Unrated, but I cheated. For me, I wanted to watch the unrated cut because it feels more like a real Die Hard movie. But I also know that the theatrical cut was actually pretty low on swearing. This also might be a commentary on how okay we all are with violence over anything else. It seems like 2007 was a totally different time. I know it wasn't THAT long ago, but this movie is still in the era of shock pop culture. There's a lot of regressive ideas in this movie. But otherwise, it's just another entry in the Die Hard franchise.
DIRECTOR: Len Wiseman
Gah! Len Wiseman. Seriously, I will give you a second to look up this guy's production credits. In 2007, I was 23. I knew then that giving Len Wiseman the newest Die Hard movie was a bad idea. The guy only knew how to make Underworld movies. I don't love the Underworld movies. They seemed like absolute nonsense washed over with a blue filter. I suppose I could stop writing my critique of Live Free or Die Hard with that descriptor. This movie is kind of a lot of nonsense with a blue filter. I mean, at the time, I thought the movie was rad and that it was okay for the movie to exist with a PG-13. But Live Free or Die Hard's biggest problem isn't that it is bad. It's a completely watchable movie. I actually had fun with it for a certain amount of time. The worst part about Live Free or Die Hard is that it is completely forgettable. I watched this movie a week ago. Admittedly, I watched a billion movies after Live Free or Die Hard, but I am having actual difficulty picking out major moments of the plot while writing this. I paid attention. I did my due diligence. It isn't even the first time that I've seen this move, but I still don't remember much about the movie.
The thing about Live Free or Die Hard is that it just feels like the action-movie-of-the-week. Die Hard with a Vengeance wasn't made to be a Die Hard movie. It was supposed to just be an action movie. But when you watch that movie, it feels like a very special entry in the franchise. It transcended the movie of the week formula and added to the canon. Honestly, Live Free or Die Hard kind of feels like if you changed Bruce Willis's character name to anything other than "John McClane", you wouldn't know any better. I know that people would instantly make the comparison between his character and John McClane, but that's true about any Bruce Willis vehicle. (Except for the one that he drives down an elevator shaft! ZING!) Part of that comes with the topic. In the planning stages of this movie, I can completely see a screenwriter thinking that it is genius to take John McClane, the original analog action hero and put him in the digital age. I'm not going to complain about how dated the futuristic world of 2007 looked like. It holds up better than I give it credit for. But that conflict isn't the focus of the film. John McClane is really good at adapting to situations. That's kind of his schtick. He hates all of it, but he adapts anyway. He learned how to seal off floors and take back a tower. He learned how to land airplanes during a blizzard. He solved puzzles and that guy seems like he hates puzzles. Saying that John McClane can't deal with cyberterrorists is pretty silly. They even gave him his own white hat hacker to help him out. That barrier between what he can and what he can't do isn't really there. I can't help but think of Zeus in Die Hard with a Vengeance. I mean, on the surface it looks like the same thing. But McClane really thought that he was contributing to solving the puzzles presented to him. This created a nice dynamic between Zeus and McClane. Instead, Live Free or Die Hard has a very different dynamic. McClane shot people and did all of the action sequences. Justin Long did all of the computer stuff. Neither one wanted the other's job. Farrell was afraid of guns. McClane was annoyed by computers. Everyone got in his comfort zone and that was that.
I'm going to go on my big woke rant now. I'm sorry that I keep doing this, but analysis means that I have to watch things critically and comment on them. The opening lines of this movie has Ferrell talking to Maggie Q's character. The first line that this character gets is him sexually harassing Maggie Q. The only reason that he recognizes that Maggie Q is faking being a dispatcher is because he sexually harassed her over the phone earlier. That's our hero. If you really wanted to fight me tooth and nail --and who doesn't? --you could say that he learns his lesson by the end. But the thing is, he learns lots of lessons. Not sexually harassing women isn't one of them. If anything, his toxic masculinity is the thing that saves them in this situation. Yes, Maggie Q is one of the villains. But Bruce Willis regularly calls her the b-word throughout. Sometimes he's doing this to get a rise out of Thomas Gabriel, played by Timothy Olyphant in his worst performance to date. (For years, I refused to watch anything with Timothy Olyphant because of this movie. I then watched Justified and realized that he's an enormously talented actor and it was probably Len Wiseman's lack of direction.) Honestly, Live Free or Die Hard might be Exhibit A for how backwards we got in our filmmaking and representation. I haven't watched A Good Day to Die Hard yet. But the reason that it may have failed miserably is that John McClane is too outdated. I know, as a James Bond fan, who am I to say that some character is way too regressive? But McClane really became unfunny for a lot of his quips. When he's talking to a terrorist and calling him names, they tend to not reflect on gender or gender norms. But even when Maggie Q's character is dead, he is referring to either her gender or her ethnicity. To get Gabriel mad, he refers to how she looks and that's supposed to be okay? It's just gross. I'm a white male preaching and I know that I'm mentally patting myself on the back, but I was actually a little taken aback. Also, it makes me not really like Justin Long's character. He's this love interest for John McClane's daughter. McClane says "No", but in the most adorable way possible. He should honestly be mortified with how Long's character thinks about women.
But again, the movie has the biggest problem with being forgettable. Look at moment one in the film. We have the opening credits and the screen shorting out. The font is what the early 2000s thought technology would look like. I don't think the other Die Hard movies really tried being anything that they weren't. I love the opening to Die Hard with a Vengeance so much. But the movie just looks like trash. I also think that part of this can be chalked up to John McClane doing bigger and badder things. In the first film, John C4's Nakatomi Tower. He has to. It's very big, but it is somehow grounded in the film. He does it to get the attention of people. He does these larger than life things, but they don't feel that insane. In Live Free or Die Hard, McClane is constantly doing things the hard way. McClane shouldn't be James Bond. He should be always trying to use a gun to blow open terrorists. Instead, he drives a car up floors of a building. While I find driving a Suburban through a facility fun, it also seems like the least practical way to take out Maggie Q. There have to be a million obstacles stopping McClane from getting there. Look how many floors up he is. That seems like the SUV should have some problems getting from point A to point B. Who would design a building like that? I'm actually a little peeved about this entire sequence the more I write about it. I know that the F-35 jet is usually the moment of excess in the film and it totally is. But McClane runs everything into Maggie Q and she keeps on going. It's completely absurd that McClane intentionally drives the car with him inside into the elevator. McClane makes these choices that don't make a lick of sense because it puts him into awesome sequences. But I don't see anyone actually making these choices. It's so bizarre. What this actually does is give McClane insane luck instead of control over his situations. That F-35, he doesn't actually do anything besides drive safe. He takes down a jet by simply surviving long enough for that thing to take him out. Yeah, he jumps on it. He should never have been able to get this close.
I also can't stop thinking about Kevin Smith's rant in this movie. (By the way, Kevin Smith really lost a lot of weight. I'm feeling depressed and therefore eating, but Kevin Smith is super tiny right now.) I won't post that footage here, but Kevin Smith has spoken out about how he thought that Bruce Willis was a cool guy based on his interactions in this movie. But Kevin Smith actually might be the most fun part of this movie. Bruce Willis looks bored doing these movies. The fun is somehow missing. It's between Len Wiseman and Bruce Willis to take some credit for why the magic is gone. Yeah, Justin Long does an okay job. I like seeing Mary Elizabeth Winstead in this movie. But this movie is just okay. It's a fun time, sure. But I'm never going to find myself quoting Live Free or Die Hard. This is another one of those franchises that had a pretty tight trilogy. But once it hit four, there's just this dip in quality. It isn't abysmal or anything. It's just stupid. I love how there's this credit to say that it's based on an article. I want to know what the author of the article thinks of this movie. The movie shoots for bombastic when it should focus on a tight story. This is the first movie of the group that focuses on McClane as a cop. The first two, McClane is accidentally at a place he shouldn't be. Part III, he's full on brought it by the bad guy. But this one, he's just responding to a call. This kind of leads to the movie trying to be bigger than the other entries. This is a movie that tries to make the entire nation in danger. The first one is a tower with his wife. The second one is an airport with his wife. The third one is New York City. Scaling upwards is not the way to go. A tense small situation is oddly more impressive than McClane driving to multiple states to take care of the problem.
It's not a terrible movie. It's just not good. I am oddly looking forward to A Good Day to Die Hard, despite the fact that everyone called it terrible. But it's a new Die Hard movie. It's going to be some time before I get to it because it's Oscar season. But regardless, I'm having a good time.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.