When the original Die Hard was released back in 1988, I was seventeen, and thanks to Tennessee’s antiquated obscenity law, I had to sneak into the theatre to see it. I was already weary of these action heroes who were invulnerable and one-liners which were peppered amidst the frequent explosions that were common in Reagan-era films of that genre.

Willis’ John McClane was a refreshing twist of the action hero who was as vulnerable as he was heroic. The one-liners weren’t bad puns, and “the” classic line from that film (Yippe-ki-yay, motherf***er), became an instant addition to the vocabulary of teenagers and adults everywhere.

Now, 19 years and three movies later, Willis again dons the NYPD badge that made him a hero. Of course, during that time, Die Hard became the epitome of action films. It would be used in pitch after pitch for movies ever since. “Die Hard on a boat” became Stephen Segal’s Under Siege. “Die Hard on a plane” became Air Force One for Harrison Ford.

Live Free or Die Hard brings Bruce Willis back into the genre which made him a movie star. Now, McClane is a dad to a daughter who hates him (the wife who hates him divorced him long ago, apparently, so Bonnie Bedelia wasn’t in this film). Thankfully, his daughter Lucy is played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead instead of Jessica Simpson (who was reportedly in talks for the role).

The story is simple enough: McClane is asked by an FBI friend of his to bring in hacker Matt Farrell (Mac guy Justin Long) in for questioning after the defense department mainframe is hacked. Unlike the first film, the action begins almost immediately when the bad guys try to assassinate Farrell, and McClane gets there just in the nick of time.

What follows is a string of action scenes that suspend all plausibility and sometimes even reality itself for the sake of a big budget. Here’s the amazing thing: It works. Director Len Weisman’s fantasy-driven visual style was last seen in the Underworld movies. Since they were his only films before this one make him an interesting choice for both Fox and Willis to trust with their cash cow.

Weisman effectively mixes the humor with the serious, and the well-placed cast only bolsters the film. Probably the only weak link in Live Free is Timothy Olyphant as Thomas Gabriel, the film’s big-bad guy. Of course, there aren’t too many people who can compare to the deliciously charismatic Alan Rickman in the first film, so I have to give Olyphant some credit here. He’s been seen in a few guest-starring roles on shows like Deadwood and was the lead in the 2000 film Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy.

Gabriel’s motive is solid, and his plan to systematically shut down the country’s resources wreaks the kind of havoc we can all imagine. After all, what would it be like if the entire infrastructure were to shut down? Since “pretty much everything” is run by computers, the premise of the film has a fun hook.

With supporting roles from Maggie Q as the high-kicking sidekick to Gabriel, and a strangely Vulcan-esque role from Star Trek Voyager’s Tim Russ, Live Free or Die Hard carries along the story along its explosive path to a satisfying conclusion. An especially bright point in the film is a cameo from filmmaker Kevin Smith as uber-hacker “Warlock.” Smith’s character has the delight of delivering the film’s most insightful lines.

Live Free or Die Hard is a film that’s high on decibels and explosions, light on physics and plausibility, yet comes together in a film that is a fun romp through Washington, D.C. as the world comes to an end. Willis and Long have the usual “buddy movie” banter, with lines like, “Listening to this (music) is like having a corncob shoved up my ass.”

Amazingly, the film is rated PG-13, so anyone can see it. Sure, die hard fans (pun intended) cringe at not having f-bombs every other word. In fact, even last word of “the” line is drowned out by the sound of a bullet. Thankfully, the one thing that isn’t drowned out is the fact that it’s actually good. (8/10)