Like most red-blooded males in 2006/2007 I was excited at the idea of a fourth “Die Hard” movie, as for me, I basically grew up on the first two films and they remain some of my favourite action flicks to this day. Unfortunately, when I went to go see Live Free Or Die Hard in theatres I witnessed my first instance of an older couple (40-50s) making out in front of me. I will never be able to erase that mental image from my brain. Things could only get better, and they slightly did. I didn’t mind “Live Free,” even if it did rob us of one of the greatest one-liners in action movie history, the unrated DVD cut helped alleviate some of these problems, and it was fine enough for me. I was slightly more apprehensive about this entry into the series, and although I didn’t dislike it as much as most critics and a lot of people online, I was still disappointed all the same.
The thing with these last two “Die Hard” movies is that they don’t really feel like Die Hard movies. Sure, they have the title in it, Bruce Willis and all his mannerisms as John McClane are there, but they feel very “plug and play.” Where it’s as if these scripts were just lying around, and someone just changed some things around and put in John McClane and voilà you have a “Die Hard” movie. The original trilogy felt different from other action films of its era, leading off Willis’ charisma, McClane’s ingenuity and always finding himself in the middle of some shit. The latter two films fall much into what we’re typically shown in action films today, heavily CGI’ed and ridiculous action scenes that push the limit of reality because they want to show something cool and make you yell “Awesome!” at the screen. That seems to be another of people’s problems with the film, some of the unrealistic action set pieces McClane and his son Jack get into, where they surely should have died 53x over. It bugs me a little, but mostly I go along with it because it’s a movie, for God’s sake. Sure, the legacy of McClane’s character and the action scenes being more down-to-earth may be gone, but like it or not, this has become the norm of most Hollywood action films, further pushing the limits of reality and action, because we are an easily bored race of people.
As a caveat, I will say that this movie is painfully unfunny. Of course, you have to have some comic relieft and McClane is a classic wisecracker, but all the “jokes” are bottom of the barrel CBS sitcom level stuff. There’s McClane trying to speak Russian, a hilariously obvious and sad attempt at having an eccentric “villain,” and a seeming lack of effort in Willis’ dialogue, or all of it to be honest. One of the best parts of the series is McClane’s sarcasm or quips to people, but nothing ever landed and the spirit of his character’s memorable lines seems to be gone.
Most of all I was not looking forward to bringing in McClane’s son that John would have to kick ass with, because I like my McClane ALONE and kicking ass all by himself not having to rely on anybody else or having a younger character tease sequel spinoffs. This has been seen a lot of late in these resurgent action flicks, where they seemingly don’t know what to do and are all like “What the hell, lets find some dumb way to rope their kids/young dude into all this (played by the hot actor of the month)!” Live Free Or Die Hard, Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol all did this to an extent. The father/son dynamic did grow on me throughout the film, especially after the obligatory “Son hates father thing because of not-so-clear dalliances of the past.” We get it, we’ve all seen that in a thousand other films, just get on with the making up already. I’m a sucker for family dynamics and families coming back together though, so the latter parts of their relationship slowly being mended over the course of the film was perhaps my favourite part, except for ALL THOSE COOL HELICOPTERS (gotta keep this review manly). Jai Courtney was fine in the role and up to the task, albeit not that big of one (the task that is), but I hope that the biggest focus we ever see of him remains in this film and doesn’t move forward. If I had any advice for the next film in the series (C’mon, you know there’s going to be another one), just let Bruce Willis kill some scumbags solo.
So, yeah, it’s not a very good film, but it’s not all that terrible of an excuse. The “Die Hard” legacy has been forever altered for awhile now and we just have to live with it through however many regurgitations of this franchise remains. I’m a masochist and I love Bruce Willis and this character, so of course I’ll be back for another one. But, maybe someone in a 20th Century Fox office somewhere should sit back and REALLY take stock of the series and bring it back to its roots, when it wasn’t just another typical action movie.