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Movie Review: "Live Free or Die Hard" (2007)
What did you think of "Live Free or Die Hard"?
DISCLAIMER: This review may contain spoilers.
I remember the good old days in the late '90s to early '00s, back when "Die Hard 4" was in development hell. Why were those days good? Because we didn't have to find out how bad of a movie they conjured up until a decade later (more on that in a bit), all we could do was just imagine how cool of a film they could have made. That's one of the nice things about long anticipated sequels.
When the last of the ending credits for "Die Hard With A Vengeance" ascended up the screen and the music swelled, no one really knew what to expect next. First and foremost, for some time, there was a 'Die Hard 4' screenplay adapted from a script called "Tears of the Sun". This 'Die Hard 4' script was making the rounds in the late '90s, it involved John McClaine becoming stranded in the amazon jungle (his plane crashed or something to that effect) and having to fight terrorists. Pretty neat change of environment, I'd say.
For whatever reason, that idea was scratched and "Tears of the Sun" got its own film, also starring Bruce Willis as an army hero, in 2003 which sucked. Who knows what this film could have been as a 'Die Hard' movie. Who knows.
Then there was a script called "Blood of Eden" around '99 or the early '00s. The setting was a high tech undersea dwelling where McClaine was head of security and his wife's company owned the place. Some Japanese terrorists show up and, well, you can figure out the rest. The script had some great action, including a sequence where the whole place is tossed off its axis in the ocean. Think "The Abyss" meets "Die Hard". Another pretty neat idea, but also another missed opportunity.
Following that was another screenplay, which I do not recall the name of, that involved McClaine taking his daughter on vacation to an island in the Pacific or Caribbean which gets taken over by pirates (supposedly they were either all female or their leader was female, one or the other). The aim of this 'Die Hard 4' script was to bring it back down to low tech, to strip McClaine of his weaponry arsenal and rely on his wits to really... Die Hard. This script was also rumored to have McClaine possibly dying this time around too.
Oh, what could have been. All the juicy 'Die Hard' opportunities that were missed...
There was also a book called "Ignition" in the mid '00s which I believe they were also trying to convert into 'Die Hard 4', or should I say "Die Hard: Ignition"? The setting involved a space shuttle or something to that effect. Enough said.
On a side note, "The Last Boy Scout" would have made for an excellent 'Die Hard' screenplay. Not only did it have better dialogue and one-liners, it also had a better father/daughter relationship. Joe Hallenbeck's foulmouthed daughter is actually more interesting to watch than McClaine's daughter in "Live Free or Die Hard". I wonder if Shane Black was ever approached to write "Die Hard 4"?
Which finally brings us to the script of "WW3.COM". A band of internet terrorists practically shut down the entire United States of America. Sound familiar? That's because this is the script that actually made it into production and became "Live Free or Die Hard".
Now, I don't think this sequel is 100% bad. I don't think it's "Halloween: Resurrection" bad, "Obsessed" bad, "(INSERT ANY MADEA MOVIE HERE)" bad, "Twilight" bad, "Diary of the Dead" bad,"Terminator 3" bad, or even "Catwoman" bad. But, however, "Live Free or Die Hard", for all intents and purposes, is a bad 'Die Hard' sequel. It actually makes "Die Hard 2: Die Harder" look a hundred times better than what some people say.
So since this movie is not 100% bad, what good qualities does it possess?
Overall, the plot set-up of this film isn't all that bad. It's the execution that kills it. The acrobatic terrorist, who keeps on escaping McClaine's traps until the very end, was great. The scene where Gabriel (the lead bad guy) looks at McClaine's files was good, as well as the scene where McClaine tricks Mai (Gabriel's girlfriend) to blow their own cover over the police radio. Heck, even Gabriel's viral videos were brilliant.
There are some very notable action sequences in this film too.
- Matt's apartment and the escape that follows.
- The truck chase at the end.
- The scene in the stairwell where McClaine shoots a bad guy in the foot.
- McClaine's fight with Russo where he throws him down the stairs in a chair.
- McClaine's fight with Rand in the cooling tower.
- The helicopter/car chase.
I can even pick out a few worthy lines of dialogue from this movie (mind you, about 75-80% of the dialogue in this movie is horrible):
- JOHN: "Is the circus in town?"
- JOHN: "That'll wake the neighbors."
- JOHN: "I was out of bullets".
- JOHN: "It's Detective McClaine, a-hole" (sorry for the censoring)
- JOHN: "Damn hamster!" and "Stay still, spider-boy!"
- JOHN: "You're shooting the wrong guy!" and "Is that your best shot!?"
- GABRIEL: "Please, John, I'm trying to have a conversation."
- LUCY: "You shot yourself" and JOHN: "It seemed like a good idea at the time."
Despite those good things about it, it's really not enough to save this film from what it really is. Everything from McClaine and Matt escaping the apartment building right down to the police car chase with the chopper has tension in it, but then the movie begins to lose steam after that.
Make a Good Opening Sequence or Die Hard
For a highly anticipated sequel that took twelve years to make, the transition here is horrible. Compared to the past three 'Die Hard' films, "Live Free or Die Hard" has one sucker of an opening. We open to a bunch of computer hackers getting blown up followed by a very lame sequence of titles. Speaking of titles, remember that cool font that they used for the last three films? That's gone. Talk about doing your research, Len Wiseman.
Speaking of research, I must say the references to the past movies are equally disappointing. Aside from the forced delivery of "It's not McClaine, it's Genero!", the only other real reference we get is the Agent Johnson joke. What is the Agent Johnson joke, you ask? Well, if you don't know what it is, then I don't blame you. To the filmmakers... Most people will not get the Agent Johnson joke, idiots. What a waste. I'm surprised they didn't bother referencing the 'another basement' line when McClaine is navigating through the lower level of the Social Security building.
A convincing villain is a necessity when making a 'Die Hard' film. Both "Die Hard" and "Die Hard With A Vengeance" had the best villains in the franchise thus far. While Colonel Stewart in "Die Hard 2: Die Harder" was more or less one dimensional, he was depicted as a very menacing threat to mess with nonetheless.
Now, some time back during the production period of "Live Free or Die Hard", Jeffrey Wright was in talks to play the villain this time around. Upon hearing this news, I was so excited because all the lead villains in the 'Die Hard' films have been white and mostly from foreign countries, and who better to play a black villain in 'Die Hard' film than Jeffrey Wright? He's one of the best actors out there.
Unfortunately, that part went to Timothy Olyphant. Now, I don't despise Timothy Olyphant's acting abilities, but I don't think he was the best candidate for this role. Perhaps he would have been better off as the 2nd-in-command bad guy, one of the lead henchmen; but as the lead villain himself, his portrayal is probably the weakest in the series.
Die Hard or Shut Up
Who wrote this movie again? A good portion (not all) of the dialogue in this movie is just horrible. Let's take that very first scene with John McClaine and his daughter for example:
JOHN: "Okay. I'm sorry for pulling your 'not boyfriend' out of the car."
How about when Matt Farrell's neighbor blows his cover in front of McClaine?
MATT: (to neighbor) "Good luck at the bad timing awards."
Oh wait, I have an even better one:
MATT: "I'm not a doctor, but you look like you're hurt"
JOHN: "It's sexy, right?"
WTF was that!? Now that has got to be a bad case of a writer trying way too hard to be Shane Black.
But the trail doesn't end there, folks. Oh no. Feast your eyes on these:
GABRIEL: (to Lucy) "Behave... or I will hurt you."
Wow. I'm very intimidated.
GABRIEL: "So what's the plan, John, are you coming to get me?"
JOHN: "Yep, that's ma' plan!"
This is not 'Die Hard'. This is a case of two immature teenagers conversing with each other (especially that last line).
How's about we take things out of context for the big chase scene at the end:
DEPUTY BOWMAN: "Where's Farrell?"
JOHN: "He's with them"
Talk about a bad choices of words. Couldn't he say 'They took him too'? Because 'He's with them' makes it sound as if Matt betrayed McClaine and is now working for the terrorists.
A Tale of Two John McClaines
John McClaine is not in this movie. Neither is Bruce Willis... well, at least, not the same one from the '90s. This is someone totally different. And don't give me that BS about because he's bald.
That's not it. Bald Bruce Willis can definitely work, "Twelve Monkeys" is proof of that. Compare Bald Bruce from "Twelve Monkeys" to Bald Bruce of "Live Free or Die Hard". Two different characters? Yes. But same actor? No, not exactly. Also, the situation he's dealing with in "Twelve Monkeys" is a 'Die Hard' situation to a certain extent.
Anyway, my issue here is that John McClaine is way, way too cocky this time around. Are we sure this is Bruce Willis here and not Will Smith?
I have heard many try to justify that McClaine's past experiences have made him more wiser and fearless now. So that makes it okay for him to be some daredevil super-cop who faces every challenge knowing that he will overcome it? Sorry, but there's nothing 'ordinary' about this. John McClaine is supposed to be an ordinary detective caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time. But in this case, it's more like a beloved action franchise caught up in the wrong script with the wrong director.
The point of this film is that he's an aging detective now, right? He doesn't show any signs of aging to me. Also, shouldn't he be a bit more concerned about having walked into another terrorist situation? Who the heck wants to go see a 'Die Hard' movie where a 50-something John McClaine is driving a police car towards a helicopter while saying "Haha! Think a chopper is gonna stop me?" How's about, "John, what the F are you doing!?" -- Now THAT sounds more like the John McClaine we all know and love.
Eat Soap or Die Hard
Remember that scene in "A Christmas Story" when the kid dropped the F-bomb and the mom put soap in his mouth as punishment? Well, that pretty much explains what happened to this fourth 'Die Hard' film. The first three movies had a vocabulary so explicit that it could turn an old lady's head and make her faint. Now, those three films pay for that vocabulary by having soap shoved in its mouth (or should I say, by having its screenplay drowned in soapy water?).
Welcome to "Die Hard With A PG-13".
Now, it could have been worse, this movie could have been directed by a soccer mom. I mean Cruella Deville could have been the villain, right? Something like John McClaine takes his grandkids on a trip to Walt Disney World and has to fight animated terrorists (Think along the lines of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"). This could have been as dumb as a "Spy Kids" movie. But thank God, they didn't go to those extremes to ruin this great action series.
It's these kind of dumbed-down, censored, PG-13 action crap-fests that lead to 'Grand Theft Auto' game addictions. Seriously, walking out of a long-awaited sequel that has stooped to such low levels just makes you want to pick up a PS3 controller and start hijacking cars, going on massive shooting sprees, promoting bloodshed everywhere in Liberty City. Anything just to shake off that watered-down PG-13 ickiness you just had to endure.
When watching this movie, you can tell they were trying to restrain themselves from using curse words because during almost every scene where McClaine is getting shot at or is running away from gunfire, he keeps repeating "Get down" or "Get your head down" or "Just hang on to something" instead of "S***!" or "F-me" (my apologies, dear readers, I have to water down my explicit examples to avoid getting terminated, it's not me). It was actually getting pretty annoying after hearing "Get down" for the 30th time.
Even the gore and bloodshed is restrained in many scenes. Take the hamster guy's (Rand) death when he falls into the fans. There's hardly any blood and it's only for a couple of seconds.
Yippie-Ki-Yay, Mother [GUNSHOT]
Ah yes, the moment we've all been waiting for. The Yippie-Ki-Yay moment in "Live Free or Die Hard" has to be one of the most controversial things about the film. The last word of the line happens to be censored by a gunshot. Thanks a lot, kiddies.
While I do think the fact that McClaine had to shoot through his own wound in order to kill the lead villain is actually a pretty cool idea, the overall climatic setting in general is boring and the fact that they had to censor part of McClaine's trademark one-liner is just sleazy and disgraceful.
We go from the epic truck chase to a low key uninspired hangar. Were these guys even trying when writing this? I still think, to this day, that "Die Hard 2: Die Harder" takes the cake for having not only the best climatic battle, but also the best use of McClaine's 'Yippie-Ki-Yay- line.
The end of "Die Hard 2" sees McClaine duking it out with the bad guys on the wing of a moving airplane just before take off. Hands down, this is the best climatic sequence in the entire series. You mean to tell me that Len Wiseman didn't even bother taking up the challenge to top this?
Random Things That Make No Sense
- Why is it that, during many of the scenes, one bad guy is speaking to another bad guy in a foreign language yet the bad guy whom he is speaking to is replying to him in english? If the initiator knows english and the other person is talking to him in english then speak ****ING english!
- Before the final fight between McClaine and Rand (the acrobatic guy) in the fan room, Gabriel tells Rand to go kill McClaine and he'll give him Mai's cut of the money if he succeeds. However, two or three scenes later, when Gabriel is talking to McClaine via radio, Rand can be seen standing right behind Gabriel, observing. So why the heck is still there!?
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