Saturday, July 7, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard: Implausibly Entertaining

If I judged movies based on plausibility, then Live Free or Die Hard would be one of the worst movies I've ever seen, but that's not how I judge movies. I judge movies based on whether I'm entertained and don't check my watch to see how much longer it is. You won't be checking your watch during this entertaining, fast paced, action flick. Even the critics give it a 78% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes . For once, they seem to recognize a movie for what it is --- mindlessly fun entertainment.

Bruce Willis still has what it takes to play the wisecracking, courageous, super tough cop John McClane. All of the elements of the Die Hard formula are there. Justin Long ,who plays "the Mac" in the Mac vs. PC commercials, is his reluctant good hacker sidekick. The plot involves a high tech scheme to "crash" the U.S. for nefarious purposes. Long's character, Matthew Farrell, is using an Apple computer for his hacking when we first meet him. I wonder if that was a requirement of his contract? For the rest of the movie, he does most of his hacking, including tapping into satellite communications, on a Nokia 9300 PDA phone. Just as implausibly the bad guys use Nokia N95s or similar phones for much of their hacking. Ironically the uberhacker known as "The Warlock" (super-geek director Kevin Smith) exclaims with amazement that the head evil hacker crashed NORAD with "just a laptop." He'll be really amazed to discover the same guy crashes the whole country with a few desktops and cell phones.

This plot wouldn't even have been possible when the first Die Hard was released in 1988. Every day technology has advanced that much. In this movie, computers, cell phones, and the latest STOVL jets are as essential to the plot as the curmudgeonly John McClane.

Timothy Olyphant portrays the chief evil hacker as the kind of villain you just love to hate. Maggie Q plays his girlfriend/accomplice, Mai. McClane describes her as "smokin' hot", as do many Internet commentators, and she is "smokin' hot", but you're not sorry to see her go.

A lot of the implausibilities are good for a chuckle or provide the thrills. There's a lot of bits that make you think "that would never work, but it sure is cool to watch!" After all, cartoonish escapes and the ability to keep going after being run over, shot, beaten, and falling 50 feet are all part of the Die Hard formula.

In the end, good triumphs over evil. McClane is implausibly still standing despite an army of bad guys focused on killing him. He takes a lickin' and keeps tickin', as one character says he's "a Timex watch in a digital world."

A good time was had by all. Even the implausible bits are good for a chuckle so put your brain in park and have a good time.

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