Live Free or Die Hard was one of those movies that I went ahead and rented out of morbid curiosity despite the fact I had no real desire to watch it. Seriously, as much fun as Die Hard: With a Vengeance was, I had a hard time believing the franchise could go anywhere new.
But, finding my wife out with friends one Saturday morning, I went ahead and popped it in as I worked on other tasks thinking if anything remotely interesting actually happened, I could give it my attention.
To be perfectly honest, after about ten minutes, Live Free or Die Hard had me glued to the screen.
I’m almost embarrassed to admit that.
Fact is, this thing was nonstop action from almost the beginning, and it’s the kind of action you can’t help but watch. Over the top? Sure. Entertaining? Indubitably.
They introduce Justin Long into the mix as a hacker-techno-god guy. (I’m sure he got the job based off his acting resume.) When I originally heard this premise, I realized they were going down a well-worn path. Old action dude teams up with spunky-hipster computer guy.
Well, a horrible cyber-crime is committed, and Bruce Willis (still, indefinably charismatic) must escort Long somewhere to try to save the nation from being cut off at the knees. Again, nothing new in terms of plot. Cyber-crime was groundbreaking in, what, the mid-Nineties? Now … not so much.
But somehow—SOMEHOW—it worked! Long’s character was actually likable, and the complexity of the cyber-crime really made me sit back and say, “Good googley-moogley, I’ve never before seen it done quite that complicated.”
And the villain of the movie mesmerized me. There was something about him. Where had I seen him before? And then it dawned on me—it was Timothy Olyphant, the guy who plays Sheriff Bullock on Deadwood (awesome show). He took the intensity of Bullock and twisted it to shape his understated, yet oddly captivating, villain. With Olyphant, you either think he’s a superb actor or a terrible one. I, as you no doubt realize, find his acting tremendously potent.
But, regardless of the surprisingly interesting plot and unexpectedly compelling characters, the real star of this movie was the action. Each action scene made a point to outdo its predecessor, and while everything wasn’t necessarily realistic, I was able to suspend my disbelief and enjoy the ride.
On a final note, I’m glad that Willis made this movie the only way it could be done. The days of brainless action flicks from the Eighties and Nineties, for me, are over. I went in thinking Live Free or Die Hard would be a relic from the past, and I was more than pleased to realize it was part of the new brand of action movie—one with an actual plot, characterization, and real acting.