Live Free or Die Hard Unrated (2007) — Giving McClane a bit of his edge back

“John, you’re a Timex watch in a digital age. You’re gonna lose.”

Justin’s rating: Justin Long will never be Zero Cool

Justin’s review: In the pantheon of Die Hard movies, there’s a surprising consensus on how good the series is. The first movie is a bonafide classic — perhaps the best action movie ever made. The second is a sloppy, ridiculous, and enjoyable bit of ’90s schlock. The third is a fine return to form. And skipping ahead to the fifth, well, everyone pretty much agrees it was a lazy abomination that disgraced the series.

But the fourth, 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard, has become one of the more heavily debated titles, because it seems in people’s minds that it teeters on the cusp of being either good or bad. There are the well-known complaints of the PG-13 rating, the slightly-too-outlandish stunts, and Justin Long looking just as punchable as he was in all of the Mac ads. Yet there’s a lot to be said in its favor: A new type of terrorist threat, Bruce Willis still putting in the energy to make John McClane likable, some great setpieces, and tight pacing.

And one of those strikes against it — the PG-13 thing — can be solved by picking up the unrated version. It gives McClane’s trip across Washington D.C. a tiny bit of edge that wasn’t there before (hey, blood!) and does a lot to help this feel more Die Hard-ish.

In anticipation of watching this version for the first time, I also did a Die Hard marathon and watched the previous three movies in a row to see how well (or not) the fourth flowed out of it. What I instantly liked was pitting John McClane — a guy who throughout the previous movies has more or less distrusted technology (remember his faint amusement about the touchscreen in the first movie, or the air phones in the second?) — against a situation that was all about computers, hacking, and cyberwarfare. It’s a terrific idea.

I also like how Die Hard 4 distinguishes itself in tone with a cooler color palette, just in case you didn’t quite get how out of his depth McClane is. So the question of the movie, the theme is whether or not a gutsy aging detective can fight back against a foe that can wipe out his 401K or crash the stock market with a stroke of a key.

Yes. Yes he can.

The dogged determinism of McClane — in addition to his vulnerable humanity — is why we cheer this guy on. Ever since the first movie, he’s always been outnumbered and pitted against people who were a whole lot smarter than him. But he never, ever gives up, and therefore we root for the guy as he keeps plugging away until he’s able to thwart the villains.

I think a lot of people wrote off this movie and swept it into the category of “not worthy” without due consideration. And that’s a crying shame, because Die Hard 4 is better than the public consciousness seems to remember. The stakes are high, the odds of success for our hero is low, and the quips keep on coming. Plus, it’s never not a good time to listen to McClane make exasperated asides to himself as he bounces from one ridiculous situation to the next.

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