Die Hard 4.0 ("Live Free or Die Hard" in the US)
**** / 5
Pity that the current day 'x-men' action heroes are vulnerable, sentimental characters who shun their responsibilities and need external motivation to realise their potential. I almost thought that all the action heroes are dead and only Spiderman can save the world hereon!
My point is, the old-world hollywood action flicks always revolved around the 'Hero'. Right back to the good old days of Clint Eastwood classics, and throughout the evolution of Action genre from cow boys to martial arts to cops to robots, the protagonist is always omnipresent, gritty, and strikingly relentless.
Yes, that's the word I was looking for the whole night! "Relentless"
And that is what Die Hard 4.0 is all about. McLane is an action hero, battered by time and rejection, unrewarded for his heroics and reduced to a mere shadow of his former self. But when the call comes, and when he sees that there is no one else who can rise to the occasion, becomes 'that man' who steps forward to display relentless bravery and unmatched grit to kick the bad guys' asses (and one particularly cute ass of Maggie Q) and save the day for his country.
The story is the familiar Die Hard reprise. Detective McLane of NYPD finds himself in New Jersey doing a simple roundup job on listed hackers who are suspected for a security breach at FBI, but lands right in the eye of the storm to discover that his pickup is under the threat of assassination by ruthless killers. He naturally throws his hat in the ring, defies the attackers and proceeds to drop the fumbling hacker, Matt Farrell (Justin Long), at the Fed HQ.
Only, it isn't going away so soon. He discovers that there is mischief afoot, someone is trying to scare the nation by shutting down transportation systems, and faking a Capitol Hill collapse and generally terrorising people. And one man who knows what is happening and can guess who is doing it is Matt Farrell. McLane needs to team up with him to find out who's behind it all and well, go kill the bad guy - Thomas Gabriel, played by Tim Olyphant.
The story moves on to reveal the horrifying plans of Gabriel who plans a 3 stage process (called 'Fire Sail', I think) that cripples the entire nation's transportation and utility systems including power, gas etc, finally ending with him walking away with billions of dollars, which 'we can't even trace' as a helpless Pentagon official puts it. McLane shows up at each stage, killing the terrorists including Mai, the girl friend of Gabriel, whence the battle turns personal. Mai is played by the lissome Maggie Q. (with whom I fell in love when I saw Naked Weapon, but that's another story!)
The battle turns definitely personal when Gabriel grabs McLane's estranged daughter only to discover that she's as defying as her father. Kidnapping her was a strategic mistake, someone should have told Thomas Gabriel. She really sinks his morale whenever she opens mouth! The theater thoroughly enjoyed her presence.
And in the end, McLane wins after displaying some out-of-the-world stunts like climbing out of hanging cars in lift shafts, downing a copter with only a car, and winning a bare-handed battle with a supersonic F-35! The biggest moment is when McLane shoots himself through the shoulder - yes you read it right, the bullet goes right through his shoulder - , to kill the villain holding him. And when his daughter questions his crazy act, he says 'it seemed a good idea to me then. But don't tell the Feds I did it'. That's as retro as it can get!
Die Hard 4.0 had me freaking out in the theater every time an awesome stunt is played out. I was reliving the days of real 'Action' of yore. And at 52, Bruce Willis is still the same actor who can stand on his own in the world of exaggerated super stars like Arnie and Stallone. And, he is the last and only action hero left in Hollywood.
The movie totally belongs to Bruce Willis, who did most of his stunts on his own and the director Len Wiseman too does a good job of keeping the action running throughout. There is no unnecessary weakness in the hero. When he comes to know that Gabriel has got his daughter, he tells Farrell that he is going to 'kill the guy and get his daughter'. Just like that! Trust McLane to simplify things, yes sir!
Here's one man who really can make dying look hard. Really hard.
(recovered with Jul 1st 07 date stamp)