First, the good things: Good things? Damn, it’s Die Hard guys. Detective John McClane is back. And once more, he is put into a situation he wasn’t prepared for. This time some cyber terrorists have taken control of the nation’s computer system. McClane, gets involved in the middle of a battle when the bad guys try to kill the suspect he was supposed pick for FBI. It’s just a case of McClane doing his job, until the terrorists go after his daughter. Then, it becomes personal. The quintessential evildoer, computer genius Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) wants to shut down the entire country’s telecommunications, utilities, and financial infrastructure in a three-part digital attack known as a “fire sale” (because “everything must go”). Gabriel’s motives—do you really need to know? There’s anti-government paranoia involved and of course billions of dollars to be moved into Gabriel’s bank account from, well, everyone else’s, but essentially, the guy is just a villain.
The fourth chapter of Die Hard is a reminiscent homage to a former age of Hollywood filmmaking. This is a movie that believes in doing things the old-fashioned way, hurling real cars at real helicopters and hanging real SUVs down real elevator shafts. Sure, there’s computer-generated enrichment, but only as much as necessary to keep those hurtling vehicles from killing the equally real stuntmen and women who agree to mount behind their wheels. Halfway through Die Hard someone tells Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis), “You’re a Timex watch in a digital age.” I think it’s a nearly identical line to one uttered in Ocean’s Thirteen to George Clooney and Brad Pitt, But whereas Ocean’s Thirteen stylishly saluted the Vegas heist, Live Free or Die Hard dispenses with the style: it brings back ’80s action filmmaking through sheer muscle.
Bad things: Well, some of the action sequences strain credibility, even for a Hollywood action movie. The bad guys are able to move about with impunity, even though the nation is in a virtual state of emergency. And it really doesn’t herald a renaissance in the action genre. But it’s a welcome throwback to good old-fashioned, ‘80s-style lunkhead violence, and no one takes a punch, kick, elbow, or bullet quite like John McClane.