Friday, June 29, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard / Die Hard 4.0

Return of the Supercop!

Yippie-Ki-Yay, motherfucker!

John McClane, USA's supercop, returns to the big screens. being at the wrong place at the wrong time yet again, kicking some major terrorists ass since the original Die Hard way back in 1988. It has been almost 12 years since Bruce Willis last starred in the definitive cop role, which some would arguably state that Die Hard had kick started the action movie blockbusters in the late 80s to 90s.

I was just a 12 year old kid when I watched the original Die Hard, with a bruised and battered McClane surviving on gut instinct and an incredible amount of sly wit to turn the tables on the bad guys despite being heavily outnumbered. And with a building not big enough as his playground, Die Hard 2 saw him move up a level to weave in and out of an airport. Samuel L Jackson tag teams Willis in Die Hard with a Vengeance, where they run around NY City playing Simon Says, and now, McClane has to take on a group of multi-nationality mercenary geeks who threaten the entire USofA. The playground keeps getting bigger, but that's only befitting a supercop, ain't it. both in threat level and geography.

Mark Bomback's story in Live Free or Die Hard continues to paint a picture of woe for McClane. You'd expect a supercop like himself to be highly decorated, rewarded, commended etc, but as it turns out, he's painfully divorced, has almost nothing except for the shirt on his back, his daughter Lucy, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, (Death Proof, Final Destination 3) refuses to acknowledge him, and nothing could be worst than an escorting mission right out of 16 Blocks, right?

And that's where he gets to the fabled wrong place wrong time territory, getting back to the formula. In fetching an easily impressed geek hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long), he finds himself in the thick of the plot to bring down the national infrastructure in a coordinated takeover using a Fire Sale methodology which Farrell unwittingly contributed, and it's up to the duo to save USA, especially when the old school cop obviously had his inadequacy and disdain for technology show, sometimes leading to comedy.

While most of the action sequences have been shown in the trailers, and while they might look like your usual car chases, explosions and gun battles, somehow there is still a "die hard" feel to them all. Perhaps this can be attributed to formula again, and some familiarity of "have we seen this before" (aka the lift shaft sequence), only to have them being updated for today, and of course, being a little faster, a little more furious, than our aging hero could handle. There's a scene which might make some scream "True Lies!", and Maggie Q unfortunately is a tad overrated, relegated into a typical role that if it's Asian, then there must be some kung-fu involved.

And speaking of the bad guys, the Die Hard franchise have always featured foreign subversive elements, like Euro terrorist Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) in Die Hard, and his brother Simon Gruber (Jeremy Irons) wanting to avenge Hans in Die Hard With a Vengeance, while some General in a fictional country made McClane Die Harder. The trend continues here, especially with the employment of Frenchmen who can do Parkour. The motivation, save for Die Harder, has always been the same - Money.

The bad guys of course never learn from history, and repeat the same mistakes. In this one, while they seem a little smug with themselves, actually work with less loyalty than those in the other movies. Timothy Olyphant's Thomas Gabriel comes from within, out to prove a point as a disgruntled ex-government employee, Obviously Thomas has no respect for history, and although he has access to records, is quite oblivious to know who he's messing with, and repeating the same mistake as Hans Gruber did in taking a family member hostage. Despite some similarities in plot development in the hopes of stalling McClane, the formula too extended to things like McClane making contact with the bad guys without actually seeing each other in the flesh.

That bit though contributed to a kink in the production, with a somewhat major error in having the walkie talkie seem like a working telephone, and bad editing made mouth movement out of sync. There are other loopholes, or some would deem ridiculous, preposterous or impossible sequences (just like how I say Die Hard With a Vengeance had this scene where Willis and Jackson slam onto containers, and yet survive), but hey, so long as McClane gets to kick some arse in a satisfactory manner, without mercy and almost always with a quip, I'm not complaining.

Die Hard 4.0 is indeed another hurrah for John McClane. Willis has played other cop roles like in Hostage, Sin City, Mercury Rising, 16 Blocks and the likes, but none of them are as memorable nor as definitive as McClane. Of late there is a return of old school heroes like Rambo and Rocky teaching their contemporary peers just how to stamp their mark in action flicks, and there absolutely is no doubt on McClane's successful return.

Yippee-Ki-Yay indeed!

Look Ma, No Guns!

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