Monday, November 19, 2007

Repeat Bidness: Live Free or Die Hard

Release: 06/27/2007
DVD Release: 11/20/2007
2 hours, 20 minutes
Rated PG-13 (DVD:PG-13/UR)


"Bruno returns to shake up the game."

“Bruised” Willis reprises the role that made him a star (and gave him the aforementioned nickname). That role, of course, is New York police detective John McClane. This time McClane receives a call from his chief asking him to pick up a computer hacker for questioning at the bequest of the FBI. McClane arrives at the door of Matt Farrell, played by Justin Long (Accepted), only to find the young man is being targeted by a terrorist group and gunfights, explosions and mayhem quickly ensue. McClane delivers Matt to the FBI headquarters in Washington DC just as the terrorists take control of the nation's technological infrastructure. With Matt being the only link to how and what the terrorists are planning, McClane takes it upon himself to hunt them down and save the country from bedlam.

Once Willis appears onscreen, fans know that he is playing a seasoned veteran, a veteran at making entertaining, engaging action films chock full of substance. The first half hour of the film establishes the plot and the supporting characters, but it is Willis's charisma that simply emanates from the screen, drawing viewers into the cowboy style that has made him an action icon. By delivering such a convincing performance, Willis makes it easy for the rest of the actors. Justin Long makes a great reluctant sidekick, providing tons of wise-cracking and the occasional helping hand. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Grindhouse) plays his chip-off-the-old-block, hard-headed daughter Lucy Gennero McClane as if she grew up watching all of Willis's finer moments (and she probably did). Rounding out the supporting roles is Timothy Olyphant (TV: Deadwood) who portrays the villainous Thomas Gabriel. Olyphant balances smug superiority with increasing annoyance as he watches his perfect plan be continually picked apart by the venerable McClane.

The writing for this installment in the franchise takes as much care and attention to detail as the original "Die Hard" did back in 1988. Each character is solidly developed, the elaborate plot is presented in detail, albeit with much techno-jargon, and each action sequence leaves McClane and the bad guys with a few more bruises and bloodstains. The film relies a little more heavily on special effects at times, but the action sequences are edge-of-your-seat intense. Granted, I would have left one particularly ludicrous stunt sequence on the editing room floor, but given the amount of money that was probably spent on the scene I can see why producers kept it. This particular scene is out of character for the blue collar hero that Willis plays so well and, thankfully, he is given plenty of other hair-raising sequences to exude his tough-cop appeal. McClane talks to himself, spits biting remarks at the good and bad guys alike, and kicks ass whenever it’s necessary just like we remember.

Dirty Undies
Bruised Willis stays true to his name by adding a new cut, bullet wound, bruise, or bloodstain every few minutes. The fight scenes are intense and action sequences blindingly violent but, surprisingly, not as gruesome as you'd think. Their is a lot of "bitches" and "shit" thrown around but given the level of pressure Farrell and McClane are enduring it is easily acceptable. Maggie Q (*Mission Impossible III) looks and sounds kinda hot playing Gabriel's henchwoman, Mai. She delivers lots of violence and foul language in her tight-fitting yet securely buttoned shirt. Unlike the previous "Die Hard" films, audiences were not treated to any gratuitous desktop sex or naked-villain Tai Chi; just good 'ol ass-whupping.

The Money Shot
As many people know and I freely admit, I am a huge Willis fan. Admiration aside, Willis proves in "Live Free or Die Hard" why he deserves respect. Great actors delivering well-written dialogue with a competent director behind the camera yields what is easily the best action film served up in the summer of 2007. With special-effects laden behemoths littering the theater every other week it is exciting and refreshing to see the action genre rising to and defeating the competition before it. One last point to mention: many fans are curious if Willis utters his famous line, and while mum's the word, I can tell you after seeing this on the big screen I was shouting "Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!"

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  1. If you could only have 2 Bruce Willis movies in your collection, which 2 would you keep and why?

    Have you ever had anything bad to say about a Bruce Willis performance?

  2. Great questions Chris. I apologize for not seeing you comments sooner. To make up for it, I will have to make a special post addressing this.