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Die Hard 4.0

Nicola Mostyn finds that, come the cyber-apocalypse, it’s good old brawn and guts that will save the day

Published on July 10th 2007.

Die Hard 4.0

I did intend to write about Shrek The Third this week but I’m reluctant to devote more time and energy to reviewing a film than the writers did to making it, so I shall just say it’s “uninspired” and leave it at that.

Now, on to Die Hard 4 which, unlike Shrek, has managed to squeeze a tremendously enjoyable movie out of an ostensibly exhausted formula.

Of course Die Hard films are no fairy tale. Quite the opposite. Poor Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) can’t pop for a pint of milk without becoming embroiled in a terrorist attack. So it’s no great surprise when, at the start of the film, we discover that the hacker he’s been asked to pick up has been unwittingly aiding a cyber-plot to take down the US infrastructure and is next on the Bad Guys’ list of top-ten-teckies-to-terminate.

Having saved Matt Farrell (Justin Long) from certain death, McClane must protect the IT geek from further harm whilst attempting to foil the plot, contrived by a group of technologically-savvy terrorists, to reduce America to a heaving, panicked frenzy by jamming the roads, cutting the power, collapsing the US economy and not allowing anyone to update their myspace page.

It has been 12 years since Willis last played John McClane and with the leading man now aged 52, even the most die hard of Die Hard fans must have been worrying that Bruce’s vest and “Yippie Ki Yay” catchphrase might be a touch out of date.

However, as the popularity of TV series’ such as 24, The Wire and The Shield prove, we’re never too sophisticated for the brutal cop who gets the job done, and John McClane is the epitome of the can-do guy, like Jack Bauer with jokes. And less hair.

In fact, his position as unreconstructed man is a positive plus in this film whose premise is a world brought low by technological dependence. As the FBI stand around looking anxiously at screens and the hacker waffles on about his asthma, McClane, “a Timex watch in a digital age”, gets busy doing what he does best: rolling out of cars, ducking explosions and growing ever more battered and purple, like piece of tenderised steak.

As the baddies tippy-tap away on their laptops, McClane shows himself to be less sophisticated than ever, if possible, as he powers around the East Coast like a one-man battering ram, saying things like, “You are going to tell me what I want to know or I am going to beat you to death in your own home.” And that’s to one of the good guys.

Like McClane, the plot is reassuringly old school. Chief bad guy Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) is a good looking man in a tight black shirt who, faithful to the action movie textbook, used to work for the good guys until they snubbed his great ideas; Wimpy hacker Matt is given the chance to search for the hero inside himself and there’s even a return for the detective’s daughter (a spirited turn by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to get McClane even more het up. Like he needs it.

But then, Die Hard fans don’t come expecting Hamlet. It’s the action scenes which matter most, and this fourth Die Hard film plays out like an enthusiast’s top ten: swinging from lift cables, leaping onto moving vehicles, almost getting hit by a tumbling, burning car; all your favourites are here, plus some audacious additions to the Die Hard genre which see McClane pitted against helicopters, a fighter jet and seemingly bionic villains. All ridiculously far fetched. All thoroughly good fun. Bruce, you’ve still got it. Yippie Ki Yay indeed.

Shrek The Third and Die Hard 4.0 (15) are out on general release

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