More noise than signal

Die Hard 4.0

This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site,

Christ on a bike, this is a shock. Of all of the many, many Movie Title +1s opening their doors this summer I’d held out the least hope for Die Hard 4.0, also known as Live Free or Die Hard in regions where Die Hard 4.0 was deemed a name not quite silly enough. Daft names aside, look at who’s directing it. Len Wiseman, dairy lynchpin and accursed Underworld and Underworld Evolution purveyor. Boo! Hiss! Between this and the simple fact that time has marched Bruce Willis far from the optimal age to be running about in action films shouting about yippying his kayaks and implying things about what people do to their mothers, I’d sort of dreaded this film.

To what I’m fairly sure will remain a perpetual surprise until the day I die, Die Hard 4.0 is the best of the big ol’ summer releases seen so far this year, managing to be far funnier than Shrek 3 and have substantially more compelling action sequences than Spidey 3. The only feasible explanation for this is that the End Times verily doth approacheth. Yay! Rapture! With our time on this sphere coming to such a rapid close, I ‘d best hurry up and hustle on with the review.

Die Hard 4.0 sees a dispirited John McClane (Bruce Willis, obviously) slogging his way through life as a now-divorced cop still on the front lines, those pen pushers at City Hall apparently not seeing his renegade cop on the edge as a suitable candidate for promotion to higher levels of desk-jockery. His relationship with his daughter has gone past ‘strained’ and well into ‘shouting match’ territory, and in the first couple of minutes there seems to be a decent chance that Johnny Boy is about to channel Lethal Weapon‘s Martin Riggs. Any thoughts of self pity quickly have on go on ice as the same shit is about to happen to the same guy for the fourth time.

Once again the bad guys of the War on Terror get all up in McClane’s grill, as he’s given what would seem to be busy up work of dragging young hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long) in for questioning on suspicion of hacking a government cybercrime department, arriving at much the same time as the hired goons of the naughty terrorists Matt’s unwittingly helped to imminently bring America to a grinding halt show up to murderify him. Clearly, McClane’s not about to stand for that nonsense and saves Matt with his inimitable brand of wisecracking, shiny domed shootybangs. Any questioning of Farrell now takes a low priority as the government struggles to understand and cope with attacks on the transportation and utility computer infrastructure, although seeing as Ferrell seems to have a better handle on what’s going on than everyone else you have to question the wisdom of that.

So, McClane does what any good cop on the edge would do, take on the evildoers single handed. Well, sort of single handed, as Farrell is dragged along for the ride. This round of evildoers turns out to be the deeply uninspiring Thomas Gabriel (the deeply uninspiring Timothy Olyphant), the very man who used to be in charge of the systems he’s now crippling for reasons so inconsequential I struggle to remember them. In an ill advised attempt at gaining leverage over McClane he decides to kidnap Ms. McClane Jnr, thus making this personal. You’d have though villains would have learned by now that if you start making things personal you might as well just jump directly into a blender and save us all of the trouble.

There’s not much wrong with Die Hard 4, to be frank, and it’s a hell of a lot more fun than the more curmudgeonly of reviewers would have you believe. Justin Long gets in some very funny lines as well as managing to be a sidekick that you don’t wish a hideous death upon, which in itself is a remarkable feat. El Brucio slips back into the comfortable, wisecracking slippers of the previous films with little apparent effort and the two establish a pretty decent rapport. The action is handled far more competently than I’d been led to believe Wiseman is capable of, and there’s no shortage of it. The films bombs along at a commendable pace. So, it’s all good, then?

Well, not quite. Part of the reasons that the best of the Die Hard films (ie, not 2) were well regarded is the sheer genius in casting of the villains. Sure, Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons might have been chewing more scenery than a teething puppy but it certainly makes for an interesting film. Here, Thomas Gabriel is so bland and unremarkable an character that it’s truly difficult to pay attention to him when he’s on screen, let alone take him seriously as a credible threat. If you’re a stickler for accuracy in the field of computing, you might want to give this (in common with, well, every film with a computer in it) a wide berth, as it’s every bit as wildly unrealistic as you’d expect from the premise.

I struggle to see what there is to loathe about Die Hard 4.0, and indeed about the most common jibe at it is calling it Die Hard Four Point Less. Ahoho. I suppose it is somewhat pointless, in much the same way that With A Vengeance was pointless, and 2 was pointless, and the original was pointless. They’re action movies. They’re good clean violent brainless fun. That’s their job, that’s what they do. It’s not ‘tarnishing a legacy’ or any other such sanctimonious drivel, any more than the deeply ordinary second film did. Since the calendars moved over to 2000 plates the state of play of action films has gone from Premier League to Beezer Homes Division, and this film is a welcome win in a season of drubbings and no-score draws.

Slightly interesting though exercise – if this film did not have the Die Hard name attached to it would anyone bother to see it, or even make it? Perhaps not, but then again deeply involving plotlines are not the reasons for this franchise’s success. People pony up the dough to see a Die Hard film to watch John McClane take on filthy terrorists and beat them single handed. Die Hard 4.0 delivers that in spades, rakes, hoes and Flymos, so I don’t see any reason to unleash the vitriol cannon on this in the slightest.