supercop as superhero, John McClane is back, “Die Hard 4”
Despite the senseless and implausible cyber-centric plot that keeps interfering with the brilliantly bombastic action scenes, “Live Free Die Hard” is this summer’s best adventure-by a mile.
Could it be that 19(!) years have passed since the original “Die Hard” set the new standard for thrill-a-minute action and spawned the gritty but lovable anti-hero NYPD cop John McClane which launched Bruce Willis’ career to the stratosphere? (“Entertainment Weekly” magazine recently named “Die Hard” the greatest action movie of all time.)
Fans of the franchise that includes two other decent installments (1990’s “Die Hard 2: Die Harder,” and 1995’s “Die Hard with a Vengeance.”) will not be disappointed by the head-shaking, magnificently staged and executed action scenes. And fortunately, they come thunderingly loud and often. Whereas previous installments were situation-focused and involved only a building, an airport, or a chunk of the Big Apple, “Live Free” has apocalyptic ambitions on the mind of its hacker heavies.
Led by disgruntled former federal IT security wiz Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), a rogue group hacks into seemingly every national computer-run system to create traffic chaos and security breakdowns that serve primarily as diversions. Gabriel’s ultimate goal (of course) is to pull off the greatest financial fleecing in history. Expectedly, McClane ends up in the middle of the mayhem while trying to protect a cyber dweeb (a likeable Justin Long of the Apple commercials) who himself has become a target for the villains.
“Live Free” plays up the old school cop’s crustiness against the glib frailty of the young slacker, and gives both Willis and Young enough wiseacre comments to keep things light. Actress Maggie Q as the bad girl henchwoman has one particular t?te-?-t?te with McClane that concludes with a memorable SUV-in-an-elevator-shaft showdown. Somehow, McClane fighting off a pursuing Harrier jet while driving a semi-trailer only barely seems over-the-top– a tribute to director Len Wiseman’s (“Underworld”) ability to disguise CGI effects with creative prop choreography.
Even low-tech novices will tire quickly of the seemingly superhuman ability of anyone who sits at a computer to be able to hack into any system and overcome any security system in seconds. Why would such brilliant evildoers waste so much time, money, and energy figuring out endless firewalls when it’s so easy to crack into any bank and transfer endless amounts of money?
Ah, but if that were the case we wouldn’t get to see McClane use a police car to down a helicopter. Yipee-ki-ay your way past the plot flaws and enjoy the ride.
(Though the film racks up quite a body count, it skirts an R rating for lack of enough profanity and no nudity. Still, parents should be cautioned.)
Rated PG-13 for violent action and strong language. Running time 130 minutes.