It’s been interesting watching the four Die Hard movies in a row. The movies span from 1988 through 2007 – 19 years of watching the action movie genre grow. Whereas before it was bombs and watching people escape being shot, now it’s computers and watching people type furiously. Well, there’s still plenty of people trying to escape being shot and John McClane rolling from a car that he’s hilariously hurtled at a moving helicopter, but the details of the plot have changed with the times.
It’s time for Die Hard to get geeky. A computer programmer, in the form of Justin Long, is targeted by a group of cyber terrorists who aim to start a fire sale of financial assets – basically, steal a whole bunch of money. All of the programmers who have unwittingly worked on writing code for the fire sale have been blown to pieces, except for Long, who narrowly escapes pressing the delete button his computer when McClane shows up at his door to take him into protective custody. So begins the chase for the bad guys who are trying to put Long down and the rush to figure out exactly how far the terrorists are willing to take their efforts.
A couple things strike me as different in this Die Hard. First is that it’s the first time where mental intelligence is placed on par with brute force. Sure, McClane has to use his brain to stay one step ahead of the baddies, but he is mainly an unstoppable force of pure muscle (beautiful, lovely pure muscle). Justin Long is skinny and slight, yet his intellectual acuity is just as integral to the nefarious plot’s foiling as McClane’s ability to jump from a moving semi-truck onto a crumbling highway. Second, and most notably, it’s the first time that a woman gets to be a major badass in these movies. Maggie Q more than holds her own against Bruce Willis, beating him to a believable pulp before he ultimately sees to her end at the bottom of an elevator shaft. Alas, she is ultimately relegated to being the main villain’s love interest, but it’s still a departure for these ultra-macho movies.
I don’t expect there to be much social progression in these types of movies – it is not at all why I watch them – but it’s interesting to see how even a basic lone hero action flick sees fit to change with the times. Life Free or Die Hard (2007) is not the best of the group, but it’s still an enjoyable movie for folks like me who look forward to their action plots simple and their explosions big.