Saturday, July 07, 2007

The first and last Die Hard movie I watched was Die Hard with a Vengeance, which came out 12 years ago, and was coincidentally, also the first date that I had ever gone on. Neither the movie nor the date was particular memorable, other than for the fact that I fell asleep midway through the so-called action movie.

So it was with some trepidation that I suggested catching Die Hard 4.0 (aka Live Free or Die Hard) when inclement weather scuppered our original plans of going roller-blading at East Coast this morning. The trailer, quite frankly, looks incredibly unbelievable. In one scene, a helicopter get taken out by a police car, and you just can't help but go, "aww, geez, come on!" However, the movie seemed to have garnered generally favourable reviews, and there was really wasn't anything else on that we wanted to catch.

The plot of the movie, if I may attempt to summarise it, is basically, America is under attack by a team of hackers, masterminded by the ultimate hacker, Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant). Traffic, communications, financial services and utilities, all run by by computer systems, are methodically taken down one by one, throwing the entire nation into chaos. Essentially, every paranoid Luddite's worst nightmare. After the first breach (of the FBI computer systems), the FBI decides to round up all possible suspects for questioning, with Lt. Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) of the NYPD sent to pick up Matthew Farrell (Justin Long) of Camden, NJ and bring him in. Nothing is ever routine for Detective McClane, as it turns out, because he arrives just when Gabriel's henchmen have arrived to dispatch Long after Long had unwittingly provided Gabriel with a computer algorithm he needed for his grand plan. McClane saves Long's life and together, they set up to figure out what's going on, who's behind it and naturally, how to stop it.

Much to my surprise, it didn't turn out anywhere as bad as it could have been. John McClane, so wonderfully embodied by Bruce Willis, is a rather believable hero. He doesn't set out to be all brave and heroic. He doesn't even like it because of everything it has cost him; his wife has divorced him, and his daughter doesn't speak to him. Nevertheless, he does it because it's his job, and there's no one else there to do what needs to be done.

There are more than a few clich├ęs in the movie. For instance, Mai (Maggie Q), Gabriel's lover and henchwoman, is your typical long-haired Asian beauty who's an expert at kung fu and generally kicks McClane's ass before he finally gets the upper hand. There're also a lot of improbable action sequences, as I mentioned earlier, but after a while, I felt those were acceptable because for McClane to be able to survive everything being thrown at him, he has to be someone with the ability to pull off those ridiculous moves.

My favourite parts in the show (I never thought I would say that about an action movie) are:
  • the Parkour sequences most ably done by Cyril Raffaelli (a French martial artist and stuntman, and friend of David Belle, founder of the Parkour movement)
  • Kevin Smith's appearance as Long's hacker friend, the Warlord
  • When we're shown how unfamiliar McClane is with computer technology nowadays (particularly when he covers up a web camera lens which is broadcasting to Gabriel and asks the hackers a question, only to have Gabriel point out that covering a lens does not turn off the sound)
All in all, I would rate it 3.5 out of 5. It was way better than the last Die Hard movie I caught (I didn't even fall asleep in spite of my exhaustion) and it actually felt rather believable.

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