When I saw Live Free or Die Hard (that’s part 4) I had no hope for it. By the time the first action sequence came along I perked up. It actually felt like a Die Hard movie despite the PG-13 rating, the downgraded sidekick, and the boringly American bad guy. I was all in, at least until McClane fought a fighter jet and somehow emerged victorious. Either way, I managed to enjoy it more than part two, which was always my least favorite of the series.
John McClane finds out his estranged son has been arrested in Russia. So he does what any New York cop can surely afford to do: he books the first plane to Moscow and takes a week or two off work. His daughter (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, again) drives him to the airport and asks him not to blow anything up while he’s gone. McClane does his squint-eyed thing, flies to Russia, and meets a cab driver who would have made a much better subject for the film than any of the other characters. It seems McClane is in Russia for five minutes before things explode and a car chase ensues.
This car chase, by the way, is the best thing in the entire film. Cars flip and bounce around like Hot Wheels. An armored truck defies the laws of gravity. McClane manages to completely total two vehicles and walks away from both of the horrifying accidents after grunting a bit.
The rest of the action sequences are boring shootouts. McClane and his son Jack do an awful lot of shooting while standing completely still. The bad guys are such bad shots it sometimes reminded me of the Rambo parody in Hot Shots Part Deux. What’s all the commotion about? The same thing every lame 80s and 90s action film was about: the bad guys want a file. Thankfully, it’s the first time I’ve seen such a MacGuffin that wasn’t on floppy disk or CD. Yeah, there’s more to it than that and I won’t spoil it for you even though you’ll see the “twist” coming from a mile away.
The biggest problem is Bruce Willis seems to think we go to see Die Hard movies to see Bruce Willis. This is true of Arnold Schwarzenegger films, but the main draw of a Die Hard picture is seeing John McClane. This just isn’t the same guy who crawled around ventilation ducts with a burning Zippo and wrote “Now I have a machine gun HO HO HO” on a dead terrorist’s sweater. And what of the one-liners? Yippe kay aye, mother fucker? Try this: McClane rams the back of a bad guy’s vehicle and shouts, “I wasn’t through talking to you!”
That’s the worst one-liner I’ve ever heard in my life. And yes, I did see Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. In fact, that sounds like something the old lady in that would say.
Then there’s the excruciating subplot in which John and Jack attempt to reconnect. I take criticism pretty seriously and my vocabulary’s usually larger than this, but I find the best way to describe it is BAD. Die Hard 5 is apparently the rare film that attempts to please action hounds as well as soap opera fans. Whereas the other films were exciting even in between action sequences, this one just stops dead. It’s because they keep forcing this father-son shit on us. It didn’t work for Indiana Jones, either. While I don’t know what else the actor portraying Jack has done, I’m going to go out on a limb and say he was probably a wrestler. If they think they can reboot the series with this guy, Hollywood producers must be crazier than previously thought.
I’d also like to know why military helicopter pilots only fire through windows. The bullets are nearly the size of human fists—do the pilots really think a wall is going to stop them? “Get down!” just isn’t a surefire option when it comes to 40mm aircraft cannons.
Are you still there? Good. Because despite all the complaints, it’s not nearly as terrible as the score on Rotten Tomatoes (currently 16%) suggests. In the way True Lies is a movie that’s worth watching for its climax alone, Die Hard 5 is worth watching for the car chase. Too bad it happens early on and goes downhill from there.
At the end of the day it’s a generic Bruce Willis film rather than an honest Die Hard. Not enough foreign terrorists and walkie-talkie chatter for my liking, but I didn’t absolutely hate it. I even had a few good laughs, just not during the one-liners. Should you pay to see it? No. Should you watch it when it hits Netflix? Sure, but don’t put it at the top of your queue until you’ve seen Skyfall.