starring Bruce Willis, Timothy Olyphant, Justin Long, Cliff Curtis, Maggie Q, Jonathan Sadowski and Kevin Smith
screenplay by Mark Bomback
directed by Len Wiseman
I would not call this a great movie. But it is a lot of fun. Like a Matt Reilly novel it features non-stop hyper-action that is a little tiring. But it only lasts about a hundred minutes, so I can stick it out.
Detective John Maclane is back, a lot older than the lastDiehard film, and with a lot less hair. Well, no hair at all, actually, but he is still great. (Bald actors like Bruce Willis, Ed Harris and Stanley Tucci turn me on. I think it is their baldness in addition to their talent.) By being in the wrong place at the wrong time - the same story mechanism as all the Diehard movie plots - he gets mixed up with super bad-guy terrorists that turn out to be just megalomaniac bank robbers. (In Diehard 2 the story line was about drugs, not money. But that was a sign of the times, what with Ronald Reagan’s “war on drugs.” In all the other Diehard films the story has boiled down to a glorified bank robbery.) Previous villains Allan Rickman and Jeremy Irons are more villainous than the bad guy in this movie, American Timothy Olyphant. That is because the previous villains have all been foreigners (non-Americans), and foreigners - especially with European accents - make for the best villains in American cinema. It’s perverse, it’s sad and it’s wrong, but that is the American imagination for you.
The thing that makes the John Maclane character so great (and successful) is that he never stops moving in the face of disaster. In catastrophe most people would freeze like wildlife caught in a car’s headlights and then get run over. It takes a quick mind and reflexes to get out of the way and keep moving forward. Watch Jackie Chan movies and you will see the same thing. Jackie’s opponents are bigger, stronger, tougher and better martial artists than he is, but for shear mobility and desperate scrambling (not to mention plain old luck) Jackie wins. The lesson is, never stop moving. Of course, it is a Hollywoodmovie. In real life a bullet, or a long fall, or a vehicle crash would stop even the toughest guy, whereas they don’t stop John Maclane.
In Diehard 4.0 a grudging, vendetta-seeking former government security expert cyber crook is setting up the entire U.S. economy for collapse using computer viruses. As with a lot of recent movies it brims with a display of computer technology and the inter-connectivity of things in the modern world that accounts for the profound vulnerability of our lives. And it features a lot of nerdy computer geek characters to provide a surplus of comic relief.
The villains here are definitely more vicious than in Die Hard 1 (Allan Rickman) and 3 (Jeremy Irons). They have to be in order to make up for the lack of exposition of their rationale like what previous villains delivered by way of story continuity. (Why do villains always want to spill their guts to their intended victims by explaining their plan before they kill them? The heroes escape and use the information to defeat them. In James Bond movies, why does Ernst Bloefeld explain his plan to Bond before killing him? Just kill him!)