Thursday, July 05, 2007

Live Free or Diehard [DIEHARD 4.0]

by Reymundo Salao

The first DIEHARD movie was a landmark in action movies. It makes the adult all-action movie genre bigger and more intense, filling it with all the stunts, explosions, bodycount, as well as a powerful storyline, gripping suspense, the most colorful characters, brilliant dialogues and even the funniest black humor. DIEHARD was THE perfect action film. And of course, such a feat can not be easily repeated. Yet, ever since, their efforts for the sequels have been just substantial. Part 4 may not come as close to the original one. But it sure does put up a fight to be a good enough sequel to come as close to the original.

This film is entitled “LIVE FREE OR DIEHARD” in other countries. Being a sequel, it would be expected to victimize itself with comparison to the original movie. But opposite to what sequel skeptics would always point out, Diehard 4.0 is not a mere copy of the original movie. It is, however, a good movie that utilizes the "hero vs cyber-terrorist" template used in such films as "Swordfish" and "The Net". On the other hand, the storyline of Diehard 4.0 was actually based upon a 1997 article "A Farewell to Arms" written for Wired magazine by John Carlin." The screenplay was written by Mark Bomback on this article he'd read. Composer Marco Beltrami injects some of the musical themes from the original Diehard movie, and was able to add his own formula that comfortably fits the Diehard aura. His music was okay, but not outstanding.

Looking back at the first movie, the casting has made an excellent choice picking Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Lucy Gennaro MClane, John MClane's daughter, whose look indeed have such a resemblance to the little kid that played the same role on the first movie. Of course, Bruce Willis did a great job breathing life back to the two-decade old protagonist of this franchise. He only proves that John McClane is not too old to rock as a not-so-indestructible bad-ass hero. Maggie Q as the ass-kicking villainess Mai Lihn is stunning to look at, a walking eye candy. And Timothy Olyphant did a forgettable, yet satisfactory performance as the villain Thomas Gabriel. Outspoken (Star Wars) geek and spunky film director Kevin Smith, who directed Dogma, Jay & Silent Bob Strikes Back, Mallrats and Clerks, makes an applaudable but brief appearance as a hacker who calls himself Warlock. Justin Long who’s always played nerdy roles in movies like Dodgeball, Waiting, Herbie Fully Loaded, and Jeepers Creepers, does well as McClane's semi-partner in this movie.

The editing was flawed as some eagle-eye audiences could catch the inconsistency of the audio dialogue to the visual conversation in some of the scenes. This may be so because of the production company's last minute move to make the movie PG-13 instead of Rated R just like the previous Diehard movies. This is so the company can suck in more millions to its box-office sales. Nevertheless, the toning down of this movie's violence does not appear to ruin how good this movie is.

The movie does not run out of good humor also. There is always something to laugh at. There are a couple of semi-hidden jokes that reference to the previous Diehard movies. The mere mention of "Agent Johnson" may serve as a referential joke for Diehard diehards to laugh at. On the other hand, one may notice that there really isn’t much storyline in this movie. The storyline actually revolves around the character of the villain. The villain here is a vengeful programmer who was ignored and crucified by the government that he wanted to serve. But because this is a Diehard sequel, the focus is more on the consequences of the villain's road to vindication. In other words, the movie dispenses with going deep into the set-up story-telling and jumps into the action. After all, this is the movie that doesn’t seek to contest movies like Hotel Rwanda or Syrianna; it's a Diehard movie, dammit!

Len Wiseman is best known for directing the 2 UNDERWORLD movies. And although, his familiarity with heart-pounding action delivers the Diehard action goodies, he lacks the brilliant wit and the quirks that made the original Diehard special. I'm talking about scenes from the original like the Chinese guy stealing a candy bar before the gun slaughter, the scene with the SWAT guys clumsily being hurt by rose thorns as they "stealthily" seize the building. These are minor quirky scenes that made the original movie special because it gave each and every character personality; each and every scene mean so much. Len Wiseman delivers, even with the humor and the action in it, but merely with a satisfactory passing grade. One thumbs up would suffice.

What sets Diehard from other supermacho action movies is that John McClane bleeds. Sure, he kills all the bad guys, but he does it, number one: in a clumsy, insane way, or number two: he looks like half-dead human swiss cheese of injuries, looking like he demands to be taken to the hospital's ICU ward. You’ve gotta snicker and applaud a hero who admits he feels like a big pile of punching bag made out of crap and at the same time, cheer at himself for having annihilated all the bad guys. You cant easily turn your back to a hero as charming as that. Most especially with the subplot of John McClane for Diehards 3 and 4 where McClane's character suffers from some problematic stress and a bad divorce, it makes this protagonist more of a semi-tragic hero that gets much of fan sympathy. Everybody loves a hero who does the right thing even though he's down on the gutter and he knows that there really is no hero trophy waiting for him. Despite its minor shortcomings, Diehard 4.0 kicks ass.

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