Live Free or Die Hard

It's easy to joke about Bruce Willis, now past fifty, returning for a fourth chapter in the Die Hard series. It's been a dozen years since the last one. Shouldn't Willis be winded by now or prepping for AARP meetings? Even his former wife Demi Moore married a younger man. OK, I said the jokes were easy.

Know what? Willis gets the last laugh. Live Free or Die Hard may not be much a movie — it's a series of increasingly nutty stunts clumsily strung together — but Brucie boy is truly an analog hero in a digital age. The role of no-frills New York police detective John McClane still fits him like a glove and he looks as fit as a guy half his age. What's your secret, dude?

There's no secret about the movie. It's another techno-thriller with Die Hard slapped across the title. The bad guy this time, Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant, a master at smilng menace), is a former government employee determined to shatter the U.S. defense system because the feds wouldn't listen to him after 9/11. It's a fire sale, everything goes if it's run by computer. A big cheer here for Hong Kong action hottie Maggie Q as the villain's right hand and erotic obsession.

Anyway, back to the plot. It's up to McClane to transport a young New Jersey hacker, Matt Farrell (Justin Long from the Mac commercials), to Washington, D.C., since the FBI believes he may have helped the bad guys, even inadvertently. Remember 16 Blocks, the 2006 movie in which cop Willis was assigned to transport criminal Mos Def from jail to a courthouse? Same thing, bigger stakes. You'll be happy to know that director Len Wiseman (Underworld) doesn't let the fate of America get too much in the way of the surprisingly entertaining byplay between Willis and Long. The hacker is appalled that McClane's taste in music stopped at Creedence.

Unlike the first two Die Hard flicks, set respectively in an L.A. highrise and a D.C. airport, the fourth chapter repeats the same mistake as the third by painting on a broader canvas and dissipating the claustrophobic tension. But there's no denying that the stunts are terrific fun. "You killed that helicopter with your car," enthuses the hacker to McClane. That he does. Seeing isn't believing. But, hey, who needs realism in a summer popcorn movie? Live Free or Die Hard gets the action job done and you better believe that Bruce is still the man.