LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD
starring Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Cliff Curtis
screenplay by Mark Bomback
directed by Len Wiseman
starring Shia LaBeouf, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel, Jon Voight
screenplay by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman
directed by Michael Bay
by Walter Chaw I remember the way I felt as a lad of fifteen when I saw John McTiernan's Die Hard, that tingly excitement of not being able to figure out how we were going to get out of this fine mess. The bad guys were smarter than the good guys, their plan was perfect, the henchmen were ruthless eurotrash, and the hero didn't have shoes. Understand it wasn't fear that the baddies would win, but trust that the filmmakers knew what they were doing even though their methods were mysterious: I could let myself relax because the heavy-lifting was already done for me. I felt the same way as Live Free or Die Hard (hereafter Die Hard 4) unspooled its tale of computer hackers running the world from the basements of their mothers' homes: if the bad guys could hijack anything controlled by a computer (that is, pretty much everything), then what hope would a bald, 52-year-old, Luddite cop with an estranged family and a worn-out smirk have? The film plays on that despair and, unlike in the second (awful) and third (excellent) instalments of this series, John McClane (Bruce Willis) seems fresh again, a walking revelation that even action heroes get old and obsolete to the point where they're cautionary tales for young studs and metaphors for their own careers. Remember Harrison Ford in Firewall? Instead of acknowledging that the world eventually passes you by, leaving you embittered and bellicose (as Die Hard 4 shows), Ford's character in Firewall is not only good with a knuckle sandwich, but also a "with it" computer stud. As miscalculations go, that's more pathetic than most.