Saturday, July 21, 2007

"Live Free or Die Hard": short review

After finishing "24," it's hard not to compare action heroes. Unfortunately for John McClane, Jack Bauer comes out on top. "24," despite being a drawn-out TV series, actually has more suspense in it than "Die Hard" has. Part of the problem for "Die Hard" is that the movie has been chopped down to fit a PG-13 rating. Very little hardcore language, and despite the massive property damage, very little in the way of blood and gore.

A few remarks:

1. We need to set the record straight. Some reviewers said this movie was about the triumph of lo-tech. Some even said the movie features relatively little CGI. Bullshit. The movie is loaded with CGI, up to and including most of the scenes in DC. I'm pretty sure Bruce Willis was in front of a green screen for many of those traffic jam sequences. And since when does DC have toll gates at its tunnels? Is this some new development? DC natives will, of course, wonder where the hell that car/helicopter chase was happening. It seemed to be happening all over town.

2. Maggie Q as Mai: very yummy. However, when McClane made a crack about her being the bad guy's "Asian hooker," I felt the temperature in the theater drop a couple degrees, and also realized how white I am. I, of course, remain in thrall to Maggie Q after having seen her in "Mission: Impossible 3."

3. The movie actually felt a bit tired. Again, an unbidden "24" comparison: in "24," the scriptwriters have made it clear that they don't mind wasting principal characters. In "Die Hard," it's no spoiler to say that, if the bad guys capture John McClane's daughter, he's gonna get her back. You know this. It's as foreordained as the plot of a romantic comedy.

4. Kevin Smith was a hoot as the super-hacker codenamed Warlock (real name Freddie). His basement was decked out completely in Star Wars memorabilia. Smith, already no slouch as a screenwriter, turned out to be a decent actor. Now if only he could improve as a director...

5. Yamakasi (a.k.a. Parkour) seems to have mainstreamed into action films. "Banlieue 13" featured it; the opening chase sequence in "Casino Royale" was all yamakasi; "Die Hard" has a bevy of international bad guys, including one or two yamakasi practitioners (zey spoke zee French!). Expect even more yamakasi until people get sick of it and move on to the Next Big Thing.

6. Iconic image, occurring several times in this film: John McClane limping out of smoking wreckage. It got funny after a while. Or maybe that was the idea.

7. Not sure how much I liked Tim Olyphant as a bad guy. He had a natural grimace and effete manner that tainted every scene. Didn't work for me. If you want effete and deadly, get Alan Rickman. That dude rocks.

8. Plausibility? What plausibility? Just about every scene featured something implausible. Am I a crotchety old fart to harp on this? My advice to people my age: just suspend disbelief, kick back, and enjoy. The sequence with the F-35 is over the top.

9. In all, not a bad film, but it was fairly forgettable. It'll go down easy and leave no traces on the way out. True summer fluff.


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