Friday, June 29, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard.

Len Wiseman | 2007 | 130 min | US

Die Hard was first released into threatres nearly twenty years ago. A full twelve years have passed since the series became a trilogy. Bruce Willis had passed on many a script before agreeing to make another one he felt would live up to the franchise. Between that passage of time, vying for a PG-13 rating, + attempting to make a fifty-two year old actor an action star again, this forth film definitely had its work cut out for it. Although I do not think anything could match the quintessential dueling between Willis + Alan Rickman in the original film, Live Free or Die Hard proves a worthy addition to the canon.

The plot (it doesn't matter): Willis' beleaguered detective John McClane gets caught up with a young hacker who is unwittingly involved in a grand plot to take down the technological infrastructure of the United States. McClane gets mad when they attempt to kill them both. McClane blows up everything. I am very thankful that Live Free avoided any easy Al Qaeda related plots in order to tackle the spectre of America's real enemy: Lenin-quoting nerds.

Len Wiseman (the man behind the Underworld movies) directs Live Free with a sure hand. The action is frenetic and fast paced, but never so much so that you are unable to follow what is going on. The confusing mash of random rapid-fire cuts that dominates so many action films is a pet peeve of mine. He also works with a muted colour palette that will be familiar to fans of those Underworld movies, again working with cinematographer Simon Duggan. Despite my early fears when his name was first announced as director, Wiseman's style is well suited to this film. He knows how to handle both high energy clashes + the play of personality that makes McClane such a winning character.

One of the great joys of watching the Die Hard films is that John McClane seems to derive as much amusement from seeing the erupting fireballs + improbable stunts as anyone in the theatre. This installment certainly follows that tradition + some of the funniest moments in the film come from matching McClane's excited hollers.

Also providing some greats laughs is Justin Long. He plays McClane's young hacker tag-along, Matt Farrell. Long is an excellent addition to the cast + his character allows the storyline to stretch its legs a bit more than in the previous movies.

One chink in Live Free's armor is that some of the CGI effects, most notably during a jet versus truck scene, look poor. Surprising for a blockbuster of this scale, but I can forgive it. Another weak point is the rather obvious dialogue replacement. That is more bothersome than the CGI, but really, who wants to let gratuitous cursing get in the way of their enjoyment of multiple murders + casual racism?

Live Free also includes a couple scenes of what is becoming the current action film prerequisite: parkour. Luckily, it is used sparingly + expertly by Cyril Raffaelli, who is most widely known from the cult French feature District B13. Again, Wiseman does a great job in letting these sequences unfold in front of the camera rather than trying to enhance the stunt work with camera flashiness (a technique which rarely works).

While Live Free is lengthy, it never drags. The pacing is perfect, with just the right amount of levity between blow-em-ups + a plot that unfolds without the reams of expository dialogue. It is a rare Hollywood film that justifies a two hour plus run time nowadays. Apparently the secret is to fill a script with gun play + car chases. Yesssss.


ChrisT said...

I bet bruce willis is fun to hang out with for about five minutes!!

aaron said...

id give him a full hour of fun times, but after two + half beer hed be all, 'the republican party I KNOW never would have stood for this shit!'

and thats all you would get to listen to for like the next three hours.