a critiQal film review Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

Plot: As Independence Day weekend begins, a hacker (Olyphant) breaks into the FBI Cyber-Security Division Worried, the FBI calls on local police, including NYPD Det. John McClane (Willis), to round up suspect hackers. But, what seems to be a somewhat routine - but annoying - assignment turns into chaos when the hackers break into every major computer system in D.C. Now, it's up to McClane and his unwilling hacker suspect Matthew Ferrell (Long) to stop the cyber-terrorist before he sends the US back to the Dark Ages.

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Ah, the thrill of the chase, the fantastical explosions and the fast-paced fury of a Summer Blockbuster, all now available in your own home. As the Holiday season gets underway, the big hits of the summer make their way onto DVD just in time to become the must-have presents of the season…and one of those is Live Free Or Die Hard, the highly anticipated sequel that welcomes viewers back to the trials and tribulations of Det. John McClane.

So, will this 4th Die Hard (1988) be one of the must-have DVDs of the season, or will this continue the downward trend that began with Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)? We couldn’t wait to find out.

Bruce Willis is back, and the Bald One slips easily back into his role as unwilling hero John McClane. Apparently the filmmakers realized that drunk and disorderly didn’t fit with the McClane persona, so brought back the sober, yet slightly bitter, McClane viewers are used to. Looking more ready to take on the world than ever before with his new bald look, Willis storms back onto the screen in Live Free Or Die Hard. He’s back, he’s badder than ever…and viewers are going to love every second of it.

Justin Long (that goofy kid from Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005)) joins the cast for this 4th film as Bruce Willis’ unwilling sidekick. Spending half the film cowering in fear, he (as is typical of action flicks) comes back swinging when the chips are down. As cliched as that character swing is by this point, Long does a great job of making it work. While the viewer pretty much knows what he’s going to do next, they actually encourage the guy on, rather than dismiss him as just another cardboard action sidekick.

While Timothy Olyphant’s latest flick, Hitman (2007) (showing him sporting a Willis-style do), is getting a thumbs-down pretty much across the board, he pops up as the bad guy on DVD with his role in Live Free Or Die Hard. While he is easily overshadowed by Maggie Q as she takes on the role of evil kung-fu dealing bad girl, Olyphant still manages to keep his scenes flowing smoothly, and is much better than most viewers will expect after seeing him in things like The Girl Next Door (2004).

Even McClane’s now grown daughter, Lucy, comes off as a chip-off-the-old-block in Live Free or Die Hard when Mary Elizabeth Winstead sticks her 2 cents in. While her track record so far is off-an-on (Final Destination 3 (2006), Sky High (2005), etc.), she goes for the gusto in this film, giving the old estranged-daughter-turned-victim routine a fresh appeal for viewers. While both McClane and Long outdistance her in the acting department, her role gives her less screen-time than either of them – yet she still manages to evoke images of the young Lucy McClane audiences first glimpsed in Die Hard (1988) (“McClane residence. Lucy McClane speaking…”). Not too shabby.

With the computer frenzy still all the rage across the nation, a cyber-terrorist seems like a great idea for a movie. After all, viewers are looking to escape reality when entering the summer blockbusters, a plot about another normal terrorist would be a bit…uncomfortable in these times we live in. Instead, Live Free Or Die Hard takes on the world of cyber-terrorism, updating it’s franchise into the new century.

Also by introducing this new wave threat, Live Free or Die Hard has many opportunities to leave it’s hero McClane back in the 90’s…aka far in the dust, as far as computer technology is concerned. Now not only does he have to face off against another foe, he’s got to do so without exactly knowing what he’s up against. The filmmakers, rather than updating their old school cop into a ridiculously adept computer whiz, they introduce a sidekick for him, someone who can help him get inside the terrorist’s plans. All he has to do is be there to stop them.

Of course, with bullets flying fast and furious, stopping them isn’t quite that easy – and neither were the special effects. However, just like McClane, the special effects people stepped up to the task and did a great job bringing some amazing action sequences to the screen. Whether it’s bullets peppering the air around him, a giant explosion, or an up close and personal battle between McClane in a semi and a fighter pilot in a jet, the effects are right on. Despite the ridiculous lengths that the effects go to, they come off looking not only smooth and realistic, but almost entirely believable. Maybe these guys should have been around for xXx (2002)…chances are they would have even been able to improve on that waste of film.

With explosions and bullets flying fast and furious, McClane is out-gunned and out-manned at almost every turn…and the viewers won’t be able to turn away. Although long-awaited sequels usually don’t live up to their hype, Live Free Or Die Hard leaves viewers with a wonderful taste of the old McClane – tough as nails and willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Clean and sober once again, and now with a grown daughter and a unlikely hacker buddy in the mix, McClane rides off into the sunset in style in Live Free Or Die Hard.

Updated for the new century, Live Free Or Die Hard is a worthy final film for everybody’s favorite John McClane. Worth owning not merely to complete the series, this is one Die Hard that definitely lives up to it’s name.

If you’re debating about what to get this Holiday season, trust me – no action fan would be disappointed if they got this one in their stocking. Just make sure to pick up the 2-Disc Special Edition DVD, as the Unrated version doesn’t offer much of anything aside from the film itself. And with a film like this, action fans are going to want to know “how’d they do that?”…and they’ll still be wondering if you give them the basic edition of the film.

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