The summer blockbuster season never fails to excite me. It rarely succeeds in pleasing me, too. Year after year I get suckered in by glossy, big budget popcorn movies that I hate with such a venomous aggression it’s rare that I calm in time for Oscar season. This year has been particularly bad, with the third entries to both the Pirates of the Caribbean and Spider-Man franchises leaving me cold and bored for long, long periods of time. It was with these disappointments in mind that I approached Die Hard 4.0 with caution.
I can now be placed in the same category as Alan Rickman, Jeremy Irons, Timothy Olyphant and that guy who was doing martial arts in the nude at the beginning of the second one. I find myself alongside these acting heavyweights (and that one other guy) in that I forgot to take one thing into account – that one thing being the involvement of John McClane. Willis is back, looking “too old for this shit” and this time he blows up a helicopter up with a car.Die Hard 4.0‘s first victory over its summer competitors is achieved by simply ticking the boxes. As with every other sequel this summer (and there’s been little else), we’re going in with a good idea of what we’re seeing. I’m paying the ticket price because I’ve seen the first three Die Hard films and I want to see more. That means explosions (check), violence (check), an elaborate plot from an intelligent villain involving chaos caused by terrorism as part of a more cynical scheme that is generally the theft of a large amount of money (also check). And, of course, Willis as rogue cop John McClane, quick to shoot by hip or by lip. And this time he drives a car with a person on it down an elevator shaft.
The script is well paced, although some of the dialogue is clumsy and lacks the wit of the first and third entries to the series. It is brought to life by a talented cast led by Willis, who clearly relishes the opportunity to bring the character that launched his career back to life. He struts around Washington DC with all the jaded frustration you’d expect McClane to have twelve years on. Justin Long puts in the solid performance he’s long been threatening in lesser films and really shines as Willis’ geeky side-kick, providing McClane the edge against the villains and the audience a few laughs along the way. Long goes some way to keeping what should now be a stale formula fresh. That, and this time Willis beats a man to death with just socks and a matchstick.
Landing the role of Die Hard villain is a major coup for Timothy Olyphant. He plays his role with a suitable degree of menace, although he seems quite aware that this is very much Bruno’s show. As is commonly the case in action movies, the film wants to include some female eye candy without really knowing how to do it. As such, we get an unremarkable performance from martial arts star Maggie Q. However, Mary Elizabeth Winstead injects some life into McClane’s captive daughter Lucy, portraying a feisty, chip-off-the-block who is a constant thorn in the side of the villains and a convincing love interest for Long’s Matthew Ferrell. An honourable mention is owed to Kevin Smith, whose cameo as the Warlock is a real highlight and is sure to strengthen his growing reputation as a performer. And, this time Willis lands a helicopter through a fence.
Aside from a few minor problems with the script, the biggest threat to this form is the nervous direction courtesy of Underworld helmer Len Wiseman. For the first twenty minutes of this film the camera is always moving, to such an extent I was beginning to feel nauseous. It seems he has calmed by the end of the film, even allowing the camera to stay put for the odd shot during an action sequence. Furthermore, the frantic editing means that the martial arts expertise of Maggie Q is wasted as every single movement is shown from a different angle than the last, meaning that each kick or hand move can be taken as an individual shot and so anyone could do it. Similarly, the CG used for one or two effects isn’t blended seamlessly. But then, this time Willis fights a jet plane in a truck.Die Hard 4.0 is great. That it works is due to a number of things not only working together, but working together to make up a Die Hard movie. If in any other movie the star jumped from a truck onto the wing of a crashing plane and then slid down a piece of collapsing bridge to safety it would be ridiculous; in Die Hard it’s a cause for celebration.
It’s a testosterone filled adrenaline rush that delivers the goods, regardless of its reported trim to reach a wider, younger audience. If you’re a fan of the first movie and its sequels (or at least the third one; no one expects you to like Die Hard 2) then you’ll know what to expect. Die Hard 4.0 delivers in entertaining fashion that you’ll want to watch while drinking lots of beer and eating raw steak (it’s that manly).
And yes, in this one Willis says “Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker”.