Live Free or Die Hard

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Live Free or Die Hard
Review (8/10)
(By Brendan Cullin)

Live Free or Die Hard marks the much anticipated return to the big screen of Detective John McClane - probably the most anticipated return this side of Indiana Jones. In this chapter of the life and times of John McClane, we find our favourite New York City cop being asked to pick up a computer hacker (played by Justin Long) and bring him in for some questioning. Of course with John McClane nothing is as easy as it appears. What seems like a relatively routine assignment goes terribly awry when McClane realizes that Matt Farrell (the hacker) has a death wish on his head. And the guys trying to kill him aren't your average, everyday mercenaries. These guys have high-powered weapons, helicopters, tracking devices and a chick that can kick some serious ass. And to top it all off, McClane not only has to save the life of his new sidekick but he soon realizes that he has to stop a sinister plot to more or less take down the entire technological and economic structure of the United States - a plot that is being spearheaded by a ruthless hacker named Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant). To add to the problem, Gabriel has McClane's daughter as a bargaining chip. The next two hours is filled with some serious ass-kicking, John McClane-style.

I'll start off by saying that it was great to see John McClane back on the big screen. In fact, it was fantastic. Maybe his entrance wasn't as dramatic as I would have liked it to have been but he's still the same ornery John McClane, just with a few more wrinkles on his face. He still looks good, in a totally non-homosexual way. In Live Free or Die Hard, you aren't getting anything near the first Die Hard movie. Let's face it, that is one of the great all-time action flicks. But Live Free is a very good action movie. It's not any better or any worse than Die Hard 2 and 3. It's definitely in the same league as those two. There's some great action this time around, albeit some way exaggerated action in a few instances. McClane had more lives than Wylie Coyote in this movie. There's quite a few of those Hollywood action movie moments that may just make you roll your eyes - you know, the professional hitman not being able to hit the broadside of a barn when shooting at McClaine. Or when he enters the bad guy headquarters, ONE guy is sent to kill him. A scene with an F-15 fighter seems right out in left field. The cuts and blood stains all over his face and body didn't seem too consistent either (by the way, I don't know that it's called an F-15, it just sounded kind of right).

But with that being said, the movie has a great pace, edge-of-your-seat action, some great banter between Willis and Justin Long and between McClane and his daughter. There's some outstanding kills, as morbid as that may sound.

I think my one major problem with Live Free would have to be Timothy Olyphant. He was just not a good enough bad guy in this movie. All his cohorts seemed to think he was - they all looked at him with frightened looks on their faces. And he did have his moments where he seemed like he was going to snap. He had a few good one-liners too. But in the end, his character just didn't cut it. Olyphant played a pretty decent creep in The Girl Next Door. In Die Hard he was just too calm and not crazy enough. In this type of movie you absolutely 100% have to have a great bad guy - someone who is deranged, who is scary and who will snap at any moment. Hans Gruber in Die Hard 1 was this guy - perhaps one of the greatest bad guys ever to appear in an action movie. Gary Busey in Lethal Weapon was that guy. Jet Li in Lethal Weapon 4. Even Alan Rickman's Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood was one creepy dude. Olyphant, unfortunately, doesn't make the grade. He just wasn't intimidating enough, not by a longshot. And to be honest, McClane never seemed to take him too seriously either.

With all that being said and it seems like it's a lot of bitching and whining about one movie, I still have to give it the old thumbs up. I guess when it comes to Die Hard, we always sort of look for perfection, the kind of perfection we saw in the original Die Hard. Live Free or Die Hard is not perfection but it's a fun time at the theatre and definitely a movie worth checking out.

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