt Farrell (Justin Long), a computer geek, for the FBI. It seems that someone is taking over the government’s computer system with the intent of causing general havoc and Farrell just might be the only guy on the planet who has the know-how to stop the bad guys.
Invariably, with things going awry, McClane must become the solo performer amidst the group mentality in order to save the world. Of course, this time, the fatal mistake the bad guys make is they let things get personal. As McClane, who by this time, has indoctrinated Farrell into the ‘way of the hero,’ begins to close in on Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), the bad guy, Gabriel kidnaps Lucy McClane (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the hero’s daughter. Now here’s the thing; if I have to explain what kind of unholy hell this will unleash on Gabriel, then this probably isn’t the movie for you.
If you’re still reading, I’ll tell ya, things at that point go from ‘omigod that’s cool’ to no way is that ever going to work. Like, for example, before Lucy is snagged, McClane and Farrell enlist the aid of Warlock, a brilliant hacker played by Kevin Smith (yes, THAT Kevin Smith) to help them backtrack Gabriel and actually find out who he is by using way-cool technology. After Lucy is grabbed McClane fights an F-35B Lightning II from the cab of a semi… and wins!
The film doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the real world, but it never feels false or put on. At no point are we, as an audience, left incredulous at the derring-do feats of John McClane. We buy him completely. We know he’s going to take chances and challenge the very laws of gravity in order to get what he’s after and we’re okay with that. And Willis, at 52, is not showing his age as other action stars, like Harrison Ford, are. But even if he were, Justin Long is ready to step in as a new breed of action hero, the kind who might not always have the brawn to back up his mouth, but he has the brains and the chutzpah to come out ahead, no matter what.
A special shout-out, too, to Timothy Olyphant as Gabriel. Olyphant is one of the most diverse actors on screen today, playing romantic love interests in small, independent films like Catch and Release in January and then jumping to evil-genius bad guys in huge Hollywood blockbusters in June.
Overall, Live Free or Die Hard is a fun, exciting, over-the-top film which supplies the audience with a plot constructed to not only please fans of the original Die Hard, but the new, younger movie-goers who just like to see stuff blown-up.
(Originally published at FirstShowing.net)