Saturday, 30 June 2007

Die Hard 4.0 (2007)

Hello tech support? Yipee-kai-yay to you!

Because Justin Long is the trusty sidekick to Bruce Willis's Officer McClane, this review will be formatted in part as a hypothetical Mac Switch campaign ad.

Justin Long: Hi, I'm a Mac. You can tell from this movie because my character is a cool dweeb, slightly geeky but very adorable, and comes with his own MacFarlane Spawn figurines. Did I say I'm a Mac? You can tell that like most Macs, I'm not built for anything productive and useful, because Bruce Willis, aka John McClane, does all the real work here, while I go into panic mode and turn all 7 colours at once and spin around in circles once the gunfights begin. (looks at Bruce Willis) Why are you so calm, man? Have you done that kind of stuff before?!

Bruce Willis: If you remember Die Hard, Die Hard 2, and Die Hard with a Vengeance, of course I've done that kind of stuff before - you know, singlehandedly foiling terrorists and saving the day, and not to mention, dispatching off the criminals myself. I get the job done all the time, no matter how dirty or difficult it is. Hi, I'm a PC (smug grin).

Cyberterrorist: And I'm a virus. The kind that blows up computers - literally! - and brings down the entire national infrastructure. Now you can't even call tech support because all the phone lines are down. MUAHAHAHAHAHA!

I mean, there isn't any point to write a serious review for Die Hard and kill all the fun, because the movie is meant to be a silly but fun action picture that has lots of exaggerated yet PG rating-friendly violence. This is why Die Hard 4.0 was chosen to be directed by Len Wiseman, the visual stylist who brought us both Underworld and Underworld Evolution. For a script that demands every scene and set end with a huge explosion, Wiseman is the action director du jour whom Hollywood can count to make action scenes and big setpieces look stylish.

But say you beg to disagree. You might not be unjustified, but perhaps you might be watching the wrong movie in the wrong cinema at the wrong time, but there's indeed something fishy about Die Hard 4.0 - despite the massive explosions, the almost non-stop explosions, Wiseman's direction tends to sap the aura of suspense and thrill out of the movie, so that we're left with just very well-crafted action scenes. These may suffice for most moviegoers, but probably not all. Thing is, Wiseman's predilection for throwing in the blue filter in every camera lens is a little like his technical proficiency at action scenes: Wiseman, you see, has the directorial equivalent of Zoolander's Blue Steel: soulless, overused, predictable, plastic, incapable of evoking the sense of the real.

Die Hard 4.0 actually starts with a great premise - old school cowboy McClane must team up with new school hacker Farrell in order to stop this installment's terrorist from destroying civilisation and bring American to its knees. This premise holds good promise, but in the more than technically proficient hands of Wiseman, somehow the explosions and action start before the actual plot and drama begin, and somehow the detail to action is counterbalanced by the squashing of any sense of suspense from the script. And somehow, Farrell doesn't actually do anything hackerish to save the day at all. Puzzlingly, he doesn't do much hacking at all in the movie. He just hyperventilates a lot, like a Mac.

Old Die Hard series fans will probably love the action-packed nature of this installment, but that's only 1 of 3 things they'd consider, aside from suspense and tautness of script. What's the third consideration for an action film fan, you'd ask? Nothing is more important than the villain in any Die Hard movie, and I'm sorry to say that Olyphant's cyberterrorist villain has even less charisma than Blackheart of the Ghost Rider movie, and is nowhere near the sheer meanness, magnetism, or brilliance of Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) or Simon Gruber (Jeremy Irons). Still, one out of three isn't that bad, since Die Hard 4.0 clearly beats any of the Die Hard movies hands on the action portion.

First published at incinemas on 5 July 2007

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