Monday, April 26, 2010

Archive: "Live Free Or Die Hard" (2007)

This is the type of movie you walk out of ready to punch or kick something not because you're angry at it, but just because you're so pumped up. "Live Free or Die Hard" brings back the style of action summer blockbusters of the 1990s and invigorates it with a new updated look.

This is a timely action flick that is blatantly modern to fit our post-9/11 nation. The plot involves super techno-terrorist hackers who infiltrate the U.S. infrastructure; this group is led by a disgruntled ex-government worker named Thomas Gabriel who is out for revenge. The government disapproved of his new security ideas, and now he is showing them how flawed the system really is. Helped by his girlfriend/crazy Asian lady, Mai, and a whole team of elite hackers, Gabriel plans to start off by stealing ideas from the smartest hackers out there and then killing them all. This surprisingly powerful room of people working on the plan can gain access to anywhere and destroy everything by just a few strokes of the keyboard. This modernized plot attacks two fears of Americans today: 1) terrorism itself, and 2) the possibility that our reliability on computers can totally screw us over.

Luckily for America, John McClane enters the equation just in time to prevent everything from being blown to hell. At first he is simply ordered to protect the life of a hacker under attack named Matt Farrell, but then things get stickier and soon they must fight to stay alive together. McClane openly admits he doesn't know a thing about computers, nor does he care to know. What he lacks there, though, he completely makes up for in knowing how to kick some ass. He's played by Bruce Willis, who is returning more than 10 years later since the last "Die Hard." He's like a battered and bruised bulldog, still tough as nails. Wielding only two hand guns and his trusty fists, Willis plugs along as McCane up against his most advanced enemy, while still cracking frequently humorous one-liners along the way. It really is a crowd-pleaser to see Willis at it again, looking balder than ever and still ready for action.

Matt Farrell is played by Justin Long, otherwise known as the Mac commercial guy, who's surprisingly not as annoying as I thought he would be. He has a large role in the film as a big-time hacker and computer junkie who McClane eventually ends up needing along the way in order to understand the "fire sale" that's supposedly being performed on the nation. Now, my question is what kind of processors are running all of this high-tech software on these computers seen in almost every scene? Let me tell you, it isn't being done on a Mac, and so it's pretty ironic watching the Mac guy perform all of his hacking tricks on these computers.

The plot is merely a backdrop for the incredible action sequences to sprout from the circumstances. At one point in the movie, Farrell exclaims to McClane, "You just killed that helicopter with a car!" That he did and thought absolutely nothing of it. Of course moments like this are going to be scattered throughout this summer action flick because what's a summer action flick anyway without insanely unbelievable scenarios? The most memorable and excellent sequence involves a fight to the death in an elevator shaft. Another sequence involves a jet shooting at a semi McClane is driving, ultimately destroying an entire highway. This sequence earns its spot even in spite of its sheer absurdity because the rest of the movie plays it so old school.

Through plenty of non-stop, in-your-face explosions, gunfire, and extraordinary stunts, there also comes the ending to it all. The ending, without trying to give too much away, takes a classic climactic moment, and then turns it on its head, transforming it into the most unexpectedly subdued, low-tech ending imaginable. It's not at all underwhelming, does McClane perfect justice, is awesomely cool, and is entirely fitting to the movie, too.

"Live Free or Die Hard" is a welcome surprise to the summer movie list, and it's successful because it brings back a classic character who we thought had long retired back in the 1990s. But here he is, roused to action because he just happens to be the go-to guy, and we're happily prepared to go along for the ride. It's good stuff, great fun, one of the season's better sequels, and may be one of the biggest hits out now. In a summer ruled by ghost pirates and silver surfers, it's great to see a bare-knuckle hero in a throwback to a seriously satisfying action flick romp.

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