Saturday, 7 July 2007

Die Hard 4.0-Review by Sandra Dupuy

Directed by Len Wiseman
Written by Mark Bomback
Rated 15
Released: Now Showing

Die Hard 4.0 is thankfully not a wheezy resurrection à la Silicone Stallone in Rocky Balboa. The unbreakable Bruce may have long lost his hair, but he still kicks ass, beating a team of evil American masterminds to the sound of “Yippee-Kai-Yay”, with nothing more than his bare fists, a worn police badge and a couple of guns.

The teaming of tedious Underworld director Len Wiseman with an older and paunchier Willis, for a seemingly obsolete franchise after the 9/11 events, could have led action cinema into deeper disaster. Moreover, following 24’s exciting misadventures, it was hard to imagine John McClane as a serious contender to Jack Bauer. But Die Hard 4.0, blasting onto our screens on Independence Day, is a refreshing surprise and blows away a few CGI cobwebs after all the bland, predictable or unmotivated gory scenes that have been pervading blockbusters for months.

Divorced from wife Holly and estranged from grown-up daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the 80s’ favourite supercop finds himself sucked into a lonely routine. For ten minutes, that is. His mission, if he wishes to accept it, is to pick up computer geek Matt Farrell (Justin Long) in Camden, New-Jersey, and escort him to Washington DC.

Soon the old Die Hard axiom, “in the wrong place, at the wrong time”, kicks in like a mean old motor on an antique tractor. A cyber-terrorist organisation, led by sinister hacker Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) and “smoking hot Asian chick” Mai Linh (former model Maggie Q), starts controlling all of the country’s technological resources, threatening to take America back to the Stone Age. The stock market panics, the electricity’s cut, and the phones go dead. Somebody’s holding a serious grudge against Farrell. Once again, the gasping, grunting and wincing hard-bodied McClane has to muscle through the mayhem in order to outsmart the most vicious terrorist attacks.

The tale may not break new grounds but it is well told. Writers Mark Bomback and David Marconi have obviously studied the franchise with care, and kept the best of it. As previously, DH4’s plot revolves around a pairing of contrasting characters. The likable Long, fondly remembered for his quirky performance in Dodgeball, stands up to his intimidating partner with gusto, delivering some of the film’s funniest lines.

The age difference between nerdy Matt and main man McClane does wonders in updating the aging hero’s profile. McClane becomes completely out of touch with his time and the technological progress that comes with it, and can’t fulfil properly his function as a father. However, against all odds, he brings down highly complex cyber-schemings.

Wiseman, who’s coming after old-school action specialists John MacTiernan (Die Hard,1988, and Die Hard With a Vengeance, 1995) and Renny Harlin (Die Harder, 1990), doesn’t yield to the increasing digital trend. Most of the tremendous action scenes don’t use any CGI effects, and are punctuated by trademark cute punchlines. During a frantic car chase, McClane drives his battered police car up a ramp, jumps out in the nick of time and rams the car right into a low flying helicopter, a feat which he describes in five short words: “I was out of bullets.”

The main asset of DH4 is of course Willis’s compelling performance. Daredevil John McClane keeps his stoic stamina all the way through his ordeal, whether he’s ran over by a car, thrown out of a skyscraper window, badly beaten up or half burned. He answers to each virus with a slap, and his pained grimace has to be the best in Hollywood. His humorous outlook sets the tone for the spectacular action silliness that is Die Hard 4. Forget about XXX and other rotten replicas. This summer, blessed with Willis’s Live-Free-or-Die-Hard attitude and Matt Damon’s dark Bourne persona, we won’t need any new action heroes for a while.

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