Despite the preposterous story line, there’s plenty to like in this nonstop actioner. Settle down with a big tub of popcorn, and enjoy the ride. The fourth time is the charm for the Die Hard series, it would seem.
New York City detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) is called upon to bring in ace computer hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long), since the FBI is looking into some serious computer security breaches. It all seems routine until they are caught up in a vicious hit attempt, with the two barely escaping with their lives—and thus begins the adventure.
McClane’s assignment is to bring the hacker back to FBI headquarters, but when they arrive, Washington is a city is total disarray—along with every other town in America. Matt realizes early on that what is happening is a “fire sale,” meaning everything goes. That is, anything that runs via computer, and that would include just about everything, is going down.
The chief baddie is identified as one Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), a former computer security genius employed by the government, who left under bad terms. Now he’s getting his revenge, aided by a cadre of Eurotrash killers and a slick little Asian babe (Maggie Q), who has expertise in martial arts and computer arts. She’s also Gabriel’s main squeeze.
As it happens, Matt—along with several other hackers—were tricked into helping Gabriel, and—with the exception of Matt—were killed for their trouble.
The stunts are first rate, the pace is quick, and there’s humor mixed in with the action. All you have to do is suspend disbelief…
It’s not really a spoiler to mention that the fire sale is simply a smokescreen to hide the actual motive of stealing lots of money via hacking the financial system. Given his exceptional hacking skills, why not just go directly to the banks, and forget all the rest? There’s also the little matter of how a former government employee is able to bankroll this huge scheme, replete with helicopters, numerous specialized vehicles, and a computer system that would be the envy of a large government—in the 22nd century.
What’s more, the systems are hacked far too easily, and the physical break-ins to facilities touted as critical and highly secure proceed without a hitch. Also, recruiting hackers to perpetrate such a nefarious scheme would not be simple, and would require far more than payment upon completion, not to mention that their locations would not be so readily obtained.
While there’s great chemistry between Willis and Long, Olyphant’s villain is quite colorless, except for his petulant put-downs of his supposedly professional hit squad.
Various government agencies are portrayed, and they all come off as extremely incompetent. In fairness, the phenomenal screw-ups that drive the plot could never happen because they are so stupid, and agency in-fighting and turf battles would prevent them in any case.
Finally, I should comment on the endless drone from so many critics that “looking at computer screens is not exciting.” I can only think of two or three films where that remark might apply, but Live Free is not one of them. I suggest that these crits come up with some new clichés, as Sam Goldwyn would have said.