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Die Hard 4
Three Hearts

"Die Hard in Name Only"

Written by Steven Walker

I love the original Die Hard. I consider it to be a perfect movie. I enjoy the hell out of 2 & 3, but they are both pale imitations. I went into the ludicrously titled Live Free or Die Hard (The first time I read that, I seriously thought it was a joke) expecting not to like it because I thought it would be Die Hard in name only. I could tell even from the previews that the filmmakers and Bruce Willis himself had forgotten what made the original Die Hard so special. My other favorite action series, Leathal Weapon, completely and literally jumped the shark in the forth movie, so I think my fears were grounded. Now I find myself in the odd situation of having all my fears come true, but still having a great time.

This is a seriously fun movie. All the action scenes are exciting and most of the humor is genuine. The villian's plot is somewhat brilliant, and the threat video with all the different presidents cut together was rather amazing. I hope someone in the government has a plan if terrorists ever actually try this.

Bruce Willis is Bruce Willis. Nuff said. As for the villian? Timothy Olyphant's Thomas Gabriel is not worthy of being a pimple on the ass of Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber.

Justin Long is awesome. I first saw him in Galaxy Quest, one of the most underrated movies ever, and Long is always worth watching. He is the only character who reacts realistically to all the choas around him. I believed there was a credible threat when he was on screen. Unfortunately, all the rest of the time this movie is a complete cartoon.

Let's examine the most extreme stunt in the orignal Die Hard. It is when McClane ties a fire hose around his waist to jump off the roof of the tower before it explodes. This is a ridiculous idea, but McClane makes us believe it because he is scared shitless, knows exactly how ridiculous it is, but has no choice. After he survives it, he is so amazed that all he can do is laugh about it and so exhausted that he just needs to lay there and breath for a while.

Near the end of this movie, McClane jumps off of a collapsing highway offramp onto the wings of a crashing fighter jet, then onto a 100 foot tall concrete slide which slams him against a wrecked car. He immediately stands up, dusts himself off, and smirks at the carnage. He is no longer John McClane, average beat cop forced into survival mode. He is John McClane, superhuman extraodinaire. He is James Bond and McGuyver rolled together. Again and again he finds clever yet completely implausible ways to defeat the baddies. Sometimes he will manifest brand new talents when the plot requires him to (I'm sure every New York detective can easily fly a helicopter).

In the late 80s the action movies were dominated by Stallone and Schwarzenegger playing impervious heros who could take a dozen bullets and keep on ticking. Die Hard was such a revelation because John McClane was a mostly normal guy who got hurt really bad and didn't want to be doing any of the crazy things he had to do. You never winced when Rambo or Commando got bloodied, but I dare anyone to watch the bare-feet-meet-broken-glass scene from Die Hard with a straight face.

We've all seen R-rated movies shown on TV where the editing-for-content is so poorly done that it becomes comedy. Scenes with violence are trimmed without thought to how it affects coherency and the overdubbing of profanity is painfully obvious. There are several moments in this movie where these cheap editing tricks are noticiable. This movie was shot to be R, but was cut somewhat haphazardly down to PG-13.

I sincerely believe this hurts the film. I might have given it 4 hearts if not for this. Most times the characters are not as angry or traumatized as they should be given the near-apocalyptic scenario. It feels like everyone is trying to play nice in a situation where no one would care. Gone are the edgy and profane shouting matches that made the eariler films feels like the stakes where higher even though the scope was smaller.

This is by far the most epic Die Hard of the four, but it is the least emotionally involving. When McClane's daughter is put at risk, the scenario is just too cliche to take seriously. We all know he is going to kill the bad guy and save the girl. It is still fun to watch it all happen, but goddamnit, there was doubt in my mind during the original Die Hard.

That said, they do manage to spin the cliches a little bit. McClane's daughter actually turns out to be a good character. She takes after dad in fun ways and their relationship felt real to me. She serves the cliche damsel-in-distress function, but manages not to act like it.

The way McClane dispatches the villian and brings out the signature line of Yippy-you-know-the-rest is absolutely classic. Best moment of the movie, which is what any climax should be. Yet the final few lines and last shot are completely underwhelming.

3 hearts is the inevitable conclusion. It is just as fun to watch as the previous sequels, but those merely stretched plausibility while this one tears it into little pieces. I hope for an R-rated version to appear on DVD at some point, but that won't make the action any more believable. I will always prefer my John McClane when he was a character and not a caricature.



Copyright 2008 Flaming Heart Enterprises, L.L.C.