I was 18 when I saw the first Die Hard, nine months ago to be exact and as a young girl most of my friends were weird when I said it was my favorite movie. Eventually I saw all the three movies and bought the box set. When I heard that the franchise was going to go for a fourth time I had my reservations, I mean how much longer could Bruce Willis try to milk the series at his age? Live Free or Die Hard is that latest endeavor and overall my views on it are mixed. It’s nowhere near as spectacular as the first, and not as fun as the third (the second is probably my least favorite). Overall Live Free or Die Hard loses steam with an incredibly long plot and a lot of watered down content.
John McClane (Bruce Willis) is now a detective for the NYPD at the expense of losing his wife and being estranged from his daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). When strange computer crashes start happening around the country the government wants McClane to bring in a young computer hacker, Matthew Farrell (Justin Long). Various attempts are made on the young man’s life and the duo comes to figure out that a fired computer analyst named Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) is responsible for all the computer crashes. His main intention is to create a “fire sale” and disable every utility and necessity people need to survive. When Gabriel kidnaps Lucy, Farrell and McClane have to band together to save the girl and the US.
Fourth’s in film franchises usually don’t come out on top, but this is the exception. While Live Free or Die Hard is by no means a spectacular moment in the Die Hard series, it is watchable and enjoyable and that is mostly due to the breathtaking action sequences. The first great scene comes with McClane and Ferrell are trapped in a freeway tunnel with traffic coming from both sides, cars’ flying through the air and chaos is controlled beautifully. Another set piece of note involves McClane in a semi trying to drive on a freeway bridge that is crumbling. These scenes not only keep you breathless on the edge of your seat, but you’re constantly wondering how the director pulled that stunt off. It’s moments like those that make me love the Die Hard franchise. The writing is also on par for the series, McClane’s one-liners are still hilarious and Long’s character even gets in plenty of jabs. I also enjoyed the addition of Kevin Smith in a cameo as the hacker Warlock, every time Smith was on the screen I laughed. The plot is also engaging and relevant for the times, the idea that all our computers systems are linked to the point that if one goes they all go is a very frightening concept. Farrell even tells McClane in one scene “It took FEMA five days to get water to the Superdome” further driving the point that this plot is logical.
As much as I had fun watching McClane’s antics this film is probably the weakest link in the chain of films and it’s mostly due to its run time, ending and rating. The film is incredibly long, clocking in at over two hours and it does show it. The middle is incredibly long with all the jargon between the baddies and their attempting to dismantle the entire government infrastructure. While I did enjoy the way they try to deepen the plot it did take a lot of action away from McClane, the focus of the film. Due to the dead middle the ending feels incredibly forced and rushed. The franchise has always been about what happens when the bad guy and McClane meet, if you watched where Hans Gruber and McClane meet in the first it was amazing, here it just felt like it had to end quickly. I would have enjoyed a huge portion of the middle being cut to flesh out the end. The ending overall is incredibly weak, the Die Hard films have usually had spectacular endings for the bad guys, Hans Gruber fell from a 30-story building while his brother blew up in a helicopter in the third. The ending scene for Thomas Gabriel is incredibly bland and not on scale for the original films. Gabriel is also an incredibly weak villain; you really don’t spend a lot of time with him enough to care what he does. His motivations seem to be incredibly clichéd. My biggest problem with Live Free or Die Hard has to come from the fact that it’s rated PG-13 instead of R like all the previous installments. Now I know they lessened the rating to make it more acceptable for all age groups but my theater was filled with people over 25, I think I was the youngest person there and really that’s normal since most kids my age really have no interest in the Die Hard films. McClane’s famous line (if you’ve seen the films then you know it) is pretty much eliminated and masked with a gunshot something that hurt me the most since it is a crucial tagline, all to keep it under R. It just felt like a lot of McClane’s one-liners could have been better with the language that comes with an R; it actually felt to me that they lessened the rating to make more money on an uncut DVD. It becomes painfully obvious what was cut due to the horrible editing of the film. One scene has Justin Long’s character talking to McClane but for some reason his words never match with the dialogue, and sometimes his mouth doesn’t even move. Something had to have been removed or changed in that scene and it’s incredibly obvious. There’s also a scene with Gabriel talking to McClane and you can tell he says a certain “F” word that was changed. It feels like this lessened rating came at the last minute and the crew scrambled to edit making it look like a bad TNT dubbed cut.
Bruce Willis still has that John McClane swagger that has made his movies so great. You can see that Willis is having a lot of fun and I think that’s what makes me love the Die Hard franchise, because he loves it. Justin Long is a hilarious and adorable sidekick this time around, he may be young but his smarts come out. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is also kick ass as a grown up Lucy McClane, she’s definitely her father’s daughter and Winstead is a great female hero. I usually love Timothy Olyphant, he always plays a great villain but this time he just came off as the weak link. His performance was nowhere near as amazing as Alan Rickman or Jeremy Irons in the previous films.
I don’t want to say that Live Free or Die Hard suffers from anticipointment, I just feel it should have been allowed to be what it was, R rated. It really suffers from watered down content, and because of that the plot had to be elongated to make people care. I still consider the Die Hard films classics but this one is probably the weakest link in the chain.