Screenwriters: Mark Bomback
Starring: Bruce Willis, Timothy Olyphant, Justin Long, Maggie Q
Running time: 130 mins
For many years we’ve been yearning for hardened cop John McClane to return to our screens and finish off the bad guys with a winning combination of bullets, blood-soaked vests and profanity-ridden quips. Be careful what you wish for. After sitting through the butt- and mind-numbing Die Hard 4.0 it’s highly likely you’ll be shaking your head at the woeful, misguided mess that you’ve just witnessed. That’s if you’re even capable of shaking your head. Basic motor functions may well shut down during the painful 130 minute running time.
A plot involving terrorists using cyberspace to control various amenities and organisations in the United States does its job in giving the film a contemporary and relevant feel. A hair-free Bruce Willis also eases back into the legendary role with assurance, his wild eyes still blazing and tinged with a touch of bitterness over the break-up of his family.
Sadly, apart from one phenomenal set piece towards the end involving a fighter jet and a truck, that’s pretty much all this inspiration-free movie has to commend. The whole enterprise reeks of some inferior attempt to impersonate the sublime Die Hard trilogy, with the stunts generally derivative, repetitive and devoid of creative spark.
As for the quips that so acerbically flew of McClane’s tongue in the previous films, they are so tediously mundane and cringeworthy here that it’s a surprise the filmmakers haven’t deployed a laughter track to sonically cover up the collective groaning and sighing in the cinema. It plays like a parody. Every line McClane has towards a villain or obstructive authority figure seems to either end in ‘jerk-off’, ‘dickhead’ or ‘asshole’. The scriptwriters seem to have used a rotation system on these insults that Jose Mourinho would be proud of. But alas, this does not constitute humour. Far from it.
The narrative meanders despite an initially promising premise, having a complete lack of storytelling urgency. You never really feel that there’s any significant, imminent threat. Die Hard 4 has taken the step of widening the goalposts and upping the ante to make the whole of the United States its playing field. Bad move. Enclosed spaces were where McClane thrived in the previous films, so with a poorly structured narrative there’s little director Len Wiseman can do to crank up the tension. All he can do is deliver the occasional perfunctory set piece. Yawn. Seen it all before.
The revelation about central villain Thomas Gabriel’s (Timothy Olyphant) motive is delivered far too late in the movie, as his previous actions seemingly lacked any motive. You didn’t know his agenda, and after a while you don’t care.
Be careful what you wish for indeed when it involves a legendary character making a comeback to the screen. Sometimes it’s better to let shooting cops lie… rather than return and fire blanks.