Spruce Bruch proves he's still fast and loose

PUBLISHED: 15:09 11 July 2007 | UPDATED: 14:35 07 September 2010

New role, familiar pose

New role, familiar pose

Film critic Michael Joyce sees Bruce Willis take another, post 9/11, turn as action hero John McClane Die Hard 4.0 (15) Director Len Wiseman Starring Bruce Willis, Timothy Olyphant, Justin Long, Cliff Curtis, Maggie Q, Kevin Smith. 130 mins Three star r

Film critic Michael Joyce sees Bruce Willis take another, post 9/11, turn as action hero John McClane

Die Hard 4.0 (15)

Director Len Wiseman Starring Bruce Willis, Timothy Olyphant, Justin Long, Cliff Curtis, Maggie Q, Kevin Smith. 130 mins

Three star rating

He may be old enough to be Harrison Ford's younger brother and has been slapped down with a child-friendly rating that means he can't use any compound nouns beginning with "mother" but Bruce Willis proves he's still the First Action Hero with the return to his most famous role.

The film itself is never much more than solidly functional but that at least puts it a few blocks ahead of most of the other summer blockbusters. Wiseman is le auteur des Underworld films and various pop videos, so there's not an inspired or original moment in the film. Location scenes lack the vibrant street energy director McTiernan brought to the exteriors in Die Hard 3 and the action sequences are reruns of moments from films such as The Lost World or True Lies. (In a moment of fourquel solidarity it even appropriates a line from Alien Resurrection.)

The Die Hard films were never exactly models of French Connection-like realism, but in the previous films there was the pretence that John McClane was an ordinary man triumphing against incredible odds but that goes around the time of the "You killed a copter with a car," line. Now he's just an indestructible killing machine.

Which is fine, but having established that they're aiming for preposterous fun, it ought to serve up something a bit more than action scenes that were cutting edge when you first saw them in a Schwarzenegger film a decade ago.

It's odd to see a post 9/11 Die Hard film. The previous films have established a party line that all terrorists, whatever the rhetoric they spouted, are ultimately only in it for the money. But given that in the States the film is called Live Free or Die Hard you might have expected McClane, the epitome of American blue collar values, to actually take on an ideological threat this time. Instead he's again opposing a shadow menace, home-grown cyber terrorists who have pre-empted an Al Qaeda attack.

It's surprisingly good to have McClane back and on this evidence there's enough steam in Willis's tank for at least one or two more goes. His advanced years are emphasised by a plot full of computer hacking and internet geeks but the age rather suits him. Beneath the vest and the muscles he's really just a grumpy old git forever moaning on about how everything modern is rubbish; Victor Meldrew with a body count.


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