Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Flim New York: Live Free and/or Die Hard

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on July 5, 2007

LOL command centers

So I had previously expressed my misgivings about seeing Live Free or Die Hard due to the film’s heretical PG-13 rating, but certain images shown in the preview–namely the one pictured above–made me realize that I still had little to no choice in the matter. I held off on opening night, but when I didn’t have any plans for the afternoon of 4th of July, I figured there’d be no better way to celebrate our country’s independence than watching John McClane save it once more from the forces of evil and oppression (and Timothy Olyphant’s sneer!)

Anyway, turns out just about every fear and hope I had for the movie turned out to be justified. Live Free or Die Hard, like Knocked Up, is almost exactly what you’d expect–an incredible action movie hindered by an unfortunate choice of sidekick (Justin Long) and a far more unfortunate choice of rating. So while it’s likely to rank among the top action flicks of the year, it’s still unlikely to reach the legendary cable TV re-playability status of Die Hards 1 & 3 (best not to mention 2 in these discussions–it’s sort of the Rocky V of Die Hards)

So yeah, those action sequences–it’s some breathtaking stuff. Picture the first scene of Casino Royale, that sort of how am I watching this? incredulity-inspiring combination of amazing stunts, breakneck editing and brilliantly directed and choreographed chases, stretched over the course of an entire movie. It even throws back to some of the MacGyver-esque ingenuity that McClane showed in DH1, especially in my favorite scene in the whole movie, when he runs over a seemingly incosequential fire hydrant, only to use the ensuing spray to knock someone chasing him above head out of their helicopter. Geronimo, motherfucker!

But that hinderance of suggested Parental Guidance–it damn near ruins everything. The action sequences survive in tact, but the dialogue doesn’t stand a chance. Consequently, the dark, world-weary humor that was half the appeal of the original Die Hard movies, is almost entirely absent (even McClane’s signature line–which they acutally used to promote the movie–is unforgivably clipped). Instead, we get a bunch of predictable “I’m getting too old for this shit”-type humor (including one particularly painful scene involving Creedence) and strained father-son chemistry between Willis and Long, who is about as out of place in a Die Hard movie as Dennis Franz would be in a Merchant-Ivory flick.

Combined with a lack of truly memorable villains–Olyphant, evil lady sidekick Maggie Q and bizarrely agile henchman Cyril Raffaelli–and a lack of truly asshole-ish authority figures (Paul Gleason, you are dearly, dearly missed), the movie just doesn’t quite feel like a Die Hard movie. It’s worth watching just as a great action movie, but as an entry in the Willis canon, it’s just more melon farmer than motherfucker.

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