Wednesday, January 29, 2014

MR Live Free or Die Hard

Another one of these days for John McClane.

I'm getting too old for this sh-

Movie: Live Free or Die Hard aka Die Hard 4.0 or simply Die Hard 4
Directed by Len Wiseman
Release date 2007
Genre Action
Country USA

Known in Europe as Die Hard 4.0, Live Free or Die Hard is the fourth installment in the long running fan-beloved action movie franchise.

Directed by the Underworld series director Len Wiseman this time - who in my eyes is an okay "pop corn flick" director but by no means suited for big epic thriller/action blockbusters.

The film was released in 2007, that's right, the "trilogy" was resurrected after a 12 years-long hiatus because the current producers at 20th Century Fox wanted some quick easy money.

While Die Hard 1 focused in the closed environment of a tower building, Die Hard 2 in an airport and Die Hard 3 used a bomb threat to feature action around an entire city, this new episode decided to follow the 3rd film as basis and amp up the action to a couple of states.

While the first two films actually based on novels and the third one based on a scrapped screenplay for a Lethal Weapon, this fourth entry also came from recycled material. Actually a 1997 article titled "A Farewell to Arms" written for Wired magazine by John Carlin who still received credits for the plot. Fox intended to turn those ideas into a full fledged motion picture but after 9/11 all plans were cast aside. The original script was named and written by David Marconi.

While it might have been a pretty decent hacker-thriller on its own right, it was finally rewritten into a Die Hard episode. Various scripts had been produced during the decade leading into the actual film, even a couple of catchy titles. Bruce Willis originally wanted to settle for "Die Hard 4.0", but a silly pun based on the famous motto "Live free or Die" was finally used in the US.

Live Free or Die Hard sees the return of Bruce Willis' cult classic cop "everyday man" hero.

This time the story sees some hackers apparently attacking the US government.

The FBI noticed some hackers were personally targeted and killed. The New York Police Department collaborates with the Feds and that is how Detective John McClane is sent to take a young guy called Matt into custody.

Long story short, assassins are after the nerd, McClane decides to take the hacker en route to Washington, D.C. 

The movie revolves around cyber-terrorism. Matt was a pawn who was tasked to design an algorithm to help breach into security computers by a certain Gabriel.

His plan? To bankrupt America.

They want to shut down the entire country to prove a point (Gabriel used to work for the "good guys). They take control of the stock market to start what is called a "fire sale". Due to the over-reliance on computers, most things run through servers across the country.

They zip through the country, back and forth. First from the US Capital to West Virginia. They meet with the "Warlock", a genius hacker/cameo. And in less time than it takes to fade a screen to black they locate the place where the power was shut down in an empty (?) NSA facility in the Maryland.

Meanwhile, John McClane's estranged daughter Lucy Generro-McClane is kidnapped by the bad guys.. because.. plot device...?

It's a fun cyber-thriller, like there was so many around the early 2000s. But not without its fair share of problems, what with being called a "Die Hard" and all that.

First up despite originally wanting to limit the amount of CGi, Len Wiseman used quite a lot of visible computer-generated special effects. Specially for a Die Hard. I know the guy's used to work with a ton of these and big budget blockbuster tend to overdo that nowadays. But it was specifically visible in this so called Die Hard.

And I'm pretty sure an experimented veteran action film director *cough*John McTiernan*cough* could have done a lot better job with the same screenplay.

While the series was already previously known for its over-the-top sense of fun (think of John McClane jumping from a rooftop or atop a truck in a water-filled tunnel), our hero McClane was always the most grounded element of these films. In fact most of the fun was seeing how this "everyday man" would use his smarts to get out of these extraordinary situations. But here we get to see this cop in his 50s jumping around planes, avoiding impossible explosions like he finally got used to it.

There's more action scenes in Live Free or Die Hard than in all past films combined! Despite the plot calling for a more thriller approach.

There's no more attempt for plausible sequences. The story asks for McClane to use his newfound hacker sidekick to locate the main nerd center? He'll do that after dealing with jets and helicopters on the way across several states.

And what's up with the oddly green texture throughout the picture? Len Wiseman does love his green tint (although in his defense, his past movies have used more blue than green).

The cast is composed of a lot of familiar faces to the genre and fan favorites. Justin Long plays every single Justin Long role ever as Matt. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is usually great but a bit lost in the screenplay, mostly popping up early on so that the audience remembers who she is once she gets kidnapped for no apparent reason in the end (a role that could have worked with Justin Long's character just as well, having actually been established and been present throughout the film). Bruce Willis' own daughter was originally considered for the role of Lucy McClane. Maggie Q is the generic femme fatal which was a staple from Die Hard videogames actually (not kidding), so I guess they decided to adapt that bit from the games (?).

Kevin Smith as the most random possible cameo ever, but it was fun so I let that slide. It mostly served to put Smith in contact with Willis, whom he was a huge fan of.

I truly believe an action story is only as good as its villains. Our leading villain is not as calculating and menacing as past Die Hard baddies. I think Timothy Olyphant was probably miscast as Gabriel, kind of in the shadow of the Grubers of old, and who seems to only base his entire actions on a little grudge. Never truly evil.

Finally Len Wiseman was probably not the best guy to take on the return of this beloved franchise. He at least brought Die Hard back on the front scene but at what price? Not quite the man for the job, this was nonetheless the biggest highest selling entry in the entire franchise. The man who started his career by assisting Roland Emmerich (here's a name for a much better suited director!) and directing music videos lacks a bit of the intelligence known from past Die Hard films.

On the musical side, this is the first Die Hard film not scored by Michael Kamen who died in 2003. Instead younger composer Marco Beltrami took music composing duties. Despite some dull generic action cues it still retained some key signature pieces from the series, particularly in the opening act. But it really loses its impact on the heavy action-packed scenes.

Overall, it's... a film.

Don't misread me, it's a generally decent film, with great action scenes. But filled with random relocations and action scenes that only serve to bring in the next ones.

A common problem with lots of blockbuster action films these days, Die Hard 4 tries to overdo its own action scenes every new scene.

McClane's interaction with his sidekick is kind of your cliché clash-of-generations. I miss Reginald VelJohnson...

Live Free or Die Hard is a perfectly fine modern cyber-thriller movie, but in no way a Die Hard. At all. In case you're looking for Bruce Willis films better suited to actually have made better Die Hards, why don't you have a look at: The Last Boy Scout, Mercury RisingHostage or 16 Blocks.

It's decent for what it is but it could have been much more with a better script or more talented director. Perhaps the problem lies in the original source (a single news article, really??) or the lack of focus story-wise or maybe all it needed was a truly menacing villain. The article which inspired the film had potential for a far better more fun film.. perhaps without McClane.

Maybe all it needed was simply a veteran action film genius. With only a bunch of martial arts-inspired fantasy films under his belt (and now, sigh, the new Total Recall...) maybe Len Wiseman wasn't the best choice for the series...

This also was the first PG-13 Die Hard film.

It was actually edited by 20th Century Fox who wanted a more family-friendly blockbuster film that year. But due to Bruce Willis swearing a lot it had to be cut down, despite being filmed with less violence on purpose.

The Unrated cut is actually... a mixed bag in my eyes. Yes, it keeps all the mature language, yet to actually warrant the alternate cut a lot of fake CGi blood was added through the film AND on the characters' clothes and skin.

On one hand you can perfectly enjoy the original theatrical cut despite it mostly editing out all the swearing (and truncating the classic "Yippi-kay" line at the end - the horror...). Or you can listen to the film with its original dialogues BUT will have to suffer through added fake CGi blood whenever a gun shoots someone. The best option would be a mix between those two cuts.. Couldn't we simply get an "Original Film" edition?

Bruce Willis is still a badass as a 50 years old John McClane. Did we really need an annoying sidekick? I thought the likes of Rob Schneider killed the genre back in the mid-90s... Oh well...

I give it:
1 / 3 Film!

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