By my reckoning, Bruce Willis has only made two great films and a handful of decent ones. That ain’t nearly enough to justify his mega-stardom, bloated pay scale and irritating, self-satisfied smirk.
Reprising his role as NYPD Det. John McClane, the actor looks longer in the tooth but not appreciably wiser. His crackling way with bad dialogue is still intact, as are his pecs and abs. But in this film, McClane needs unlikely help. His target is security expert Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), a “cyberterrorist” in the film’s pseudo-modern argot. Matt Farrell (Justin Long) is his high-tech savvy copilot. The kid is purely a script construction, a conceit that facilitates fancy gizmos solving plot problems and a sop to geeky teenage boys.
McClane is strictly old school, you see. He doesn’t know computers. Thus, in a moment of frustration, he beats a guy over the head with a PC, and the crowd goes wild. Such is the nature of both symbolism and character development in “Live Free or Die Hard.”
At least this team gives people what they want: 18-wheel truck chases, flurries of bullets and more and bigger explosions. After all, the bad guys are going to ruin the Fourth of July! No decent American should stand for this.
Let’s face it: This is, for Len Wiseman, writer Mark Bomback and especially Willis, not so much a movie as a routine trip to the ATM. You’ve seen it before and seen it better. When “mindless fun” is the nicest description at hand, the film being described is simply no good. The previous “Die Hard” flicks were mindless fun, and they were slightly better than this. The truth is, all of them are abysmal. For many, in fact, mindlessness is an impediment to having fun.