It's Independence Day weekend. Flags are waving, National Anthems are being sung. It's a country-wide holiday. And ex-Department of Defense programmer Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) plans on cutting the celebration short by cutting off America, electronically. Hackers nationwide are being taken in by the FBI to find connections to this breakdown. One hacker in particular, Matthew Ferrell (Justin Long) gets a knock on his door, and it's none other than New York police detective John McClane (Bruce Willis). Ferrell tries to lead McClane astray from his apartment, when suddenly, hit men strike, and McClane is forced to kick some ass yet again. McClane and Ferrell eventually escape, and begin a national journey to find Thomas Gabriel, take him down, and end his hacker regime.
Live Free Or Die Hard has taken the series to the largest scale than ever before. The first took place in a singular building, the second an airport, the third a city, and the fourth, an entire nation. At this point, I don't know if Die Hard could dial back the scale again without it seeming weaker in its spectacle, though the original movie did have the smallest scale. I appreciate the scale, though it makes it seem unlike a Die Hard movie, as the others have taken place over the course of a single day. However, I won't say I don't appreciate the scale it brings to Die Hard. It's fresh, and finally decides to take Die Hard in another direction.
The villain is certainly a good threat, but I don't think he's as memorable as, say Hans Gruber from the first film or Simon Gruber from the third film. He is a passable villain. In terms of the concept, I really like it. John McClane, unfortunately, would be useless now due to his lack of knowledge for computers or technology in general. This film proposes that if tech did fail, modern cowboy McClane would be the only one to save the day. The plot is certainly not the most intelligent, and has many lapses in logic, but I forgive it because of it's popcorn movie feel, which was not (At least I would argue) as potent in Die Hard With A Vengeance, save for a few select scenes. I appreciate the third installment trying to be fresh and new, but I don't think entertainment in an action movie franchise such as Die Hard should be sacrificed for a hard-hitting plot. I could even argue that the plot of the first film isn't the greatest an action movie can do. This movie knows it's not very witty or smart, so it makes up for it in being a fun popcorn movie. The messages in this movie are important, but not in the context of the film. In fact, the movie is based on an article, which, unless you use Die Hard for your daily source of social commentary, you should read, because it explains it better than this movie. It's ultimately a dumb action movie, so sub textual stuff like that doesn't land.
John McClane is great in this movie. He feels fresh off where the series left off, even within a twelve year difference, ready to quip, kick ass, and save the day. And he delivers the lines and action with conviction, which most older action stars fail to do. I feel the character of Matthew Ferrell is bashed too much. He's a nice, fun, modern character who actually brings something to the duo dynamic with John McClane, unlike Zeus from With A Vengeance, who was just another tough dude. The interplay between McClane and Ferrell is fun, and I enjoy Long in the role. The side characters are pretty forgettable, save for the ninja girl or Kevin Smith. The acting is good, passable for an action movie.
The movie is quickly paced, and doesn't stay in one place for long, which keeps the movie within the Die Hard pace. Though it takes place over more than one day, the pacing is quick so it almost feels like a day. It's a quick, fun watch.
Addressing its PG-13 rating, it is a shame for a Die Hard movie to stoop low enough to give itself a PG-13 just for the market. I think people would've seen it if it was R anyway. This sequel had a long time coming, and Die Hard is pretty much a big franchise in Hollywood. I don't like the fact that they cut off the latter part of the infamous "Yippie - Ki - Ya" line. I feel like Fox should've given some leeway, because that line is almost a centerpiece of the movies, something you wait for. But, the action feels R-rated, and I don't dislike the movie because of its softening.
Live Free Or Die Hard, whether bashed for its unfaithfulness or differences from the rest of the movies, I don't feel can be denied as a good Die Hard movie, or a good movie in general. Lest we forget that the first 30 minutes of With A Vengeance wasn't even a Die Hard movie. It was ripped from a script called Simon Says, and those first 30 minutes of the movie are better than the rest. Live Free Or Die Hard is a fun return to form for the franchise, and the best sequel.