Friday, July 20, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

Die Hard (1988) introduced us to John McClane (Bruce Willis), the wise-cracking tough guy cop willing and able to kill numerous people, absorb tremendous punishment, foil intricate and convoluted plots and defeat top-shelf criminals while uttering memorable lines. Hugely successful, it spawned the equally entertaining sequel Die Hard 2 (1990) which led to an even higher volume of destruction and villain body counts. The third entry, Die Hard:With a Vengeance (1995) ventured too far from its roots, being too interested in blaming whites for all the social ills of the day than in having McClane make wisecracks and kill people.

Live Free or Die Hard (2007) returns in some ways to the roots of the franchise. McClane has several memorable quotes...including a call-back to his classic "Yippee ki-yay, " from the original Die Hard. Perhaps the best quote comes as Matt Farrell (Justin Long) exclaims, "You just blew up a helicopter with a car!" to which McClane cracks, "I was out of bullets" with that wry, cheese-eating grin on his bloody face. It is a hilarious line that illustrates all that is right about this movie....humor, lots of gunfire and explosions...and all that is wrong with this movie...implausibilities and impossibilities that, even in a state of suspended disbelief, almost make Transformers (2007) seem more likely.

It begins with a complicated, involved plot by a group of cyber-terrorists hacking into various governmental systems. McClane is the closest detective so he is assigned to bring in noted hacker Farrell to try to help out the government. Now that the plot is out of the way we can enter the real meat of Live Free; the near continuous presence of gunfire, explosions, and chases.

McClane kills 3 of 5 men on a hit team that is trying to kill Farrell (it is never really made clear exactly what virus has been invented that, simply by uploading the virus causes the computer to have a house and apartment leveling explosion when the "Delete" key is hit, but such a virus failed to kill him so the hit team went in to do it themselves), kills a helicopter and several other professionals.

In another call-back to the earlier movies he acquires a walkie-talkie tuned to their channels and talks to them. It is here that director Len Wiseman lets us know the rules for this movie; McClane tells bad guy head honcho Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) he is going to "Kill everyone and rescue my daughter." Gabriel asks how McClane knows he won't just kill Lucy McClane (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), thus pointing up an oft-exploited plot device; baddies often take hostages but it is rare indeed that they actually get around to killing them. "You are afraid of me," replies McClane, "You are saving her for a bargaining chip."

Live Free then attends to another common convention in these cannon-fodder movies...namely, where does all the cannon fodder come from? McClane asks Gabriel where he is getting all these people...is he calling 1-800 Henchmen or Henchman r us? It is a funny moment that points out some of the issues that action movies seldom address...where do all these bullet absorbers come from?

Sadly, there are times the movie just gets too over the top. Top 5 things we learned in this movie:

5) If you are in an SUV that is in an elevator shaft hanging by a thread, the weight of a 200 pound good guy slamming into the windshield will not cause it to plummet down the shaft. The weight of a 125 pound bad girl, however, will.

4) If your Semi truck is tipping over, if you simply twist the wheel hard enough the other direction the semi will right itself instead of tipping over. Also, if a nearby F-15 A) blows up the freeway behind you and B) blows off the top third of your vehicle you can A) outrun the collapsing free-way for several miles and B) still not tip over.

3) It is possible for a cab to drive in a straight line...but only with no driver, nobody holding down the accelerator, and when it will be going fast enough to actually launch off a concrete stanchion high enough to hit a hovering helicopter.

2) An F-15 cannot catch up to a badly damaged semi. It just isn't fast enough. It can, however, hover.

1) If you are a mastermind who can hack into the highest, toughest levels of the government, take over their computers, commandeer military resources, and generally wipe out all the power to a third of the U.S., but encounter someone who kills 3/5ths of your crack hit-man team, blows up a helicopter, survives an attack by an F-15 and puts it out of the sky, kills your ninja-like girlfriend and tracks you down to your secret hideout it is still a better idea to send your remaining assassins out 1 at a time than send them in a bunch to hunt down the guy who has single handed done all that damage.


Despite its flaws, Live Free is a wildly entertaining action flick that is a feast of adrenaline for action junkies with a liberal dose of humor that makes it well worth watching.

1 comment:

Alan said...

It was an F-22 ;)