Film Review: Live Free or Die Hard

by Molly Kenney

Let’s pretend that I was tricked into paying $9.50 to see Live Free or Die Hard when it opened in theaters this week. (Of course I wasn’t drawn there by Bruce Willis’ beautiful baldness and geriatric grace or by my longstanding, closeted love for Die Hard.) The theater’s demographics were skewed heavily toward the adolescent male group, which I define as inclusive of those actually suffering from puberty and those who have maintained the immaturity and social awkwardness of the phase roughly 30 years after it is clinically deemed finished. As the lights dimmed, I glanced at the expectant eyes of the four boys I came with, adjusted my giant bag of Reese’s Pieces, and stole another sip of the immense pink lemonade that emptied my bank account. This fourth film of the Die Hard series, directed by Len Wiseman, was bound to be another testosterone-infused and mindless (no relationship implied) summer movie, I thought.

About an hour and a half in, as Bruce Willis balanced on the wings of a burning military jet spinning toward a giant, crumbled concrete overpass, I realized how wrong I was. This was not another stupefying summer moneymaker. It was an incredibly entertaining and hysterical stupefying summer moneymaker.

Dear old John McClane (played by Willis), battle-scarred (from three previous escapes from hard death), is asked by the FBI to escort New Jersey-based computer hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long) to Washington, DC for questioning about a break in the government’s computer network. McClane and Farrell both become soldiers in the fight against the evil cyber-terrorists when McClane saves Farrell from their assassins and continues to protect him as the country melts into chaos. The U.S. government, portrayed with subtle sarcasm as pretentious and idiotic bureaucrats, bungles the recovery effort, a repeat of FEMA and Hurricane Katrina as Farrell reminds us, and falls victim to a full-scale cyber-takeover of the country. As predicted, copious amounts of explosions, gunfights, and ass-kickings, along with the completely improbable survival of several characters, lead to McClane saving the day. It all makes for a fairly entertaining storyline and everyone’s acting is passable, but it’s the action that gives this film its glory.

McClane and Farrell battle through the streets of downtown DC, a power hub in West Virginia, and the cooling silos of the Social Security Administration. McClane blows up a helicopter with his car because, he tells Farrell, he “ran out of bullets.” The cyber-terrorist’s girlfriend is a gorgeous martial artist (played by Maggie Denise Quigley who goes by the Hollywood handle of Maggie Q) who manages to pose as an FBI agent, almost kill McClane, and wear knee-high stiletto boots the whole time. McClane fends off both her and an armed hitman while wedged in the trunk of an SUV dangling by its back bumper in an elevator shaft. It’s all ludicrous, but it’s loud, fast-paced, and absolutely riveting.

I admit I joined the obsessive Die Hard fans in the theater in cheering each time McClane blew up something or someone and then stopped to say something vaguely witty and very badass. He deserves a cheer. Thanks to him, Americans can live free and be very entertained.

(Promotional film poster from 20th Century Fox. To see a trailer for the film, please check below.)

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