Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: containes violence & offensive language
Bruce Willis as Detective John McClane
Justin Long as Matthew “Matt” Farrell
Timothy Olyphant as Thomas Gabriel
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Lucy Gennero-McClane
Maggie Q as Mai Linh
Director: Len Wiseman
The Director of FBI’s Cyber Crime Division assigns John McClane the task of tracking down a hacker. John ends up working with an ethical hacker who helps him deal with the cyber criminals.
Live Free or Die Hard (or Die Hard 4) was the fourth movie in the Die Hard series, released 12 years after the last movie. I do recall people being a bit mixed on this movie, especially as it leans into more a conventional action blockbuster and feeling less like Die Hard. To a degree it is partially a let-down after Die Hard with a Vengeance but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
The movie is definitely ridiculous even by Die Hard standards, with regard to the plot and with the action (particularly near the end). Die Hard with a Vengeance increased the scale to the entirety of New York City, so as you can expect, the fourth movie’s scale is even larger. Live Free or Die Hard pits John McClane against younger cyberterrorists and while the plot does feels very late 2000s and dated, cyberterrorism was a decent choice of antagonism to keep the series from just rehashing the past. Some of the changes do make the movie feel less like Die Hard, it’s pretty much a generic action plot that happens to have John McClane as the protagonist. With that said, McClane does play a big part in this movie working. Despite feeling less like typical Die Hard, I appreciate the changes made to the formula, especially with how the last movie was made over a decade prior, and it does its best to modernise it.
Bruce Willis returns once again to the iconic role of John McClane. I wouldn’t say that this is Willis in top form, and the movie effectively turning him from a down to earth cop and underdog into an indestructible superhero who survives unbelievable dangers. At the same time, he is still really good here. As a more grizzled John, Willis is surprisingly engaged in this role and still delivers as his character. Live Free or Die Hard is a typical mid to late 2000s action movie with cyberterrorists but the one thing that makes it work is John McClane, it would be a much weaker movie without him. Willis is protecting a hacker character played by Justin Long, who had the potential to be annoying but actually worked okay here. The chemistry between the two certainly wasn’t at the level of Willis with Jackson in the previous movie, but their banter is enjoyable enough. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays McClane’s daughter and isn’t in it much but is good in her screentime. Timothy Olyphant as the villain is fine enough for this movie. He isn’t all that intimidating or convincing, but at least was different enough of a villain compared to McClane’s past antagonists. There is a Kevin Smith cameo in this, while I’m not going to say I disliked it, it was certainly distracting.
Len Wiseman directs this movie, and his work is decent. This is the first PG-13 Die Hard movie, meaning that the violence is toned down and is less bloody despite the high bodycount. I have issues with it for sure but it doesn’t ruin the movie for me. Something you’ll notice immediately is that it looks so different from the rest of the franchise, fitting right into the late 2000s mold of action cinema mainly with the cinematography and lighting. The action is competently handled even if it doesn’t reach the heights of the first or third movies. The action is often cartoonishly over the top and far fetched, but at least it is creative and fun to watch. I will say though that the over-the-top action does eventually lead to a lack of tension since John seems to survive soe many ridiculous situations.
Live Free or Die Hard definitely has its faults. The story is fairly generic, and it does lose some of its identity of a Die Hard movie. However I do think it is entertaining. The story is at least watchable, the action is fun to watch, and Bruce Willis is once again great to watch as John McClane. Considering many of its aspects, the updated modern day setting, the PG-13 rating, the fact that it’s the 4th movie in the franchise and 12 years since the last instalment, it could’ve been a lot worse. This was the more ideal place for the franchise to stop. Die Hard had to evolve, from 2 to 3 and from 3 to 4 but at this point its lost its identity as a Die Hard movie and would be best leaving it at that. Unfortunately there was a fifth movie after this.