Live Free or Die Hard: Unrated Version (2007)

So, I opted on the DVD to watch the Unrated version, which sported a few F bombs and a little more edge. I’m sure the Rated and Unrated version probably didn’t sport many differences, but I owed it to myself to give the Unrated version the top priority. I won’t babble about Die Hard, or why the PG-13 rating is stupid, instead I’ll talk about Mary Elizabeth Winstead. This girl is absolutely gorgeous and sure, she may not be Meryl Streep, but she’s definitely one of the finer girls in film today and I dig her role her as John McClane’s daughter Lucy who is, like her dad, rebellious, smart mouthed, and always seems to stare evil down the throat with a smirk.

In a sense it could be a reflection on the neo-feminazi pop culture engineered by Hollywood, but I actually just attribute it to the fact that she’s McClane’s daughter. Is the movie about her? No, not by a mile, “Live Free or Die Hard” really only features her for a small portion in the climax, and instead rejoins John McClane years after seclusion where he’s now an over-protective dad who follows his daughter around. After internet terrorists begin assassinating hackers and rigging the US to break down, McClane is called in to escort Matthew Farrell to the authorities to help on the case, but Farrell is on the hit list, and now John has to see him to the government and protect his life. Let’s face it, the framework for the movie dictates that this could have been just any other action movie without the “Die Hard” tag, but the cast surely makes the best of it.

John McClane is still the tough talking, take no prisoners action hero, and Bruce Willis is great here. Bald, thinner and older, Willis approaches McClane again with a different sentiment turning him into another man just doing his job, and being royally pissed off by the new breed of terrorism and criminal element that he simply doesn’t understand. Escorting him in the sidekick theme prevalent in the series is Justin Long, who is a hacker being hunted by terrorist Gabriel’s forces, and pretty much becomes a compact version of McClane, an average smart ass pulled into a humongous situation that he doesn’t know how to handle.

Long is always funny, and director Wiseman allows him to garner some laughs as Willis’ sidekick, with interplay between the two that is just hilarious. Granted, the set pieces and setting are much more elevated in the action fantasy genre, and not the grit of New York City, but there are some genuinely entertaining sequences that inspired my attention including McClane’s battle with a fighter jet, and a fight in an elevator shaft. McClane is a great film hero in the vein of Dirty Harry, and Willis doesn’t miss a beat. As for Maggie Q, she has a memorable presence here and grabs the best scenes battling with McClane in a laboratory which end up being deliriously far-fetched, but fantastic nonetheless. As an installment of the “Die Hard” series, I don’t know if I loved it like the other films, but I just had fun with what it laid out on the table.

When is Hollywood going to learn that computer geeks are not scary? They keep attempting to perpetuate an image of the dangerous internet nerd, and it’s forced on us in this lame villain that couldn’t hold a candle to the previous villains if he tried. Okay, sure computer viruses and bringing down the American economy is horrifying, but when have you ever been intimidated by someone at a keyboard? Never. And surely enough the writers don’t provide much of an argument to find our villains scary beyond what they’re capable of with a computer.

After that, there’s pretty much nothing to the villain Gabriel who is branded with a cliché moniker, and a boring temperament that keeps him one of the blander megalomaniacs in the “Die Hard” franchise. The entire time Timothy Olyphant looks bored and his grumbling and mugging for the camera makes for an individual who really fails to keep us in suspense. I wondered where the Timothy Olyphant with the psychotic gleam and twitchy eye from “Deadwood” and “Go” went the entire time here, and dappered up like a Wall Street broker and dialogue comprised of mild whispers and one-liners, he’s pretty much the villain of the new world: A whiny, pompous, and limp internet geek who groans about his life, and can’t really cut it in the man’s world.

The writers play on the old world McClane battling the new world villainy ad nauseum and I just couldn’t get over how much of the displaced hero in modern times theme was pushed on us from minute one with McClane acting as both the chiseled square jawed hero and the crotchety old man muttering “I don’t understand today’s machines! You damn whippersnappers!” All at once he’s a contradiction, and a superhero. He fights with his daughter because he doesn’t understand young relationships, he fights with authorities because he doesn’t understand modern procedure, he fights with internet villains because he doesn’t understand today’s technology, and he fights with character Faller because he simply doesn’t understand today’s youth. The old generation-new generation dichotomy between McClane and Farrell is weak, and the writers simply milk it for all its worth.

On the flipside, McClane is completely deviated from his original character mold and he goes from the Everyman in a big situation to a rock star superhero who can fall out of windows without breaking a bone in his body, he can jump high places, can turn cars into projectiles, and is so self-assured that he challenges a fighter jet, and never has a hint of fear or helplessness when fighting to find his daughter. I miss the McClane with a small belly and stubble, and he’s nowhere to be found here.  Its hyperactive 80’s chic action crap and I had a blast just the same. It’s far from being as good as the past “Die Hard” installments what with weak political commentary and a lame villain, but nonetheless, I had fun, and Willis thrives as McClane.