Stone Cold Steve Austin- er, John McClane is back to save the world from evil.
The latest installment in the long-running Die Hard series of movies hits theaters in Manila today. Preceded by mixed reviews with an older, balder McClane and a PG-13 rating, does this latest terrorist-fighting outing hit hard or die out?
Things haven't been easy for Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) of the NYPD. After at least three instances of being thrown into 'The Wrong Place at The Wrong Time' and battling terrorist threats hand to hand, you'd think that the hero cop would be living the high life. But nooo... McClane is divorced from wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia doesn't show up- neither does pretty much anyone from past movies aside from Willis) and fighting with his now-teenage daughter, Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). He's got an average pension and quite the jaded, world-weary attitude... so when a ruthless cyberterrorist named Thomas Gabriel (Deadwood's Timothy Olyphant) starts a plan to plunge the United States back into the dark ages, getting back into the game is the last thing you'd expect from McClane. But jump in he does, with the veteran attitude of a guy who's seen a LOT of action, since he's John McClane. He's just that kind of hero.
Taking on a plot against national security and homeland defense that's ripped straight from the headlines and scary History Channel specials, Die Hard 4.0 (or Live Free or Die Hard in the US) concerns the threat of cyber-terrorism. While it may still be mystifying to some how a guy with a laptop can cause real, physical harm to anyone, the plain fact of the matter is that a genius hacker with a computer is about as dangerous as a terrorist with a loaded nuke in his backpack, just on different levels. Pretty much everything in the US is controlled by computers- traffic, power and light, security, the stock market... and if someone messes up with that, all HELL is going to break loose.
That's exactly what Gabriel and his crew of hacker-henchmen are out to do- take down the US one important piece of civilization at a time. Muck up the traffic control networks and the roads get clogged up with pileups and jams. Turn off the lights to blind the frightened masses. Take over the news and spread the terror even faster. Gabriel's thought of every scenario, prepared for every stage of his master plan (which, invariably in the Die Hard series, always ends up with a big pay-off)... except, of course, for an old-fashioned, technophobic arse named John McClane.
Given the premise that this is about 'virtual terrorists', you'd wonder if McClane was going to engage in a game of Counterstrike or Doom to put in some action. Luckily, Gabriel's minions include a small army of foreign mercenaries, including beautiful but lethal Mai Lihn (Maggie Q. from MI:3) and the Parkour-expert Rand (Cyril Raffaeli). The rest of his troops are effectively faceless thugs and goons from Mercenaries-R-Us... not as colorful or filled with personality as Hans Gruber's gang, but they do the job of shooting a lot of guns and dying in various colorful ways. As for the Big Bad himself, Tim Olyphant acquits himself well in the role of the evil hacker-supreme. He's not as suave or as cunning as Alan Rickman's Hans (Darn, who is?), nor does he have the face value or sheer villainous chops of Jeremy Irons' Simon or even the military zeal of Colonel Stuart. But with his quiet menace and ingenious use of computers to wreak absolute havoc and set up dastardly situations for McClane to tumble into, Thomas Gabriel makes for a formidable Die Hard villain; not a trained killer or veteran terrorist like previous heavies, but a thoroughly ruthless manipulator and puppet master whom McClane has to claw his way at to the very end. To his credit, Gabriel actually gets the closest to offing McClane, perhaps even closer than even Hans... and that's something.
Luckily, McClane isn't alone in his latest outing. Justin Long (the Mac guy) plays Mat Farrell, a hacker who was crucial to developing Gabriel's plans. His relationship with McClane is marked by generation gap conflict and the simple fact that he's more used to facing baddies onscreen than in real life. Thankfully, Long's character doesn't become too annoying at any point in the movie, and soon proves his worth getting dragged along.
Probably not as useful but just adding drama to the precedings is FBI agent Bowman (Cliff Curtis), who plays the series' resident "Sympathetic but Ultimately Useless Ally" for this time around. Usually seen in the middle of an office or command center full of government agents and personnel doing pretty much nothing except look pissed, Bowman is just there to clean up after McClane's messes and that's it.
Other characters include comics personality Kevin Smith as The Warlock, another hacker and Farrell's mentor- he's kinda-sorta funny and reminds me of The Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, just not as sleazy. He's not that bad and gets to act a bit more than his usual 'Silent Bob' role at least. Finally there's Lucy McClane, who surprisingly enough cracked the audience up when she proves herself to be McClane's daughter in more than just name. The way she's portrayed is priceless, and gives a bit of a different spin to the hostage/damsel in distress role she's been given. Aside from that, she's darn HOT, so all's well.
The plot and pacing of Die Hard 4.0 is pretty fast, though you do notice the film's length, in a good way. You don't really figure out what the bad guys are up to until near the third act, but when it does it's not really earth-cracking; it's all about the money, after all it's Die hard. The action, as expected, is loud and flashy with lots and lots of gunfire, the odd 'special' death or stunt, and lots of McClane getting bruised and bloody. What I can say is that the stunts though seem to get more fantastic with every sequel. The first Die Hard had gritty, thrilling but pretty realistic action sequences, which got ramped up to more high-octane hi-jinx in the second and third installments. Well, Die Hard 4.0 pumps up the action to superhuman levels. How would McClane know that a car would fly up high enough to nail a chopper (it's in the trailer anyway) instead of just smashing into the ticket booth like any normal car would? Is it really that easy to jump off a speeding vehicle at full tilt? And that bit with McClane versus the JET FIGHTER... it's borderline Schwarzenegger-fantastic. I mean, I expect that McClane could jump into the Transformers Movie and kick Decepticon arse all by himself with a half-empty gun and a band-aid.
That said, it's all fun if a bit overblown. Scratch that- pretty overblown. Still, it's all fun and quite a crowd-pleasing romp with an old friend. Despite it all, McClane is still McClane- complete with that silly laugh and the "Yippie-Kay-Yay-Mother-" (insert gunshot here) at the end. If you love the Die Hard series, you will want to see this. And if you're not, it's a pretty cool and slick action movie that shoots and scores.
To end... is there room for another Die Hard? Well, as long as Willis can still lift a gun, why not? Or maybe they can spin-off and make a movie with a lady Die Hard starring Lucy? Or team her up with daddy? Who knows. All I can say is, I'll be there to see it.
Die Hard 4.0 is now showing in Metro Manila theaters. Watch Hard.