A Latvian movie producer recently told me that the "Die Hard" movies have a special place in Latvians' affections because Bruce Willis was one of the first modern-day Hollywood heroes they experienced, albeit on grainy, bad-quality video.
Personally, I have no such nostalgia for the "Die Hard" films and was surprised when they decided to resurrect John McClane for a fourth time. Somewhat against the odds, however, the movie succeeds as an outrageously enjoyable piece of entertainment 's and how the audience loved it.
They hooted and cheered at the on-screen carnage and rooted for Bruce as though he were a long-lost friend. It was almost touching. "Live Free or Die Hard" sees our grizzly detective set out to save the world once again, this time from Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), a disgruntled former U.S. secret service employee with a serious grudge. With his huge army of henchmen, Gabriel initiates a meticulously well-planned cyber attack on the United States, crippling its infrastructure and bringing the east coast into total chaos. Willis, who is sent to escort expert hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long) to Washington for questioning, teams up with the youngster in a classic 80s-style pairing.
Indeed, the movie knowingly plays on its 80s origins in some rather witty moments of dialogue. At one point Gabriel likens Willis to "a Timex in the digital age." Despite his increasing years, Willis' character remains as ridiculously robust as ever. The make-up artists do their best to keep up with his never-ending succession of injuries, but he just keeps on going despite taking several beatings, bullets and falling from heights which would kill most cats. To make things more complicated, Gabriel takes Willis' feisty daughter hostage which only further irritates our grizzly detective.
"Live Free or Die Hard" works so well because it doesn't try to be anything other than shameless entertainment. Even its preposterously over-the-top action sequences are almost satisfyingly devoid of stylization.
Things get blown up, lots of people get shot and Bruce saves the world at the end of a hard day's work. In one scene Bruce philosophically muses on why he is not a hero to his admiring young charge using only the word "do."
He explains that he is doing what he is doing because there is no-one else to do it which is why he is doing it although he'd rather not be doing it. But he has to do it. What a guy.