LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD

The fourth film in the popular and seemingly endless action franchise is the first since 1995’s “Die Hard with a Vengeance” and I think it’s safe to say that if he doesn’t exactly pass on the torch, Bruce Willis may not be up to another go-around. Willis re-emerges here as old-school detective-cum-action star John McClane, a “Time-Ex watch in a digital age” as his nemesis refers to him. Time hasn’t been kind to McClane – he’s older, divorced and has a daughter, Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead of “Grindhouse”), who hates him so much (except when he’s convenient, that is) that she goes by a different last name. Before long, McClane is unexpectedly asked to bring in a geeky and savvy young computer hacker named Matt Farrell (Justin Long). About two minutes after arriving at Farrell’s cramped and packed little apartment, McClane is firing bullets down the hallway, ducking and covering, and trying to get Farrell the heck outta dodge. Turns out, Farrell is one of the loose strings being targeted by a cyber terrorist organization who hired him to help commit a “Firesale” on a national level – take out all of the computerized infrastructures of America and you set everyone back to absolute zero. This organization is led, more or less, by Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant, of TV’s “Deadwood”), a disgruntled ex-government computer expert who is now trying to destroy the system he helped create, and his sexy and deadly Asian girlfriend Mai (Maggie Q). Meanwhile, Bowman (Cliff Curtis), the government agent who had McClane grab Farrell in the first place, tries to keep abreast of the deteriorating situation. Car chases, big explosions, endless gunfights, pursuits by airplane and helicopter, cyber cat and mouse games and an overweight geek who lives in his mother’s basement but goes by the pseudonym “Warlock” (Kevin Smith) are just some of the pleasures of this surprisingly well-made and energetic action thriller, so well directed by Len Wiseman (“Underworld”). Willis is up to the task of being the hero, Long is a great sidekick for comedic relief, Olyphant is a terrific villain and the film’s 130 minutes breeze by for the most part. What more do you want?

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