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Movie Review: Die Hard 4.0 and Bullitt

Two All-American heroes in action movies of their own eras! (ok, that’s debatable for Bruce Willis) Let’s see how they turn out head to head.

Die Hard 4.0 (a.k.a. Live Free or Die Hard)

Die Hard has been updated for the Net generation, and, in the UK and Australia at least, it’s even pitched with a software-esque version number (for the record, I prefer the American name). The scenario is a “fire sale” – a comprehensive hack of all the systems we depend on in our modern life. John McClane gets dragged into it involuntarily while escorting a white-hat hacker to Homeland Security, and as soon as there’s bullets flying from helicopters it’s on.

The action only breaks for plot exposition to advance the action to the next location. As America collapses, McClane is the only one with a clue, apparently, and it’s up to him to save the day, again (only since this movie is rated PG, he can’t swear). Stuff gets blown up on a regular basis and quite spectacularly at that, often for little rhyme or reason. And out of it all, Bruce/McClane finally almost gets to utter his complete line, “Yipee kay yay, mother-“, but remember, it’s PG, so that’s all you get =)

I hope it’s not a spoiler to say good triumphs over evil and  you walk out of the theatre feeling like you could jump off a building and walk away with a scratch. Bullet to the foot? Tis but a flesh wound!

★★☆

Bullitt

When Bullitt came out in 1968, I’m sure it was a revelation – this is how you do a proper car chase, building the tension, speed and action up steadily throughout. As soon as the chase proper begins, the music shuts off, and the note of the cars is what holds up the soundtrack. It’s sweet music – the Ford Mustang and the Dodge Charger were proper muscle cars, and it shows in the low rumbling bass-line that pervades the chase.

Indeed, that’s a point to note about the movie as a whole – while the sound in modern movies is very crisp and focused, in a sense, the soundtrack in this movie is a whole lot more organic, with background sounds allowed to creep in, and just ordinary sounds to be heard. The pace of the movie as a whole reflects this – it doesn’t move anywhere near as fast as Die Hard above – characters take their time waking, or walking – scenes are properly established before action begins. Things just feel more paced and real.

The realism continues to the damage caused by guns. Being an American cop movie, it has certainly got gunfire – but unlike Die Hard, where it seems to take 20 shots to hit anything and 50 to actually do any damage, a single gunshot has a pretty severe effect. Almost refreshing to see after Die Hard, actually.

Overall, a good old-fashioned hard-boiled-cop movie with one of the best (and first) car chases around.

★★★☆

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