Live Free or Die Hard

Family Values

"Reductio Ad Absurdum"

Or "How low can you go?" Live Free or Die Hard, the third child after the original Die Hard and the sequel, Die Hard With a Vengeance, takes to absurdity the suspension of disbelief required by most action/thriller movies. Only in wonder can one watch John McClane (Bruce Willis) survive wrecks and bullets that would have laid low entire armies, taken to the extreme in this edition by dodging a jet's missiles at close range and surviving a falling bridge. His fight with a martial-arts- proficient operative (Maggie Q), with the attendant wisecracks about her prowess, is a humorously satisfying part but still over-the-top action.

Perhaps the saving grace of the film, besides Willis's enormous charm as a blue collar, steely NYPD senior detective, is the central struggle with sophisticated international techno-terrorists over the cyber infrastructure of the USA. While it's all dazzling typing and glittering laptop screens, the real suspense comes from a simple, subterranean fear that too much of our security now rests with computers that regulate everything from electricity to economy. Hackers are harpies or heroes but no longer bit players on the world terrorism stage, fantasy movie or reality.

When the caustic but loving interplay between McClane and his feisty daughter, Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), emerges as a winning conflict in an overwrought action film, I wonder if this genre has run its course and returned to a formula that always works: family values.