The long awaited return of Detective John McClane and his rough ‘n’ ready approach to fighting terrorists brings with it high expectations. Die Hard launched Bruce Willis’ action hero career in 1988, the follow ups proved to be fun additions to the series. More than 10 years on since the last outing, whether Willis was still up to the task has been questioned, especially with Sylvester Stallone returning to his John Rambo and Rocky Balboa characters as well as Harrison Ford grabbing his hat and whip once more as Indiana Jones. Die Hard 4.0, in that repsect, is a lot like Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone, 2006): not a classic by any means, but certainly a good effort at recycling a character well past his best.
Just as Willis has grown older and gone through many personal changes over the years, so has McClane here. Divorced but with a decent pension awaiting at retirement, he is over-protective towards his daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who he spies on while she’s out dating. At least seeing out his last days as a cop is easy compared with trying to get Lucy to understand his concerns. That is until cyber terrorist Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) shows up determined to bring America’s computer network to a standstill.
Fans of the Die Hard series will be delighted to see McClane battling against the odds once more.
At first McClane is assigned a simple delivery boy duty: bring skilled hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long) to the FBI so they can work out what the problem is with their system. This soon snowballs into a multitude of car chases, shoot outs and the obligatory daughter-gets-kidnapped-as-bait twist leading to the fourth opportunity for McClane to utter the words “Yippee-ki-yay Motherf****r”.
Fans of the Die Hard series will be delighted to see McClane battling against the odds once more becoming ever more brusied, bloodied and weary yet still somehow getting one over on opponents. The wisecracks are present as ever, helped by Long’s sidekick who is a good foil as a reluctant, geeky helper dragged along for his expertise. Farrell is aghast as McClane wipes out a hit team sent to kill him then marvels as he destroys a helicopter chasing them with a car. “You just killed a helicopter with a car”, he exclaims. “I had run out of bullets” replies McClane. Their banter makes for entertaining interludes between the action.
Underworld director Len Wiseman stacks up these set pieces including dangling McClane down a lift shaft in a SUV, dodging missiles in a lorry and surfing a Harrier jump jet, but beyond this and the buddy moments, Die Hard 4.0 limps along. Olyphant dishes out technical jargon applenty which is hardly imposing and offers little in the form of presence: he isn’t on the same level of menace as previous villains Jeremy Irons or Alan Rickman. In the smaller roles Maggie Q’s only noteable contribution is a spot of kung fu and Kevin Smith’s cameo is weighed down by cliched computer talk. Even brief moments of free running scrappily captured — one of the annoyances Wiseman carries through many of the high speed sequences.
Sure, so no one was expecting Die Hard 4.0 to be an eye-opening politicised thriller about the dangers of cyber terrorism in the post 9/11 America era, but all hints of worthy comment are lost in the sheer hyperactivity of geekery and keyboard tapping. When McClane and Farrell are left to save America on the back of noisey death and destruction with a few wry smiles and asides, it is great entertainment. We really shouldn’t have expected too much more, however it will be difficult for fans of the series to respect its re-heating of old leftovers and those new to John McClane’s heroics (if there are any) will wonder what the fuss was about in the first place. Great popcorn fun for action fanatics, nothing more.