Sunday, November 25, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard

While I confess I haven’t seen every action film that’s out this year, I can say with some measure of confidence that any other such movies are going to have an uphill battle convincing me that it, and not this film, is the best action movie of the year. This movie is that good.

It’s been twelve years since the last Die Hard movie, and poor John McClane’s life is in its usual shambles. His wife’s out of the picture, his daughter’s taken her mom’s last name and doesn’t want to be on speaking terms with him, and now he’s the only man available to save the world from cyber terrorists. Worse still, he’s accompanied on this mission by an incredibly obnoxious hacker sidekick who, in the grand Hollywood tradition, continues to perpetuate the myth that hackers are attractive people (a cameo by Kevin Smith as a fellow hacker is much closer to the truth).

While said sidekick, Justin Long, is very irritating, he’s also mostly relegated to the background as Willis takes the stage. This isn’t a Die Hard With a Vengeance type deal where they both get equal billing, Long seems to be there mainly to work computers and draw in young girls to the audience while Willis guns everyone down and blows up a bunch of stuff. The action scenes, as one might think was obvious, are really where the movie shines. The stuff in this movie is, quite frankly, so ridiculously over the top that it transforms itself into sheer brilliance. I’ll give one example of what I mean. About a third of the way through the movie, Willis and Long are being chased by gunmen in a helicopter, and flee into a tunnel to escape. Their enemies, having already seized control of the traffic system, try to draw them out by first opening up every lane for incoming traffic on the end of the tunnel they’re driving toward, and then opening up every lane on the other side, forcing them to flee their car to avoid being hit by a mass of cars coming at them from both directions by evidently suicidal drivers. Willis eventually regains control of his car and goes back to his entrance where the chopper is waiting for him, but he outdoes them by jumping out of his car just as it hits a makeshift ramp and goes careening through the sky into the copter, making it explode instantly. This is, of course, after he had already driven over a fire hydrant so that the sudden spray of water would hit the helicopter and knock one of the gunmen out of it. James Bond would have been astonished watching all this.

There’s a number of ridiculous action sequences like that, as well as some martial arts scenes and a gunfight or two to keep some variety to things. Willis’s character has evolved into a post-action hero delight; now, instead of delivering a flippant one-liner after taking down an enemy, he merely stares at all the carnage he’s wrought and starts giggling like an asshole. It’s not a completely perfect movie, but it is perfect in all the parts it needs to be perfect in. And to those who remember the controversy when this originally came out about how Willis’s trademark phrase was cut for its PG-13 rating, worry not. The unrated DVD includes it (as well as some other nicely placed profanity throughout). The unrated version also contains a free ticket to the movie Hitman, so I guess I’ll be reviewing that for all of you tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes.

Rating: ****

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