Andy Bockelman: One of the best action heroes ever returns to film |

Andy Bockelman: One of the best action heroes ever returns to film

— The newest chapter in the action series will not disappoint die-hard “Die Hard” fans: “Live Free or Die Hard.”

The life of hard-boiled New York lawman John McClane (Bruce Willis) has taken a downturn; besides his bitter divorce, his daughter (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) refuses to speak to him.

The only thing left for him is his career, the obligations of which will lead him to yet another misadventure.

When he is forced to escort a young computer hacker (Justin Long) to Washington on a charge he knows nothing about, he assumes it will be a typical assignment.

However, for this particular cop, nothing is ever that easy.

As it turns out, computer geek Matt Farrell has a price on his head due to his involvement in creating a computer virus which is about to be unleashed on the country through the Internet by a cyber-terrorist (Timothy Olyphant) who plans to bring the entire nation to a halt.

The process involves a shutdown of practically anything connected to a computer, which throws the United States into pandemonium.

Once again, it is up to McClane to save the day simply because nobody else has the guts.

Although it has been more than a decade since Willis last played McClane, he has not lost a single step.

Even after appearing in everything from “The Astronaut Farmer” to “Nancy Drew” lately, Willis demonstrates that he still can play the character that made him a superstar.

He has played similar roles in recent films such as “16 Blocks” and “Hostage,” but neither can hold a candle to the “Die Hard” franchise.

Matching him in skill is Long, who becomes McClane’s reluctant sidekick, and provides great comic relief as he gapes in awe at the hardcore action feats that McClane pulls off almost effortlessly.

Olyphant is not quite up to the standards of “Die Hard” villains such as Alan Rickman, William Sadler, or Jeremy Irons due to the fact that in the computer age, he does not have to get his hands dirty like they did.

Still, there is an aura of menace about him as malefactor Thomas Gabriel, particularly in his disturbing eyes.

As Mai Lihn, Gabriel’s deputy in wreaking online havoc, Hong Kong star Maggie Q provides most of the hand-to-hand physical resistance, putting up a pretty good fight against McClane.

Just as vital is the superbly cast Kevin Smith as Farrell’s mentor the Warlock, a sci-fi junkie living in his mother’s basement who assists McClane and Farrell as they track down Gabriel.

“Live Free” is easily just as thrilling as its three predecessors.

Arguably, it is even better.

Updating the exploits of McClane is somewhat of a challenge, especially since the hero has always been stubborn about using modern technology (accurately pinpointed by Gabriel, who refers to him as “a Timex in a digital world”), but director Len Wiseman holds up the good name that former directors John McTiernan and Renny Harlin established.

Admittedly, the stunts get bigger and bigger to the point of being almost ridiculous, but Wiseman pulls it back just in time, allowing McClane’s infamous “Yippie-ki-yay:” catchphrase to be as effective a climax as it ever was.

An adrenaline-pumping roller coaster which benefits from a main character that actually manages to be funny as well as tough (not to mention the fact that the movie takes place over the 4th of July), “Live Free or Die Hard” is yet another showcasing of one of the best action heroes ever.

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