Die Hard, released in 1988 and starring a then little-known TV comedian, is the greatest action movie of all time. That’s not just my opinion, that’s also the AFI opinion. It featured an everyman hero who didn’t really want to be in that position, fighting to save his loved one against unbeatable odds. Plus – it happened at Christmas, thus making it the perfect holiday film for years to come.
It’s near flawless, and if you haven’t seen it (what’s wrong with you?!?) or haven’t seen it in a long time (again – same question), rent and watch it now. The two true sequels – Die Hard 2 from 1990 and Die Hard with a Vengeance from 1995 are decent, if not great. I favor the third over the second, but they each have some pretty great moments, without living up to the perfection of the original.
The fourth movie, Live Free or Die Hard (2007 – 12 years after the third movie), almost seems like a completely different story. It basically could have been a Bruce Willis action flick, and not necessarily a “Die Hard” movie. That is not something I felt with the two original sequels. The fourth is a thrown together actioner where Timothy Olyphant uses computers to confuse John McClane, who is already confused as to why he is hanging out with Justin Long and why Kevin Smith shows up.
In the newest movie in the series – John McClane is heading to Russia to rescue his wayward son, Jack, who seems to be about to go on trial for murder. Unbeknownst to McClane, Jack is actually a CIA agent, and on mission. McClane screws up Jack’s plan, and hijinks ensue. These hijinks include car chases, arguing, old Russian bureaucrats and scientists, slow-motion walking Russian judges, dancing villains, a visit to Chernobyl, uranium, and gunfights…multiple multiple gunfights.
Director John Moore is from Ireland and is perhaps best known for Flight of the Phoeniz, The Omen (2006 version), and Max Payne (so terrible). He does a good job with this one, the action scenes are great – the car chases are fantastic. There are some odd zoom in moments, but for the most part, I thought he did well. I particularly like the characters jumping out of a building and the camera following them down into a pool. I also appreciated all the homages to the original movie: the helicopter crash and the fire hose, and the bad guy’s demise. It is a very similar demise to the original, where Alan Rickman had perhaps the best death scene of a villain in any movie, but this one has a twist – of the rotary variety.
The cast is standard action fare:
· Bruce Willis as John McClane: well, he could play him in his sleep by now. He’s great, and old, and tired, but still looks completely capable kicking some ass. I have always been a fan of his (I own his “Return of Bruno” CD), so I’m biased, but he’s fun and well aware of his age in this movie.
· Jai Courtney as Jack – another Australian making good here, Courtney was just the heavy in Jack Reacher, but I will always think of him as Varro in Spartacus. He’s great in this, the American accent is not bad, only seemed to slip a couple of times. I hope to see him in much more.
· Sebastian Koch plays Russian scientist Komarov, and Jack’s mission while in Russia. He’s pretty good – his character does flip a switch I did not see coming.
· Mary Elizabeth Winstead played Lucy McClane in the last movie and returns to play her here. Small part, but good job. Incidentally she was one of the better parts of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
· Yuliya Snigir plays Irina, Komarov’s daughter, whose character had a flip I did see coming.
· Radivoje Bukvic plays Alik – the aforementioned dancing bad guy. Seriously. He’s actually pretty good, quietly menacing.
· Cole Hauser is very briefly in this as Jack’s contact, but even more briefly, Leverage’s Aldis Hodge (and my pick for T’Challa if Marvel ever makes a Black Panther movie) is in this movie as a random CIA operative. And I do mean briefly – don’t blink. This is worth mentioning because Aldis and his brother Edwin (last seen in last year's Red Dawn remake) were the two kids at the beginning of Die Hard 3 with Sam Jackson.
Overall, it’s not nearly as bad as I was expecting. True – it’s nowhere near the original Die Hard, but then what is? Besides Under Siege? Check it out – don’t set your expectations too high, it’s a good enough action picture, but not a Die Hard movie.
7 out of 10. Gained points for Komarov asking after Jack leads him and McClane down a ladder and over some roofs, “does he know how old we are?” Lost points for the motorcycle outfit unzipping that you see in all the trailers, a completely useless scene only there to get a half-naked-chick shot in. Gained points for McClane being almost as confused in this one as he was in the last one.
Bonus Video 1: The much maligned Hudson Hawk. I love this movie, and I’m one of the only ones…but, just in case you forgot about it –
Bonus Video 2: I loved season 1 of Spartacus (RIP Andy Whitfield) – here’s a clip of Whitfield and Courtney preparing for a scene in which they’ve been punished by being thrown into a ‘pit’.
Bonus Video 3: The best thing Cole Hauser has ever done – Pitch Black.
Bonus Video 4: Cast Interviews!