Junky’s Review – Living Free
My review is much on par with the others, but with minor differences. Though on the whole it sounds like I enjoyed it the most.
My expectations were quite low – and I was pleasantly surprised.
Gonna keep it short and sweet.
Myself and 6 friends, middle row – Mann Chinese at 10:20pm show
Skeptical but up for a good time.
Really enjoyed HOSTAGE, the unsung Bruce Willis thriller that had a very Die Hard feel to it – tone, grounded character, and a relationship between a cop (Willis) and a young boy trapped in a house during a hostage situation – their only communication through a handset radio. In a sense, this was an unoffical Die Hard sequel – and an interesting one, because it put McClaine on the other end of the radio. That movie suffered from an over-the-top villain (the arty, bisexual boyfriend from Six Feet Under) and a few suspensions of disbelief. But on the whole, was solid.
So my only plus going into Die Hard 4 was that they had mined the same writer for the task. All in all, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD, while not only having a title actually relevant to the plot, is FULL of character. I loved the dialogue – loved John McClaine feeling very much in character to me, yet having grown (weary) since the previous films, which makes total sense to me.
Mac guy is shockingly likeable and is of course the audience’s eyes – his quips feel real and tossed off in the moment as opposed to forced and overwritten. his odd-couple pairing with McClaine also feels real, necessary to plot and has a nice, earned arc.
Lucy McClaine is a small role that could have easily been mis-handled, but she is no doubt a McClaine through and through and in some ways I enjoyed her interactions most of all.
Timothy Olephant as the villain. Well, I’m mixed. I’m gonna say I wish his character was more defined, and yet I think he’s the BEST Die Hard villain since Hans Gruber, hands down. Better to underplay than over-do it, I say. And his banter with McClaine is real, tense and never over-the-top, as was the case in the second (and especially third) films. I like that Olephant is cool under pressure (like Hans) and really never goes psycho, like so many bad villains — (again, see HOSTAGE) and in the Die Hard tradition – everyone, for the most part, seem like REAL PEOPLE (as opposed to superheroes) caught up in a very big situation.
Which is what brings us to the weakest part of the movie – the action. Yes, the effects are great, there are plenty of cheer moments, etc. ESPECIALLY the fight between McClaine and ninja girl. However, in an effort to compete with other special effects blockbusters of the time, what is most un DIE HARD about this movie – is the over the top action.
Borrowing action sequences right out of larger-than-life movies like TRUE LIES and THE LOST WORLD JURASSIC PARK, McClaine is put into ridiculous circumstances that make him appear made of rubber and able to defy gravity – much like Spider-Man or other artful superheroes.
Still, they TRY as much as possible to make all McClaine’s solutions rely on ingenuity, bravery and more than just a little bit of luck. They try their best to keep him human, recognizing that this is the very best of Die Hard. Yet, with a need to make such ridiculous action setpieces work, you are slightly taken out of the movie when things get cartoony.
And finally, while still on the subject of actors – I’m gonna do a total 180 on everybody. Much as I’m sure Cybergosh surprised everyone with his distaste for the Kevin Smith cameo, I’m here to say he was absolutely fine with me.
Would I rather he were not in the movie? Yes, I do think it’s distracting. BUT, I was dreading his scene soooo much, and I thought he actually played the role in a grounded way, didn’t go for the kind of schtick I’ve seen him do in his movies, and just played a role. To be honest, I’ve never liked him more.
So all in all I gotta say I lived very free during this movie. Did not miss the R rating (but woulda been nice), wished the villain and his henchmen were a teeny bit more defined, but all in all it did more to capture the DIE HARD flavor than I’d ever imagined – and in todays market, I think that’s pretty much a miracle.
It’s nice to know I live in a world where Bruce Willis is still so fun to watch. He’s still a star that packs a punch in every sense.
I’d see it again – and that’s praise you don’t get from me often anymore.
SIDENOTE – wonder if they’d EVER do another Die Hard video game. In the last one, NAKATOMI PLAZA for Gamecube, I never got past the first stage because it sucked so hard. But I do recall you played Lucy McClaine as a rookie cop. Clearly now requires some retro-continuity fixes, unless we are meant to believe that it is a sequel to Live Free or Die Hard, taking place in the near-future. Slusssssssh.
Oh, found the music hacky and distracting.
And… I don’t know if it’s the directing I find fault with, because the direction of the actors was top notch. But yes, the action (like so many movies these days) felt choppy and staged — which is more an editing issue to me than anything. In a world where SO MUCH of your action scenes require complicated motion mattes and such, it must be harder than ever to direct these sequences.
I imagine the role of the action director to be more challenging than ever. If you get a guy who’s all about techno-saavy, you get Michael Bay and George Lucas. A guy who’s more traditional and character-based is really gonna have to trust his DP and FX crew. So it’s hard to be a jack of all trades I would think. If I had to choose of course, give me directors like this one over Bay any day — give me character or give me death.