July 24, 2007

Point/Counterpoint: "Die Hard" Edition

A couple of weeks ago, Robbo Steve pulled a body-slam on “Live Free Or Die Hard”. In some respects it was deserved and he made several salient points. Well, I saw this last night with a friend of mine and I wanted to weigh in myself.

live free or die hard poster.jpg

While I’m not saying that this is classic cinema or that it's nearly as good as the original “Die Hard”, I think the idea that this is one to be avoided is a little harsh. It all depends on what you’re expecting. Now certainly there are many alternatives for that spare ten spot that you have strategically placed in a side pocket of your wallet (you married men will know what I’m talking about) and waiting for the small-screen version on DVD might be a wiser use of limited monetary resources.

But visually, this was really good. Are the stunts and situations totally unbelievable? Oh, you betcha. The leaping from the cab of the tractor-trailer to the wing of the F-35 fighter jet was as about as over the top as you can get. The plot itself strains the boundaries of credibility as it is. But when I asked my buddy (who works for a major software company) to give me his thoughts from a technical perspective he was pretty adamant that most of what the terrorists did was impossible – not just implausible. So on just about every level, you need to seriously suspend disbelief and just go with it.

But for me what makes it all work is Bruce Willis. I’m sorry but Bruce Willis was Jack Bauer before there was “24”, without the special ops know-how. At one point, the character John McClane is trying to come up with an answer to the question “what makes you that guy?” with “that guy” being the one who keeps going after the bad guys even after he gets the crap kicked out of him and all seems hopeless.

McClane explains that he doesn’t take to being thought of as a hero but rather a guy who’s just doing his job (we should all have such professional dedication, eh?) and that in reality what happens to heroes is that when it’s all over everybody forgets about you. And isn’t that what’s happened in action movies today? We’ve forgotten the John McClane who faced off against the “delicious” (to used Robbo’s description) Alan Rickman as the uber-villian Hans Gruber. We’ve forgotten about why that first movie, which is “old school” in its style, is so great. And Willis is as "old-school" an action hero as you can find. I missed that.

Seeing Willis bring back this character after so much time was satisfying for me. He still beats any action star of the 21st century, hands down. In “Live Free Or Die Hard”, John McClane is an anachronism in the hyper-technical world of today. And for me, having him face off against this technology with little more than his wits, his fists and whatever firearms he can get his hands on reminds me of why he was so good in “Die Hard”. He’s the one detail that isn’t planned on. He’s the glitch that throws everything out of whack. When Gruber and his Euro-thugs stormed Nakatomi plaza back in 1988, they had everything planned to the last detail. But McClane, being in the wrong place at the wrong time (or maybe the right place at the right time), is the terrorists’ problem that just won’t go away. He’s akin to a computer virus that they can’t seem to kill. Which is pretty ironic when you consider the overall plot.

This one was definitely better than the forgettable “Die Hard With A Vengeance” and arguably better than “Die Hard 2: Die Harder” (though Fred Thompson’s presence makes it a close call). Though the scale and number of locations are different, I found “Live Free Or Die Hard” closer in tone to the original that the other sequels.

What it comes down to is “have we seen this before?” And the answer is, of course, yes. But you can say that about a lot of movies today. All in all, I was glad to have seen it on the big screen. And I would say to anyone currently on the fence, go ahead and give it a try. You might also be glad you did.

Yips! from Robbo: Who, me? You're thinking of our Mr. Cranky-pants cohort who won't give an action movie the time of day unless Kurt Russell is in it. As a matter of fact, I've marked this movie down as being Netflix-worthy, although I'll bet it's not as good as Die Hard 3, my favorite of the lot. (How could it be without Sam Jackson?)

Yips! back from Gary:
Sorry 'bout that. I'm so used to you doing the movie reviews I didn't even bother to check the signature. Duh.

YIPS from Steve-O: Salient? I rest my case.

Posted by Gary at July 24, 2007 10:00 AM | TrackBack

I loved this movie, not because of the story plot (!) just because it was action, funny and just plain entertaining. Best $10 I spent for 2 hours of fun.

Posted by: LeeAnn at July 24, 2007 09:29 AM

I was a little hesitant...so I went with the $6 before noon movie...but worth it. First Die Hard I had seen on the big screen...tons of fun. You can not dislike Die Hard...the more over the top the better (F-35 jump was awesome)!!!

Posted by: April at July 24, 2007 12:53 PM

Next: "Die Hard: Old And Tired"

Posted by: mojo at July 24, 2007 01:47 PM