Does anyone out there know how Live Free or Die Hard is generally viewed today? It seems to have faded from people’s (and the internet’s) memory in the last eight years. Well I decided to check it out again and I think I understand why it just doesn’t get brought up very much.
Firstly, there are some legitimately cool things in the film like the first shootout sequence, the hand to hand fight McClane has with Maggie Q (up until they move to the elevator shaft), the computer shit isn’t as insulting as it usually is, Bruce is Bruce (even if he plays it way too cocky in this installment) and the cinematography is very nice including some particularly fucking awesome camera movements. I’ll totally give kudos for making all of the action comprehendible instead of going for the shaky cam with a million quick cuts method which was widely popular at the time. The overall technical aspects of the filmmaking are pretty well done here.
But just to be clear I don’t think this is really a good picture. The way they constantly contrast McClane’s old fashioned attitude and approach with the modern world is extremely contrived, most of the action sequences are downright cartoony (like McClane jumping off an exploding fighter jet and sliding down a collapsing freeway ramp or launching a speeding car into a helicopter somehow from the road below), the main villain (Timothy Olyphant (Gone in Sixty Seconds, Justified)) was actually cast well for what they were going for but the character itself is lame especially compared to the previous three movies, and the parkour shit is laughably dumb.
There’s one scene in particular that I want to bring up because I think it’s very interesting. At one point McClane has a conversation (more like a speech really) with Justin Long (Drag Me to Hell). He opens up and explains how being a hero isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. He says that heroism only leads to shattered relationships and a lonely existence with little acknowledgement of your honorable deeds. This is the first time McClane digs into the psyche of his previous exploits (even though he’s not naming specific events of actions). This seems kinda strange at first because in parts 2 and 3 McClane shrugs it off whenever someone mentions that “Nakatomi thing in LA” to him. But he’s getting older and sure, he’s allowed to philosophize on his life and where he currently is mentally and with his family and etc. That’s why I like this new development in the character. It’s genuinely sad to hear that McClane is still having a hard time at home. And it sounds like shit has only gotten worse with not only a wife that doesn’t want anything to do with him but now a daughter that hates his guts as well. The only minor problem with this scene is that the dialogue comes off a little too self-aware but it’s not a big deal.
Moving on, I wonder what made the studio suits choose Len Wiseman to direct because all he had done up to that point were two Underworld films. And subsequently all he did was the Total Recall remake. I can’t beat on him too much though because anyone would’ve had a hard time making the next Die Hard (especially coming off of With a Vengeance). The only possible exception is maybe McTiernan. But the big problem there is that he was wrapped up in some bad legal shit then which eventually led to him doing time.
But let’s get back to my main question: how come no one talks about this anymore? The thing is number 4 here isn’t really terrible or really good or even a forgotten gem. Everyone forgot about it because it lies somewhere in the middle. There isn’t enough to get worked up over in any way. It has some nice moments but it also has a bunch of bad ones, a few cringe worthy but mostly it’s stuff that just doesn’t stick with you.
So it’s not a total bust if you should decide to throw it on, but it leaves you with a feeling of “I guess that was sorta fun…maybe”.