*this review was requested by a patron as part of his $5/month pledge on Patreon
It took about a week longer than I’d planned but I finally managed to sit down and watch Live Free or Die Hard (2007), the first film from the Die Hard franchise that I’ve ever seen. After two long, painful hours, the credits finally began to roll and I came to the following conclusion: this movie is terrible!
In this fourth installment in the Die Hard franchise, John McClane (Bruce Willis) finds himself forced to protect a hacker (Justin Long) after a mysterious organization tries to kill him with a C4 bomb hidden in his computer. This is after a different group hacks the Department of Cyber-Security (or something to that effect) and then systematically begins murdering the hackers who helped them do it. It turns out this group is led by Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), a former analyst for the Defense Department, who was ousted from his position after predicting something like this might happen and is now shutting down the country’s infrastructure via hacking to prove his point (that the U.S. cyber-security is woefully lacking). McClane has to stop Gabriel from throwing the country into chaos and rescue his daughter too.
That is the plot in a nutshell and I wish I could give more detail but it really wouldn’t help. On the one hand, I do see where the filmmakers were trying to go with this story. The idea of genius hackers taking down the system in this manner is a frightening one and would make for a good story if done properly. Unfortunately, with lousy dialogue and at times cringe-worthy camera work, this movie reminded me more of those bad B-films the SyFy channel puts on every weekend instead of a big-budget blockbuster.
Despite overall not liking this film, I was able to find a few bright spots:
- Justin Long: I loved his performance as in-over-his-head hacker Matt Farrell; he’s clearly the audience surrogate for this story and he nailed the part.
- Warlock: Matt’s hacker friend “Warlock” (Kevin Smith) might be my favorite character in the film. He’s the quintessential “nerd who lives in his mom’s basement” but he’s also this master hacker with an awesome computer rig. I love how his “command center” was this literal cave of nerd-dom, with gaming consoles, collectibles, everything a hardcore nerd could ever want.
- The first threat video: Gabriel uploads two threatening videos to the nation’s news networks. The first of these is a speech cobbled together from televised speeches given by presidents ranging from Truman to George W. Bush (the then-current President). It’s a visual example of a ransom note, the ones you’d see with letters cut out from different sources to make one word. That was one element I really liked.
- The music: Marco Beltrami’s score is relatively simplistic but it serves the needs of the film, which is a big plus given how bad most of the film was.
And then there’s what I hated:
- The dialogue: If I really got going, I could probably rage for hours about how atrocious this dialogue was, especially the lines given to Timothy Olyphant. It just didn’t sound believable a lot of the time and it ruined any attempt to get invested into the story.
- Lack of plot: Most of this film can be boiled into this format: car chase + helicopter chase + another car chase/gun fight + helicopter gun fight + repeat ad nauseam. I’m not against chases in movies (as a matter of fact I enjoy them for the most part), but what I strongly object to is chase after chase with very little plot in between it all.
- That scene with the F-35: I may be wrong, but I’m pretty certain most of what happened with that fighter jet couldn’t happen in real life. It also stretched my suspension of disbelief that the pilot would get authorization to use deadly force in an area full of civilians (at the very least he should have requested something verifying the order).
Final thoughts: Live Free or Die Hard has, for the moment, justified my reasons for avoiding this franchise (though I’ve been told the first film is much better). A few bright spots and a decent score couldn’t save this movie in my opinion. It’s great if you’re a fan of mindless action sequences, but it’s really not for me.
Let me know what you think of Live Free or Die Hard in the comments below, have a great day!
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