Die Hard is ludicrous fun

Die Hard 4.0 ***Starring: Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Maggie Q, Kevin SmithDir: Len WisemanCert: 15; 2hrs 5mIt'll come as no surprise that you really shouldn't take a functioning brain into Die Hard 4.

By Andrew Clarke

Die Hard 4.0 ***

Starring: Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Maggie Q, Kevin Smith

Dir: Len Wiseman

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Cert: 15; 2hrs 5m

It'll come as no surprise that you really shouldn't take a functioning brain into Die Hard 4.0. Leave all critical reasoning at home, just switch off, sit back and enjoy one of the most ludicrous, highly entertaining films of the summer.

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This totally preposterous action adventure romp is without doubt the best Die Hard since the original movie 20 years ago. Bruce Willis is back firing on all cylinders as John McClane, the wise-cracking cop with the lop-sided smile.

The series has certainly benefited from its 10-year lay-off and is back with its batteries fully charged in what is the most explosive and completely unbelievable entry in the series so far. But, by the time Willis is hanging onto the tail-plane of a high-speed jet fighter you will have suspended your disbelief to such an extent, you won't bat an eyelid.

McClane may have lost his hair since we last saw him but he hasn't lost his penchant for attracting trouble. When he's not protecting his daughter from an over-zealous boyfriend then he's arresting a hapless hacker (Justin Long) for the FBI.

Unfortunately some nasty French mercenaries want this computer geek dead - along with a group of his mates - and McClane once again finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He takes the innocent programmer under his wing and vows to get him into protective custody while trying to work out why these tenacious hit men are trying so hard to kill him.

It turns out that these bad guys with unlimited firepower work for a former national security advisor (Timothy Olyphant) who was dismissed after 9/11 when he had the temerity to suggest that America was too computer dependant and the national network was vulnerable to hackers.

No-one listened to him, he was sacked for passing on some unpalatable news - so now he is going to get his revenge by carrying out the threat that he warned about. He's going to hack his way into the federal network and bring the country to its knees.

But he didn't reckon on John McClane who steadily blasts his way through Olyphant's henchmen until he confronts the mastermind himself. Meanwhile most of New York and Washington DC have been laid waste in the process.

As with the other films' stunts, spectacular action and disarming one-liners are the order of the day and Willis and Wisemen deliver on all fronts. Not only does it set new standards for Hollywood action adventure movies - it delivers its stunts in a disarmingly tongue-in-cheek manner which has you cheering with joy rather than swearing in frustration at the unbelievably of it all.

Willis swaggers his way through the proceedings with a cocky smile - reassuring audiences that we shouldn't be taking any of this seriously. At one point he manages to take down a helicopter with a damaged police car. An incredulous Justin Long stammers: “You just shot down a helicopter with a car!!” Willis tosses him a casual grimace/smile as he nurses a wounded shoulder: “Yeah, well I was outta bullets.”

The action sequences are brilliantly choreographed but the logic behind the action does not stand up to close scrutiny. At one point Willis drives a jeep through a set of offices with a villain stuck on the bonnet - the jeep is then bizarrely driven into a lift shaft, so they can have another tussle hanging in mid-air. It makes no sense but it certainly looks good.

Willis remains a wonderfully charismatic figure on screen and commands the movie from his first appearance on screen and receives sterling support from Justin Long as the long suffering computer hacker and Timothy Olyphant as the malevolent techno-baddie. Actor/director Kevin Smith supplies a well judged cameo as the ultimate science fiction loving computer geek.

Die Hard 4.0 is the exact opposite of our other thriller this week, Tell No One, which works so well because great attention is paid to the story. Die Hard 4.0 entertains because it is a glorious example of style over content.

But in among all the car chases, explosions and high velocity gunfire, the film's most memorable moment comes when Wiseman delivers up a cleverly effective piece of low-key cinema. He has Olyphant create a virtual ransom message which is delivered by a variety of US Presidents. He creates a cinematic collage, taking words and phrases from 80 years of speeches, strings them together to deliver his day of judgement speech. It's a simple and highly effective moment in a film that is sometimes too over-the-top for its own good.

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