You'd think a Die Hard film in which John McClane rides a plane, flies a car into a helicopter and runs Maggie Q over into an elevator shaft would be pretty darn classic.
Well, somehow Die Hard 4.0 (or Live Free Or Die Hard) found a way to not make that into the best THING that 2007 had to offer.
This sequel sees Bruce Willis' NYPD cop (now detective) being assigned the task of picking up some computer hacker, played by a grating Justin Long, and bringing him to the FBI for questioning. As it turns out, the kid was used as a pawn by a terrorist organisation (run by Timothy Olyphant) to set-up a "firesale", basically a cyber attack resulting in financial meltdown. McClane and Matt (Long) are soon under fire and instead of sticking with the FBI they decide to take on Gabriel (Olyphant) themselves, which doesn't really seem like the most reasonable solution but hey. There'd be no movie otherwise.
But this is partly why 4.0 doesn't really cut it as a Die Hard flick: all the key elements we attribute to the franchise feel tacked on and fail to gel with the rest of the film. Sure you get your "yippee ki-yay" and your one-liners but the rest of the film is like just any generic action thriller. The character of McClane is portrayed as pretty bitter and joyless so when he does go into the occasional wisecrack it comes off as a bit odd since Long is given every other joke. Yes McClane had a sidekick in Die Hard: With A Vengeance but that was Samuel L. freakin' Jackson not that geeky dude from He's Just Not That Into You! McClane isn't the fun pushed-to-the-limit guy we all know and love anymore, he's a moody badass-for-the-sake-of-being-badass overprotective father. In this movie you don't feel like he's under any obligation to get involved, sure he could still help but why does he need to go all the way and hunt down Gabriel himself? Because of some sort of deluded egomaniacal macho "I have to do it because no-one else will" nonsense?
Give me a break.
Back in the day McClane had to do something because he really had to do it not because he felt like going on a suicide mission just for the hell of it. Unlike in, say, Taken, it's entirely his fault his daughter ends up in harm's way here, she was fine! I don't see what McClane can offer besides copious amounts of testosterone to this investigation. Previous Die Hard films also stood out thanks to their charismatic villains: Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), Colonel Stuart (William Sadler), Simon Gruber (Jeremy Irons), all great. Olyphant's Thomas Gabriel is fine but he's just not that intimidating and is more of a bitter geek than anything else.
Speaking of geeks, the movie's approach to computer hackers and high-tech technology feels weirdly dated, almost 90's. I mean, you've got Kevin Smith in this movie who lives in his mother's basement, is known as "The Warlock" and has a bedroom peppered with Star Wars memorabilia. Also, Long goes around plugging his phone into ANY other computer and he gains control of it instantly, like that kid in Terminator 2. Now I don't know about you but I find that the thing about computers is that they're sloooooow. Point is: these guys are annoying stereotypes we've seen a million times in movies and really, this whole Eagle Eye-style hacker plot is a bit wimpy compared to previous instalments.
The film does go overboard in terms of what McClane can do, I mean ok the guy was always doing crazy stuff but usually it was stuff he came up with at the last second under pressure and in the end he was just as surprised as you were that it worked. Here, he throws a car into a helicopter, has a preposterous fight inside an elevator shaft and drives a truck pursued by an army plane that, for some reason, is perfectly fine with blowing up parts the city, as entire bridges crumble right behind him. It just gets a bit too 2012 once in a while and there's little logic to those action sequences: they're not tense, they're not suspenseful, they're just... there.
Overall, Die Hard 4.0 isn't a bad film, it's not even a bad action thriller, it's a just a bland Die Hard film. We expect something a bit more unique and charismatic than this when it comes to a McClane outing. There are so many thrillers of that type out there these days (The Expendables, Taken, Bourne Legacy, the Mission Impossible films), we really didn't need another one of that type. 4.0 doesn't get what made the Die Hard films before it so great, it just gets what made them films but... yeah that's not enough.