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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard — Movie Review

John McClain (Bruce Willis) is back fighting terrorists in Live Free or Die Hard, the most over-the-top chapter of the action series of films that doesn’t exactly strive for realism in the first place. McClain’s wit and sarcasm are securely in place, but the fourth Die Hard left at least this fan of the films yearning for the days of McClain single-handedly taking out 20 bad guys.

Assigned to bring one of the nation’s most watched computer hackers, Matt Farrell (Justin Long), to Washington for questioning after a breach of security at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, McClain is quickly thrust into the race to catch the mastermind of a plot to steal most of the country’s wealth. At various times fighting to save the hacker’s life, as well as that of his daughter, Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and, of course, his own, McClain teams up with the hacker to pursue a former member of the FBI out for revenge after his warnings about the vulnerability of the nation’s computer systems were ignored.

Far too much of the film is spent trying to figure out what the criminals are truly after. Reminiscent of the third Die Hard, an attack on the country’s infrastructure eventually proves to be nothing more than a ruse to steal money. Of the many stretches in the film, the attempt to play on current fears of foreign terrorism was at least a little questionable in terms of taste. It also made the ease with which even the “good guy” hackers circumvented government security less than palatable. But maybe I’m the only one that’s done being enthralled watching some computer geek go tap-tap-tap on a keyboard and break into the supposed most secure systems in the world.

Another problem was that John McClain just isn’t made to fight high-tech crime. Having McClain tote around a computer hacker to handle (and explain) the techy side of things was a bit contrived, and lowered the action quotient the series has thrived on. At times McClain is reduced to doing little more than offer funny quips.

That’s not to suggest Live Free or Die Hard doesn’t have plenty of action. In fact, it pretty much gets rolling within minutes and never stops. But the previous films earned some of the over the top action, whereas by the time McClain is balancing on the wing of an Air Force bomber that’s chased him (mistakenly) down a highway I was rolling my eyes.

Long and Winstead were decent as side characters, but, whether it was the actors or the script, they could have been better. Willis turned in his usual fun performance, and avoided my fear that he might seem old in an action role.

Live Free or Die Hard won’t disappoint fans of the series, but certainly doesn’t rival the original or first sequel. For the rest of moviegoers, it’s still not too bad.

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