Die Hard 4: Cowboy Willis charms again

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Die Hard 4: Cowboy Willis charms again


Justin Long is Bruce Willis’s accessory to mayhem in the redundant but fun “Live Free or Die Hard.”

Remember “Die Hard?” Think hard. It’s all right, I don’t blame you.
After all, it’s been nearly 20 years now since the bitter journey of police detective John McClane began. Seen today, the effects in the first film seem almost quaint. And anyway, the whole idea was lifted straight from “Dirty Harry.”
So why have there been three more movies since? And why now, seven years after “Die Hard With a Vengeance,” with its star 52-years-old? After all, “Die Hard 4.0,” promoted as “Live Free or Die Hard” in the United States, is straight from the mold of the first three ― nutty terrorist out to bring the United States to its knees, McClane and family gets caught up in the action, things explode, people die. The ending? A slightly more bruised but otherwise exactly the same McClane: sullen.
There simply is no reason to make another “Die Hard” movie, and “Live Free or Die Hard” is just another rehash summer action blockbuster.
But that doesn’t keep this movie from being a whole load of redundant fun for two reasons: One, you’ve got to love a cowboy, and two, especially one played by Bruce Willis.
Any action hero can ricochet a car off a toll booth and hit a helicopter with it, but only Willis lets out the tiniest chuckle afterward. His sneers, vindictive laugh and badass rejoinders make it seem as though he’s watching the movie with us ― and enjoying it a lot. That feeling’s contagious.
This fourth terrorist plot’s perhaps even more ridiculous than the one that crashed across the screen in “Die Hard 2.” In that movie, terrorists take over the air traffic control tower at Washington Dulles International Airport, which means McClane must take it back, or the plane carrying his wife, hovering in a holding pattern with just 90 minutes of fuel, will crash. For it to work, of course, either the pilot of Mrs. McClane’s plane is a class-A idiot incapable of landing somewhere else, or all other airports, phones and radios in the United States have simply ceased to function.
Someone must have picked up on that, because in “Die Hard 4.0” the terrorists’ goal is precisely that ― to take out all communications and computers in the United States in what the movie calls a “fire sale.” If previous movies were simple pulp thrillers, this one’s downright Tom Clancy.
As the film opens, McClane, now back on the force and sober but divorced from his wife, is sent to fetch a high-level hacker called Matthew Ferrell (Justin Long) and deliver him to Washington, only to be intercepted by a heavily armed hit squad on the way back.
As the fire sale begins, traffic slows to a stop when the traffic lights blink out, the stock market goes down and the FBI cyber-security task force under Assistant Director Bowman (Cliff Curtis) is forced out of its offices by a false anthrax alarm.
Of course, there’s more to it than that ― it turns out the bad guys are after nothing less than the accumulated wealth of the American banking system. (Never mind its massive national debt.)
Pandemonium ensues as the masterminds, a shady computer legend (Timothy Olyphant) and an Asian femme fatale (Maggie Q), target McClane and Ferrell as they try to keep the power grid from crashing. The evil pair eventually kidnap McClane’s daughter (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), now a student at Rutgers. Kevin Smith puts in a self-deprecating turn as one of Ferrell’s fiercely anti-government hacker buddies, code-named “the Warlock” and hunkered down in his basement surrounded by technology and Star Wars memorabilia.
I don’t have to tell you vigilante justice rules the day. McClane kills off the bad guys in a hail of bullets and bombs and looks damn good doing it. Collateral damage is the order of the day as power plants, traffic tunnels, apartment buildings and more come in for a heavy pounding.
So yes, this is simply the same old story, told again with louder explosions and (slightly) better effects.
If “Die Hard With a Vengeance” bored you, you’re not going to find anything new here. But if you’re likely to be won over by Willis’s cowboy charm, you could do a lot worse. bapplegate@gmail.com

Die Hard 4.0
Action / English
129 min.
Now playing

By Ben Applegate Contributing Writer
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