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Monthly Archives: June 2007

Live Free Or Die Hard (2007)

DIRECTOR: Len Wiseman

CAST:

Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Maggie Q, Kevin Smith, Cliff Curtis, Zeljko Ivanek

REVIEW:

Like Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Live Free Or Die Hard largely abandons the grittier feel of the original film in favor of more typical flashy whizz-bang action extravaganza, but since the Die Hard series doesn’t aspire to be more than action extravaganza as much as the Terminator series, that’s not as much of a detriment here. No one is likely to compare it with the original Die Hard, but if nothing else, it’s an entertaining summer action flick.

John McClane (Bruce Willis, older and balder) is divorced, and his now-grown daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) goes by her mother’s name and seemingly wants nothing to do with him. McClane gets what sounds like a routine assignment: transport hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long) to be questioned by government officials about a security breach at Homeland Security. But as usual, nothing goes routine for McClane. Turns out the security breach is just the beginning of an assault on the entire US infrastructure, shutting down Washington, Wall Street, airports, cities, and threatening to throw the country back to the Stone Age. Of course, the mastermind, Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), hasn’t counted on John McClane. But things get more personal when Gabriel decides to take Lucy hostage.

The twelve years between Die Hard With A Vengeance and Live Free Or Die Hard has done nothing to slow Bruce Willis down as action hero material, but while he’s called John McClane and sometimes acts like John McClane, he’s transformed from the scruffy everyman into more of a typical unstoppable action hero. Willis is effective in the role, and he has moments where he feels like the old McClane, especially when he confesses to Farrell the personal costs of his job, but some will miss when McClane almost seemed like an average Joe instead of pure movie action hero. Justin Long avoids making Farrell as irritating as he could have been, and he’s occasionally funny, but he doesn’t completely avoid seeming like a bit of a third wheel (I think someone like, say, the ubiquitous Shia LaBeouf, could maybe have done a little more with the role). As far as action-buddy odd couples go, Willis and Long are adequate but not as good a mesh as Willis and Samuel L. Jackson in the third installment. The bad guys are an undistinguished bunch. Timothy Olyphant is the blandest bad guy in the series, seeming to think smugly smirking and lots of wide-eyed glares constitutes a villainous performance. Maggie Q gets a to throw in a little kung-fu buttkicking in a scene that makes her almost as indestructible as Kristanna Loken’s ‘Terminatrix’ in Terminator 3, and French martial artist/stuntman Cyril Raffaelli gets to show off his Spider-Man-esque agility a couple times. Kevin Smith doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb as much as one might fear in basically a cameo, and Cliff Curtis and Zeljko Ivanek are the token cops trying to handle the situation. One cast member we wish had been given more to do is Mary Elizabeth Winstead. In fact, Winstead has enough of Dad’s attitude in her all-too-small role that things might have been kicked up a notch if it had been she and Dad teaming up instead of McClane and Farrell (the original version of the script had McClane joined by his hacker son).

While the previous Die Hard entries were wall-to-wall action, they at least kept things more gritty and semi-realistic, while Live Free Or Die Hard is more typical flashy whizz-bang action extravaganza of one wildly over-the-top action sequence after another, with each trying to top the one that came before, until the tension is diluted by our knowledge that what we’re seeing onscreen defies the laws of physics.   The bad guys’ plot is also a little too convoluted. It was inspired by a newspaper article about the danger of the US infrastructure being vulnerable to computer attack, and all the hacker mumbo-jumbo gets a little mind-boggling, until we get impatient to get back to some McClane ass-whipping. And whip serviceable amounts of baddie ass McClane does.

While it’s freely open to debate about how much or how little this actually ‘feels’ like a Die Hard movie, I’m giving it two and a half stars because it delivers on the action we expect from the series. Don’t think about it too much, just enjoy it for what it is, and strap yourself in for an entertaining ride.

**1/2

Mr. Brooks (2007)

DIRECTOR: Bruce A. Evans

CAST: Kevin Costner, Demi Moore, William Hurt, Dane Cook, Marg Helgenberger, Danielle Panabaker, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Lindsay Crouse

REVIEW:

According to star/producer Kevin Costner, Mr. Brooks was conceived as the first film in a trilogy, but in the wake of modest box-office earnings, whether or not any other installments will get the greenlight is up in the air.  That’s kind of a shame, because Mr. Brooks is actually a lot of fun: a deliciously devious little thriller that combines plenty of twists and turns with a macabre sense of humor. Continue reading

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