Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard (2007)


Wow, who'd have thought that we'd have a summer where Len Wiseman would be showing Michael Bay how to direct an action movie?

I'm mostly surprised at how enjoyable this was because of how little interest I had in this movie to begin with - a sequel a dozen years after the last movie is a dubious place to start, and the only other Len Wiseman movie I've ever seen, Underworld, is dreary and tedious. And on top, the trailer, with fervent Michael Bay-isms like American flags unfolding in slow-motion and absurdly impossible stunts, made this look like crud.

But Wiseman stepped up and delivered the most entertaining action movie of this summer (presumably until next week, when The Bourne Ultimatum comes out). Wiseman's action sequences are clean and simple, suspenseful and exciting, as opposed to the meaningless chaos of Transformers or the overblown spectacle of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. This is how you do it, Bay and Verbinski: you don't have to assault the audience with constantly frenetic imagery. You don't have to attempt to bloat your movie with too many storylines, characters, and visual metaphors. You just need to provide a simple story, some good guys and bad guys, some stakes, some momentum, and some carefully choreographed sequences.

Of course, I don't wat to give the impression that this is some minor masterpiece of action filmmaking - it's a bigger, more expansive version of the original Die Hard with the Eastern Seaboard substituting for Nakatomi Tower and Mary Elizabeth Winstead filling in for Bonnie Bedelia, and lacking that movie's perfect screenplay, originality, and bad guy (Timothy Olyphant is no Alan Rickman). But as summer tentpoles go, you could do a lot worse.

2 comments:

cjKennedy said...

Ok, that's it. You've convinced me I should probably check this thing out. I've been skeptical because it's a sequel I wasn't waiting for and PG-13 still feels like some kind of strange betrayal, but you had me at "Wiseman's action sequences are clean and simple, suspenseful and exciting, as opposed to the meaningless chaos of Transformers or the overblown spectacle of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End."

I freely admit I've skipped those two movies so I'm not passing judgement on them, but part of the reason is that I don't find chaos or "overblown spectacle" all that interesting.

Give me a simple action sequence where I can tell what's happening and I'm given the feeling that someone could really be injured.

And on a side note, I always suspected you might be hiding a blog somewhere. At least I always knew you had something to say. Looking forward to catching up on it.

Jeff McMahon said...

Hopefully I didn't oversell it - my reaction may merely be out of relief in seeing something with basic action-movie competence.

Also, the movie has a lot of obvious ADR to remove curse words, which is annoying if you're looking for it.

But thanks, hopefully I make the blog worth your while.