“Live Free or Die Hard” special
”Live Free or Die Hard” – called “”Die Hard 4.0 “ in Australia – opened across America this week and is drawing some fairly mixed reviews (it’s largely the online reviewers, most of whom haven’t even released their reviews yet, that are more critical of it). Surprisingly though, there’s only a few that seem to generally despise the long-in-development sequel.
The fourth instalment of the popular “Die Hard “ series is (as most have unwelcomingly been informed by now) rated PG-13 and as a consequence doesn’t feature the language or violence of the previous films in the series. Since its John McClane’s foul mouth and knack for shooting out knee-caps that’s a huge part of the series’ appeal a few, excuse the pun, Die Hard-fans are picketing. On the other hand, as Devin (who, by the way, ended up disliking the pic) pointed out at CHUD.com, there have been some really good, and quite action-packed P3-13 films over the years – “Raiders of the Lost Ark” being a prime example. He’s right and just because a sequel earns a lesser rating than the sequels that preceded it doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie… I’m sure the last “Highlander” sequel received a lesser rating than the one before it, and it was the better film. And remember, just because a film gets an R rating doesn’t mean it’s any good…. hello “Hostel Part 2″!
The consensus seems to be that although it’s quite entertaining and Willis is definitely the same old McClane we remember from the McTiernan films (and the Renny Harlin one) it definitely isn’t the film that Walter B. has been telling – well, of course he has been – folks; that it’s as good, if not better, than the 1988 original. It sounds like it’s a very different kettle of fish.
Maitland over at TV Guide says she enjoyed some aspects of the film – but it ultimately didn’t satisfy. She says, “Directed by propman turned filmmaker Len Wiseman, it’s brainlessly exhilarating until the fighter-jet scene, at which point the high-octane idiocy becomes too preposterous to bear… and there’s still a solid half hour to go”.
Waffle Movies was less impressed. Their reviewer says “Director Len Wiseman is so busy trying to prove he can carry the mantle for Die Hard that he doesn’t focus enough on making a good movie. Sure, he blows stuff up in cool and exciting ways, and knows how to focus the camera on Willis as McClane spouts off with another witty retort (which brings the movie up to mediocre, but entertaining levels), but Live Free or Die Hard slogs through from explosion to explosion.”
CHUD’s Devin felt robbed. “The man who once tied a fire hose around his waist and made a terrifying jump off a roof and barely believes he survived leaps forty feet off the wing of a crashing Harrier jet, lands hard on an upended piece of an expressway and slides down it as the fireball of the exploding jet chases him. This John McClane gets up, dusts himself off and immediately sees the bad guys he lost fifteen minutes earlier. This isn’t isn’t Die Hard 4, it’s Bald Terminator 4.”
That’s something that’s got me worried about the film – that it looks like Bruce Willis is playing another version of John McClane. Yes, he’s aged, Yes, he’s bald – – but do his motivations and behaviour have to be that different? I mean, I’ll look older in twenty years time, but I assume I’ll still be scared of the same things, have pretty much the same morals and wince when I burn my knee on a gas heater. I remember thinking the same thing when I walked out of “Die Hard : With a Vengeance” actually – that McClane felt a little different, and so did the movie itself. But that film grew on movie. Maybe this one, even with McClane 2.0 (or is it 3.0?), will too?
Doesn’t sound like Devin’s going to be pre-ordering the DVD from Amazon though. “While there’s a strong last minute resurgence and a truly great villain elimination, Live Free and Die Hard never recovers from going so big that it leaves the franchise’s own rules behind. I understand that in each Die Hard the playing field has gotten bigger, but the action needs to stay on a human level. This John McClane should be wearing a cape instead of a badge, and that’s no fun. Like I said, we could use another Die Hard right now.”
Variety liked the film but stated that it’s a little more cartoonish than previous instalments in the series. “All the “Die Hard” films have centered upon terrorists, but the ones until now dwelled in the pre-9/11 world; by avoiding contempo reality (there’s barely a mention of it), new entry can legitimately be accused of evasiveness, even timidity. But filmmakers largely disarm this sort of criticism by recasting the film as a virtual action cartoon, one you can laugh at and even enjoy for the preposterousness of its propositions. Any doubts about how seriously pic is intended are dispelled in the third act with the arrival of Kevin “Clerks” Smith as the ultimate high-tech geek who humorously handles an overload of exposition and helps close the noose around Gabriel and his misguided cohorts.”
NY Times also enjoyed it saying, “Nothing on Len Wiseman’s résumé — he previously directed the two “Underworld” flicks, wherein the Goth kids really are vampires — suggests that he could wrangle both Mr. Willis and this new film’s nerve-jangling action to such satisfying effect”
Edward Douglas, of ComingSoon.net, also showers Len Wiseman (who, by the way, I’m personally not a fan of) with praise saying “Wiseman (“Underworld”) shows that he has enough knowledge of the franchise to pull off a convincing updated way of putting McClane through his paces””. He adds, “As much as one might want to knock the movie for its retro plot and storytelling approach, there’s something nice about returning movies to the simpler times of “Die Hard,” just having fun without worrying about being clever or politically correct. And yet, there is something inherently smart with the way that John McClane has been brought into modern times by mixing two very different worlds. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll be glad to have Willis back in the saddle, but I’m sure that this is just as thrilling if you’ve never seen a “Die Hard” movie in your life.”
One thing I already like – from the sounds of it – about the film is that it’s skipped on the CGI. The Hollywood Reporter says that, “Stunt work is among the best ever committed to film. There is something very satisfying in this digital age about an action film where CGI doesn’t overwhelm, actors are in great physical shape and huge spaces are actual sets.”
If there’s one thing I hate about most of today’s blockbusters it’s CGI. Some movies, like “Transformers” need CGI, but then there’s other films – action films like this one – that use it only for the reason that it’s trendy… or that it’s available. It’s fuckin’ off-putting… you want to be sucked into a movie’s storyline. You want to be taken on a journey. You don’t want to be playing spot the artificial lightning bolt for fucks sake.
I think being sceptic is a good thing in some respects, because if the film’s good, you’ll enjoy it even more. There’s nothing worse than walking into a movie that you’ve built-up to think is going to be like the equivalent of 69ing with Carmen Electra to walk out bitterly disappointed and underwhelmed. Josh at Cinema Blend walked into the theatre expecting the worse from “Live Free or Die Hard” and surprised himself. “I walked into the theater expecting the worst from Live Free or Die Hard. It’s the first in the franchise to be rated a wimpy PG-13 instead of a very Hard R, and it didn’t help that when I walked up to the cinema where it was to be shown that the signs out front proclaimed the screening sponsored by a local easy listening radio station. There’s nothing hard about any of that, nothing hard at all. But this fourth Die Hard movie is a pleasant surprise. Though they’ve taken the annoying tact of truncating the “f” word off the end of John McClane’s trademark catchphrase, otherwise the hard-hitting, beat to a bloody pulp edge that these movies have always had remains. Director Len Wiseman accomplishes that inside a PG-13 rating by taking the film right to the MPAA’s edge. He’s appeased the Fox executives desire to make it teen friendly by shaving inches (blood spatters only 4 inches instead of 11), and still leaves enough room for McClane to punch the shit out of all of that prime demo pandering crap.”
Fred at CanMag blew over it too. “McClane is in top form. About a third of the way into the movie, he gets delirious, laughing hysterically at danger and talking back to no one in particular. He says being hurt is sexy. He does joke about all the past adventures that have threatened his life and he seems like he’s at the point where he’s had it with these motherf***in’ terrorists in the motherf***in’ city.”
A quick look at Rotten Tomatoes sees the film is generally across-the-board liked – 76% of reviewers gave it the thumbs up. Not bad at all.
I haven’t seen the film, and knowing that it doesn’t open here for about 6 weeks, I’ll probably be one of the last online reviewers to cover it. I’m looking forward to it, if only because I love the character of John McClane, but I, like most of you, am a little put-off by the rating… I think a few ‘fucks’ and a few decapitations don’t go astray in a movie like this. I’m also a little cheesed – and I know it’s probably just a case of the studio not wanting someone ‘her age’ on screen; its ok for a guy to be old, not so much for a woman, fuckin’ wrong but that’s Hollywood – that Bonnie Bedelia hasn’t returned as Holly McClane since “Die Hard 2”, some seventeen years ago, too. She was such a big part of the first film – and the second one, to an extent – and she had great chemistry with Bruce. It’s a pity the filmmakers haven’t included her, at least having her make a quick appearance, because it’s only natural that she and John would’ve crossed paths (problems aside) since John Amos got ate by a propeller. Still, lets be thankful that the film DID happen (it didn’t look like it was ever going to happen there for a while – it’s had about a hundred writers on it) and more so, give thanks that FOX didn’t go with Jessica Simpson as Lucy McClane; the ex-Newlywed did test for the role.
So let’s look at what’s good and what’s not, according to the reviewers that have seen it, about this new “Die Hard”.
Bruce Willis is great As McClane.
The action sequences – mostly practical stunts – kick ass.
The pace is spot-on. A lot of the film is exhilarating.
Despite the PG-13, there are still a lot of good guy vs., bad guy skirmishes.
Bruce still says his trademark line (though it’s truncated)
Len Wiseman is loyal to the series and proves himself as a director.
The language and violence has been trimmed down.
No hair on Bruce’s head.
Too cartoonish at times – both storyline and the character.
Kevin Smith’s cameo takes you out of the movie.
Justin Long gets annoying.
Be interesting to see how it does over the weekend….. with the critics. I don’t think box office is going to a problem.
My take will be up in, well… lets just say when its released here, you guys will have forgotten about it.
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