Year Released: 2009
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Billy Crudup, Malin Akerman, Jackie Earle Haley,
Production Company: Waner Bros.
Release Date: March 6, 2009

There’s a large group comic geeks and assorted nerds the world over. Many of those geeks have been enjoying Hollywood’s recent turn to comics for quick cash profit. And of those many geeks, they’ve been given such ham-fisted attempts such as Batman and Robin, and an even lower extend, the Fantastic Four Franchise. I am one of the many comic book geeks out there, watching, and pondering, waiting for that one glimmering moment where the entire world believes it’s cool to be a geek all over again. Well, imagine my surprise when I heard about Watchmen, Alan Moore’s to the point, spawning graphic novel that covered politics, greed, and immortality to name a few topics. It’s a richly detailed, mystifying ride that will teach you something new each time you read it, and it’s a wholesome adventure with an inconclusive ending that leaves you with the ending devices. And that’s just the book. The comic was meant to only live within the paneled realm which Dave Gibbons created; certain story telling elements could only be portrayed in a comic book format, and untranslatable to any other format. But, damned if you can keep a filmmaker down, someone really wanted to reach a wider audience other than kids who spent too much time at the comic shop.

For all the cogs, there is only one spoon.

From Stage right strides in Zack Snyder, a respectable director hailed for his faithful representation of comicdom’s Frank Miller’s 300. He was able to capture the grandeur and glory of a chest thumping battle-hardened king Leonidas. Could Snyder capture the ethos, pathos and multiple underlying story elements that made Watchmen a timeless masterpiece? Well, he comes pretty close.

Watchmen takes place in an alternate 1985 where costumed folk fight crime, pursue justice, and have deep psychological problems. President Nixon is running for a third term, and the doomsday clock (a huge symbol in the comic book) is set 5 minutes to zero hour. Cold war tensions have reached a tedious high with the Soviets invading Afghanistan, yet are reluctant to strike with America in possession of the living superman Dr.Manhattan. The chain of events starts with the murder of one Edward Blake; costumed vigilante Rorschach investigates only to find Blake is actually the superhero ‘The Comedian’. Rorschach believes he has discovered a plot to eliminate costumed adventurers and sets about warning his retired comrades: Dan Dreiberg/NiteOwl II, Dr. Manhattan and Laurie Jupiter (Juspeczyk as told in the comic). Dreiberg informs Adrian Veidt, the world’s smartest man and former costumed avenger Ozymandias with little success. This all of course the set up so far, and I don’t want to spoil it for those who have never read the book, so I’ll stop here, but I can at least elaborate on what I did, and didn’t like.

Didn’t I see you in ’27 Dresses’?

Zack Snyder was handed the role due to his success with merging special effects with live action, he does a fine job here; he seamlessly matches up a pre mega-scraper New York complete with Gunga Diner elephant float, conveys mood, theme and attitude all incredibly well. Dr. Manhattan’s ethereal blue glow is handled in practical way as I found out on his blog, it matches the character and it the blue is never a distraction, only a tool that never distracts from the bigger picture. The flashbacks are handled quite well, as he choose to cast the actors younger and let the rubber latex add the years on in the 1985 timeline. The sets are wonderfully dreary without letting on they were lifted quite literally from Dave Gibbon’s artwork, and he does a fantastic job of translating literal famous comic poses onto the silver screen (See Rorschach’s jump onto Comedian’s balcony, or Dreiberg in quiet contemplation after hearing the line ‘you quit’). There’s never a moment on screen that isn’t drenched in history or burgeoning with in-references and nods. Each place you look on screen there’s a visual queue, a tip of the hat to the comic fans, and for non comic fans there’s always something worth coming back to. The mythology painted from the visuals is a rich tapestry from which you can find something new in repeated viewings. The lighting lends a heavier context with certain characters and there’s a certain flux in the flow of any scene. I was thoroughly engulfed in this world; a mix of real sets and computer generated backgrounds gave it more depth and I praised Snyder’s attention to detail.

Thankfully the blue smurf penis was petitioned out of this publicity snapshot

The characters themselves are visually stunning (Malin Akerman Anyone? Damn!), but just as Dr.Manhattan is detached from humanity, I too felt the actors were a little too disconnected. Patrick Wilson as Dan Dreiberg didn’t feel as intimated or as non-threatening in plain clothes; his physical demeanor and mere presence at times were staged as him being powerless, yet he always felt much more in command. Malin Akerman is as always a knockout, but she felt like she was going through the motions of her character, but I just wasn’t feeling it. Dr.Manhattan’s numbness to the world wasn’t really felt through Billy Crudup’s voice, but he does come close a few times. Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt, the world’s smartest man certainly feels like he’s conveying the same detachment, although if his words carried the same impact as his punches he would have been fully realized. All this, and the one character that came shining through was the stark black and white characterization provided by Jackie Earle Hale in Rorschach. The raspy voice over’s, absoluteness of his morals and drive for the truth couldn’t have been played better.
Too bad there’s no such thing as a sequel in this universe, I know who Hollywood would happily create a spin-off for his character.

Damn you Bruce Wayne, damn you.

The logic behind someone putting on mask and doing dumb things at 3:00am isn’t explained easily; it takes someone that’s little bit off kilter and willing to bend rules to do something like that. The overall feel of the book is captured nicely through the music, tone, dialogue and pacing. There’s never a moment you feel left in the dark with anyone’s motives and I can’t say enough about the eye candy throughout the production. As a comic geek, I was thrilled to see this adaptation come to fruitition. Everything is a little bit larger than life, and the production crew really outdid themselves in this Alan Moore tale of politics and superheroes. There were many layers omitted for obvious timing reasons, but that’s the fate of a book to movie adaptation; there’s always going to be a few sacrificed plot devices to fit the entirety of a film.

If you want a film that’s beautiful to look at, has lots of history and a loyal fan base, check out Watchmen. You won’t be disappointed.

8.5 out of 10

Punisher:War Zone

“Frick I forgot the BULLETS!”

Year Released: 2008
Directed by: Lexi Alexander
Starring: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Julie Benz, a bunch of copper shell jackets
Production Company: Lions Gate Films
Release Date: Dec 5, 2008

Punisher: War Zone reads less like “revenge”, and more like “re-hash”. This is the Punisher’s third time at bat, with a new production company, new director, and new star Ray Stevenson. This version wasn’t anything horrible, yet between the plot holes and one dimensional characters, it all feels a little flat. Granted, no one in Punisher: War Zone is going to walk away with any statuettes, but the screen writer should at least examine what makes the comic book character tick.

Frank Castle is the NYPD cop whose family is massacred after witnessing a mob slaying. Frank, the lone survivor takes it upon himself to punish the unjust that the cops can’t touch by donning black garb and using a skull as his symbol. He’s been doing this a long time, as NYPD’s finest can attest to; the special Punisher unit has an entire basement full of evidence and an exceedingly high body count. Along with this, they have his true identity, but no leads to his whereabouts. Listing off all those facts, the cops stick up for him at every turn and actually let him go every chance they get since they believe he’s doing the city a favor; It’s nice knowing that mass murderers are held in such high authority by the people paid to protect us. Frank unknowingly kills an undercover FBI agent posing as a mob strong arm in an opening scene. In the process, he horribly mangles Billy Russoti (Dominic West) in a glass recycling machine, the set up there is that Billy becomes Jigsaw, the stitch faced killer out to do Punisher in.

“Now where did I put that girdle?”

There’s at least some motivation there. Billy wants to kill Punisher because he’s screwed with his face, and of course the big P is ruining his whole mob-drug-trafficking-trade as well. So there’s the set up; you got two bloodthirsty guys, each with their own sets of tools who will inevitably meet up for one final death match. Along the way we’re introduced to a whole bunch of throw away characters like Julie Benz, who I have to say looks waaaaay better raven haired than blonde, a stone eyed Colin Salmon and a completely wasted Wayne Knight as Microchip. I really wanted to like this movie, as I was disappointed with Jonathan Hensleigh/Thomas Jane’s Punisher, I figured a new addition, or a reimaging under Marvel Knights more explosive, bloody line would kick things up a notch as the Vertigo line for DC did a few years back. I didn’t get anything this time around, just another shoot em’ up action-fest that plodded along trading an actual storyline for bloody head count.

Guess he didn’t like the Fantastic Four movies either

For all the bashing, I do have to say the lightning, costumes and sets were beautifully done right. The atmosphere for each setting played nicely to each character, showcasing the darker traits that I didn’t see before. The lightning used particularly in Punisher’s Lair against the neon drudgery that was the Bradstreet hotel was refreshing. Not only did the ample shadows give good hiding spots, it also garnered a few points in my books.

The Punisher series of movies can’t take many more outings; probably one more film will be the final nail in this coffin. The franchise is either handled badly or just isn’t worth reviving, believe me when I was a kid watching the Dolph Lundgren version I was enthralled. Although these days my tastes have matured and I’ve moved onto more ‘Dark Knight’ reboot worthy films of late.

2.0 out of 10


Best Poster of the Year by far.

Year Released: 2008
Directed by: Pierre Morel
Starring: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, an alarming amount of French/Albanian Terrorists
Production Company: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: Jan 30, 2009

If there’s a lesson to be learned from Taken, the white knuckle thrill a minute movie, it’s this: Do not, under any circumstance, fuck with Liam Neeson.

That’s right Heir Schindler himself is ex-CIA operative Bryan Mills, the killing machine set off by the kidnap and sale of his daughter to an Albanian sex trade ring. He stops at nothing to find his daughter, and you believe he’s justified in getting the information necessary, and punishing the people responsible. I could be partial to this, as the most difficult scene for me to watch was his utter helplessness but cool demeanor when his daughter informs him there are people trying to kidnap her. During that harrowing phone conversation however, Mills is able to pick up enough information through his auditory senses and actually speaks to one of the assailants and issue perhaps one of the most bone chilling threats ever uttered on the silver screen:

“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”

Between that quote, and the poster itself, some sort of Oscar hardware should be handed out for sheer bad-assery. Of course, this is considered a mindless action movie of the variety that could only be churned out in the same fashion as The Transporter series, or perhaps at some level of The Professional. It certainly works for me.

If you tell me where she is, I’ll give you a copy of DarkMan

Speaking of The Professional, you’ll notice that this penned by Luc Besson himself. There much of the same themes in the main character: he’s a professional, the best at what he does, and has ruthless methods. The other common theme between the two pictures is that lead actor is a quiet, unassuming male respected for other works than mindless action. Hats off to Besson and the production company for lassoing Neeson in, as anyone else would have sounded corny or comedic in their interpretation of the lines. Part of me wondered why someone of Neeson’s status as leading dramatic man decided to play the part. After watching the movie however, you can tell he brings all his acting chops with him in every scene. And it’s bloody brilliant on his part. I prefer the brand of highly competent, highly professional action hero that has been churned out in the last five years (Such as the Bourne Series), compared to the eighties cigarette smoking, testosterone filled, one-liner quips spouted off at the correct moment hero I grew up on. The maturity is needed to fill the void left over by the cocky actioneers and violent ways, the newer breed actually have goals and aren’t willing to bend their ways to get them.

Next time, I’ll use a light saber on your ass!

I can’t say enough about Liam Neeson, he’s just so damn good as the guy who pulls out all the stops to get his daughter back. As a new father to a daughter myself, I identify with his character. I’d do everything in my power to achieve the same end, and if I had the same skill sets and knowledge Bryan Mills had, I’d tear down the Eiffel tower myself to get back what was mine. He brings an additional weight to his performance that Taken would otherwise would have been without, and become straight to DVD fodder. The action might be mindless, but the motivation is clear, and watching the straightforward Liam-beats-the-ever-loving-daylights-out-of-people-plot is well worth money.

8.5 out of 10

Movie Review: Jumper

Year Released: 2008
Directed by: Doug Liman
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Hayden Christensen, Rachel Bilson
Production Company: 20th Century Fox

Jumper means well, in the same way that a homeless guy steals your wallet. Actually, it’s just theft, and it’s criminal. And that’s how I felt after viewing Jumper. I felt like I had been robbed.

If not for the supremely successful Bourne Trilogy, Doug Liman probably would have never even got a hand in directing this movie, and unlike his Indy roots, he whole heartedly sacrifices substance for style. Not the best move, especially for a film that looks this pretty, and makes you wonder about the possibilities of teleportation. And Hayden cardboard-whiny-as-all-hell-Darth-fucking-Vader Christensen as the lead character, I found myself rooting for the villains half the time. Well, let’s jump into the review shall we? No pun intended.

Christensen is David Rice, a being capable of teleportation simply by envisioning the place in his mind. He just thinks about the place he wants to be, and he’s able to ‘jump’ there through a series of wormhole like teleportation devices that only he can access. This allows him to rob banks, go anywhere in the world, do pretty much anything with no consequences whatsoever, that is until Mace Windu shows up to shove a light saber up his ass! Oops…wrong flick. Samuel L. Jackson in his most cartoonish role with snow white hair and beard accomplishes being a complete dick to Rice within the first scene (so, really he’s not that bad of a guy!) Jackson, as Roland, is the keeper of keys of long…distance…travel. He’s part of a sect called the Paladins and has been hunting down ‘Jumpers’ just like David for a long, long time, in a galaxy far far away…dammit…you get the idea. He’s a major bad ass.

David first learns of his ability when being bullied at school (this part is thankfully not played by Christensen). Once he figures it out, he’s jacks a bank vault and is actually dickish enough to leave an IOU note for all the millions he’s stolen. From his first few clumsy jumps, he starts to use it to travel and steal more money – because, wouldn’t you? Around the second act, the Paladin’s ultimate bad ass Roland shows up to kill Rice, a welcoming act, as we’re never shown any kind of motivations behind Rice’s actions; and really, he is basically a villain since he’s got no moral compass, he does whatever he damn well wants. So, yes, I for one was glad to see Jackson lay the smack down on Vader’s candy ass.

I can’t really say a ‘chase’ ensues, whereby I mean David jumps to another place. A chase is something that’s done when two bodies are in motion, one after the other. This was a little different, in that Rice could just jump to Japan, 10,000 miles away from the people pursing him.

Oh yeah, they also force a romance between Rachel Bilson and Hayden Christensen. Because he takes her to Rome, a place she’s always wanted to go as a kid. And because she’ll put out if she’s given nice stuff, great moral compass…yeah. I’m sure the filmmakers wanted to convey ‘compassionate longing’ into the script but somehow ended up getting ‘golddigger’. I’m sure it was a slight oversight.

If not for the appearance of a second jumper, Griffin (Jamie Bell), David wouldn’t learn anything about his ‘highlander’ -like back story. Griffin, who really should have been the main characters, saves David from the paladins during a fight in the roman Colosseum. Hell, even a video game was made of Griffin rather than David at the helm – that should tell you something right there: who’s more marketable?

The visuals of Jumper were simply awesome; you really felt that David was jumping all around the world in the blink of an eye, or all over the screen. His ability brings forth many new dimensions of ‘what-if’s’ but the filmmakers ultimately don’t use that tool, and just turn the it into a love story that’s clumsy and at times, silly. The introduction of Diane Lane as the mother also felt entirely tacked on, and a grasping at air attempt for a sequel – it fails miserably.

If this movie proves anything, it’s that in the age of special effects, story stands out above all else. Without a good story and good cast, you just have an empty shell that’s vacuous and tries hard to be something it’s not: great.

5 out of 10

Movie Review: Rambo

Year Released: 2008
Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz,
Production Company: Rogue Marble

Remember that scene in UHF where Weird Al shot something like, 100 guys standing on the hill with his big M60? The 2008 Rambo kinda reminds me of that; namely because he has a great big .50 calibre machine gun he uses to mow down the enemy. Of course, UHF didn’t have bad guys being decapitated or limbs blown off from bullets; leave that to our boy Rambo.

As you know (hopefully you’ll know this) Rambo is the fourth instalment of the Rambo series. Basically it’s an exercise in maniless, masculinity and defined the 80’s action hero as the rough and tumble ex-military type. Unlike the first series however, there’s much more gratuitous violence and blood than the first three COMBINED. Stallone might not be as muscular and slim; these days he’s trying to stave off the grandpa fat and thankfully doesn’t take off his shirt, he’s bit larger and little chunkier but even more deadly as he hacks and shoots his way through Burmese soldiers.

This time around Rambo, who hasn’t returned to the United States in 25 years, lives a solitary life in Thailand where he hunts poisonous snakes and blacksmiths random metal objects. For anyone still paying attention: Rambo is the fucking balls, the iron chef of he-man toughness. He hunts poisonous snakes. Seriously. Some missionaries show up hoping to help the war torn Burma, and since they’re armed with Bibles and medicine, and have a single white female (Julie Benz), Rambo is adverse to the idea at first then warms up. Probably to further along the story. The missionaries get to their destination, but shortly after arriving the village is massacred by the Burmese army and the surviving missionaries are taken hostage.

At this point it’s up to Richard Crena’s replacement (Ken Howard) to hire some annoying commandos and with Rambo’s help, get their people back and shoot the ever-loving-shit out of the Burmese. Let’s put it this way; he does both.

The character of Rambo has always been a part of my childhood; he was this untouchable killing machine that didn’t have mercy, was invisible to the enemy and feared by his own people. On top of that, he was resourceful, smart and suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome; and back in the 80’s that was cool. This time around, he’s a little slower and director Stallone’s solution was to up have him kill people in the most graphically violent way possible. To make up for the last 25 years, Rambo still uses his crossbow; albeit for fishing and gaming, but it was still pretty cool to see, and he didn’t have his giant multipurpose blade either: he traded it in for a custom made giant machete. And I think that’s the symbolism Stallone was trying to accomplish in this film to set it apart from the last three – he’s gotten older, wiser, and rather than using a sleek blade, the broad metal of the machete inflicts maximum damage with maximum noise. As opposed to trying to sneak up on people, and at 61 that’s probably harder to accomplish.

If you’re looking for blood and guts, look no further than Rambo, I’m sure there’s enough here to start its own franchise. Stallone can prove he can bring new life into old shoes with Rocky and he’s done pretty well with Rambo. Next up, either a sequel to Demolition Man, or a Tango and Cash remake with Stallone and Seann William Scott. Man, Tango and Cash was awesome.

7 out of 10

Movie Review: I am Legend

I am Legend
Year Released: 2007
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Will Smith, a bunch of zombies and his dog
Production Company: Warner Bros.

Will Smith is a bankable star, if not a likeable one. As Robert Neville, the last man alive in a city full of zombie-like/infected monsters, he carries it well without his brand of off-the-cuff humor we’re so used to in his past roles.
Legend is the cautious tale of tempering with vaccines, and what could happen to the world, should a potential cure for cancer mutate, and turn regular people into night zombie/vampire creatures. Robert Neville is the last infected man alive, lives and faithfully sends out radio transmissions everyday from his base in New York. As flashbacks indicate, the virus outbreak was partly his own responsibility, and he is seemingly immune. Being a military scientist, he conducts experiments to cure the virus, but time is running out as the city is infested with the infected zombies. Pretty cool premise, huh?

Legend didn’t quite fill my movie needs many terms. As a stand alone movie, it falls short in many categories. Director Francis Lawrence takes too long developing the idea that a major metropolitan city as New York has become a deserted wasteland of metal, overrun by weeds and wildlife. I get that, the audience gets that, so why dedicate more than 3/4 of the film to show it? Not exactly the sort of thing you want to continue to show if you want to prove a tired point: in Lawrence’s case, he’s trying to prove to the studios he’s worth signing on for another feature film. Hey, more power to the guy, but the focus should really have been on making the Neville a little more consistent.

I remember when I am Legend was being developed by Ridley Scott, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was attached as Robert Neville. Man, those were exciting days; an A-list star and a powerhouse director. Unfortunately, it all fell apart due to overblown budgets, and this project went into development hell for more than 15 years. The names alone would have attracted me, and a master filmmaker like Scott would have been able to put the focus on the characters (ie. Matchstick men, or to a greater extend: any of his tent-pole movies) with the background as a supporting tool.

As a remake, the film is good. As a stand alone movie, it’s a half hour too short, and there’s not enough directions this film could have gone. Some characters are created but not introduced; which leads to clumsy relationships. Hopefully that doesn’t spoil too much. I could only take so much of Smith talking to himself and going through the same flashbacks, of non-zombified New York.

There’s also a HUGE inconsistency in how these movie monsters work as well: Neville, an army scientist records for us his findings: apparently these creatures are without any sort of proper thought process, only feeding on whatever ‘clean’ blood they find. All the actions of these creatures makes this statement true: they’re mindless zoned out creatures with lightning fast speed, only looking to feed in the night because the sunlight burns their skin.

This totally undermines the entire premise of the film for me. First, they introduce the ground rules, then break them to create tension. It’s an utterly worthless gesture that only serves to confuse the audience, and tack on the next stupid move for Smith’s Character: revenge. He’s only been alone, being ever so careful for the last three years as the last man: and he does something totally out of character and completely reckless.

If you want flashy visuals with no moral conundrums, by all means see I am Legend. If you want a movie that will make you think about consequences: check out Children of Men.

6 out of 10

Movie Review: Hitman

Year Released: 2007
Directed by: Xavier Gens
Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott, Olga Kurylenko
Production Company: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: Nov 21, 2007

Hitman, as any good gaming geek would know is the movie based on the hit multiplatform by Eidos interactive. In the game, you play a ruthless hitman assigned to eliminate targets by a splinter religious sect organization. You dispatch targets with as much creativity as you like, and your reward is moving further up the game chain. In other words: it can get pretty repetitive – just like the movie.

Well, it wasn’t so repetitive as it was graining on my eyes watching a lot of nothing happen on the screen. The plot follows our Hitman, known anonymously only as ‘Agent 47′ (Olyphant), from being raised as child to breathe, sweat, eat and presumably shit assassin. The beginning scene proudly plays Ave Maria which screams out “Pay attention! This is important!” Don’t worry, it’s not. And it’s an interesting back-story, but full of questions that are really never answered. Moving onto adulthood rather quickly, chrome domed Agent 47 receives a barcode tattoo (we can only assume this is where the ’47’ came from) to basically let the audience know he’s graduated from Assassin University. The real plot then takes place, but I feel it’s really nonexistent and rather unimportant to the film. Agent 47 is dispatched to murder a potential presidential candidate of Russia. He fails, or so you think, in steps Dougray Scott as the FBI to call it bullshit, he unravels a plot, agent 47 is framed by his own organization, goes on the lam, picks up a half dressed Olga Kurylenko , continues running, unravels another plot and so on so forth.

Like I said, the plot really isn’t what you’re watching: it’s the gunplay, the violence and the slick angles that make this so cool. It’s a shame really, because Hitman is another ‘style over substance’ movie that really doesn’t inspire, take any new chances nor does it leave you with a sense of closure. Like I said, there are some pretty cool parts, such as samurai fighting and the occasional boob shot that got in there, but really, it felt lame.

You can certainly tell the actors tried their best with the material they were given. Dougray Scott, brings a little of that british wit and dignity, whereas I’m not sure if Timothy Olyphant really fills the shoes of a role this big. Granted, he looks just like the character from the game, yet lacks the nitty grittiness that the role suggests he needs. He’s a killer right? I understand the need to get dressed up in a black suit and blood red tie, but it’s okay that he gets beat up and muddy every once in a while: give me my action heroes in the form of the John McClane. Olga Kurylenko is new to American cinema’s, but I get the feeling this vehicle isn’t going to launch her into utter stardom; if anything, she’ll spend a good amount of time ever denying this movie was on her resume. The rest of the cast I could mention, but they are utterly throw away peices. Use them to get the plot going, but don’t bother trying to find their motivations.

Perhaps I’m just complaining, but at times the audio didn’t quite sync up properly. Of course most of the talking scenes of Agent 47 has Timothy Olyphant talking through his teeth most of the time; which would be hard for any editor to get through.

The spy/assassin genre is chock full of mindless, uninspired crud and Hitman is no different. If you want something with real substance and that’s smart enough not to insult your intelligence, check out the Bourne Series, or to a lesser extent: the cartoonish super villainy of Austin Powers. At least you’ll feel more satisfied than watching Hitman.

2 out of 10

Movie Review: Live Free or Die Hard

Live Free or Die Hard
Year Released: 2007
Directed by: Len Wiseman
Starring: Bruce Willis, Timothy Olyphant, Justin Long
Production Company: 20th Century Fox

Come and gone are the 80’s action movies. With their over the top action, defying of physics and one liners they were retired when the age of special effects entered the arena. Everyone got the memo: except for John McClane: indestructible supercop and it’s about time he came back!

Live Free or Die Hard could very well be the most fun movie for the summer 2007 season and it stands out with a point: who needs all the blue and green screen crap when you have a veritable, be it bald, action icon like Willis who’s come back in the digital age to lay down the smack: analog-style. The plot is simple: it brings forward all those Y2K era fears you had about dependency on computers, and what happens to infrastructure, government, finances and traffic when their tied into said computers. Ultra hacker Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) has devised the mass mayhem in an attempt at securing the World’s finances by way of duping hackers into cracking pieces of government code, and he does away with them with a C-4 firmware upgrade (?) that destructs when the geeks hit ‘delete’. Pretty far-fetched. It was even more farfetched that some of the terrorists were French (!).

The action is just what you’ve come to expect from the Die Hard series: it’s fast, furious, and loud. At times, it’s pretty over the top and somewhat silly: such as when McClane crashes a police cruiser into a helicopter. “I was out of bullets” an understated, if not dry use of his quick barbs. That’s another thing too, what happened to the one-liners? We were treated with a veritable cornucopia of memorable quotes:

There was the statement of obvious:
“No fucking shit, lady. Do I sound like I’m ordering a pizza?”
More obviousness:
“Who’s driving this car, Stevie Wonder?”
And my personal favourite: right at the end when he’s beating the hell out of Karl:
“You motherfucker, I’m gonna kill you! I’m gonna fuckin’ cook you, and I’m gonna fucking eat you!”

In the most recent incarnation, we’re given
“Enough of this kung fu shit”
“A little thing they invented back in the sixties called ‘jogging’. You’re gonna love it. Come on”

Okay, now that it’s down on paper, I have to say I cracked a smile over that kung fu line.

Speaking of which, with the family friendly PG-13 rating, I was a little disappointed. Viewing the first Die Hard, it was basically B movie fare that compensated not having a big star (at the time anyway) with massive amounts of blood and Willis’ trademark smart-ass one liners. And it worked great. Hell, it worked in the first, second and third instalment, not so much this time around though. Yes, I blame the rating for the lack of swearing, and Die Hard’s famous quote ‘Yippee Ki Yay Motherfucker!’ which they needlessly blanked out the last few syllable with a gunshot. So, the ratings board doesn’t like any famous four letter words, but is willing to substitute it with on screen shootings and McClane beating a girl into submission? Well, whatever works.

Oh yes, the ACTION. It’s pure and plenty, but there’s a few parts that I’m sure auto manufacturer’s hoped to cash in on, namely the parts where:

McClane drives a cop car into a helicopter.
McClane drives over a chick ninja with a Ford Explorer.
McClane drives a semi big rig into an F-18 hornet.

Plus, he steals a BMW and Kevin Smith’s old beater. To say the screenwriters might be autophiles might be stating the obvious: or point out their closet fetish.

If you want a movie with an action icon back in form, check out the indestructible human bullet John McClane kicking ass on July 4th. His old school tactics certainly work: especially when he delivers the package with a wise cracking mouth.

7.5 out of 10