(2007) dir. Len Wiseman
viewed: 07/01/07 at Century San Francisco Centre, SF, CA
This wasn’t exactly the top of my list of summer movies, but come a day to kill and a dearth of movies worth seeing and a notable desire for something unchallenging, Live Free or Die Hard wound up being just about what the doctor ordered.
The Die Hard series of films hasn’t actually been one that I have had a real relationship with. I remember seeing the original Die Hard (1988) on cable back in the day and being surprisingly impressed with it. I have to say that the naming conventions of the sequels is a lot more amusing and creative than any other Hollywood blockbuster franchise: Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990), Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995), Live Free or Die Hard (2007). I would have taken out the colons myself, but you compare that to the rambling titles of the Lord of the Rings or Star Wars movies and you’ve got something more succinct and amusing.
This film, praised in the San Francisco Chronicle by Mick LaSalle, is a throw-back action film, a throw-back, that is, to the period of the original, back in the day when computer graphics were not the main special effect solution for films. This is a movie where they actually blew a lot of stuff up. And they blowed it up real good.
The whole film has this ongoing banter about analog vs. digital/computer technology, I guess in some reference to its own approach to the film’s big action set pieces. The story this time is about a bunch of computer geeks trying to take down the entire technological infrastructure of the United States and steal a lot of money in the process.
Technology gone wild. Then dead. Cars crash. Cell phones die. It’s pretty much Armageddon.
Ah, but old Bruce Willis is there to save the day, and his tough guy image is almost taken laughably when in escaping flying cars and explosions in a tunnel, ultimately crashing a police car into a helicopter, he laughs about the abuse his body is supposed to have gone through. The whole thing is pretty much the stock and trade of the action film: ridiculously over the top and unbelievable events, actions, situations…but the whole point is to not challenge this stuff, but sit back and enjoy it like you were watching the Fourth of July fireworks. I mean, this is why one comes to this movie in the first place.
And it delivers pretty well. I think some of the direction is clunky and lame, mainly when things aren’t exploding or people aren’t getting shot. Tip the hat to director Len Wiseman for this, director of Underworld (2003) and its remarkable sequel, Underworld: Evolution (2006). At least he gets the explosions right.
Other notable quality: the ridiculously gorgeous Maggie Q. The film keeps acknowledging her beauty and voice, but then kills her off and Willis slags her to intimidate his enemy. The slagging was disturbing, but the camera absolutely loves her,…and I think I do, too.