In what must surely be a record for an action hero, Bruce Willis returns after twelve years giving life to his signature character, Detective John McClane in the fourth installment of the Die Hard franchise, Live Free or Die Hard (**½ stars). While the film features a strong setup, the finale returns to often-familiar territory.
A virtual terrorist, Thomas Gabriel (Tim Olyphant) has hired a group of the world’s best computer hackers to write a program that will assist him in shutting down various branches of the government. This “fire sale” (named because “everything must go;” in his mind, all areas of the government) will create panic, sending the country into chaos. To cover his tracks, Gabriel kills each of the hackers, but one, Matt Farrell (Apple Computer pitchman, Justin Long). Wanted for questioning by the government in DC, McClane has been assigned to bring him in. That’s where the trouble begins.
After a slow start where we see McClain showing his overprotective parental side, the becomes a fuel-driven adrenaline rush as McClane quickly fights the bad guys using everything within his disposal, even taking down a helicopter with a car. While Willis is unable to handle the stunts that were performed in the first three films, he more than compensates by using his razor sharp mind and quick wit. The generation gap between the nerdy Farrell and the grizzled veteran McClane is highlighted by a hilarious scene as they attempt to hi-jack a car. McClane wants to hotwire the stolen vehicle, but Farrell is successful using the OnStar system to get the vehicle moving.
McClane gets beat down by an Asian female adversary, performs a ridiculous stunt which finds him pursued by a military jet while driving a truck over a collapsing freeway and he manages to save the day. Although he is now considered an action-hero dinosaur, the film gives fans of the franchise exactly what they want and expect.
Although, Olyphant is the series’ smartest villain, he is far from the strongest. Die Hard is arguably one of the greatest action films ever made and has become the standard for all films of its genre are judged. The film is high on entertainment and thrills and does not pretend to exist in reality. With Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steven Seagall and Sylvester Stallone retired; Willis truly is the Last Old-School Action Hero.
Audiences have a choice to either Live Free or Die Hard, but they may find the answer by engaging in the latter with no expectations but two hours of sheer action-packed entertainment.