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Smashing! At last, a Hollywood sequel that doesn't disappoint The Big Move DIE HARD 4.0 (15) VERDICT: *****.

Byline: GRAHAM YOUNG

GRAB the biggest tub of popcorn you can find - Bruce Willis is back on top form in a film that matches him all the way, writes GRAHAM YOUNG.

In Hollywood terms, Die Hard 4.0 is as good as it gets.

The pace might dip a couple of times and this is a blatant rewrite of Willis's last decent outing in 16 Blocks from April last year.

But it's still better and fresher than this year's big 'threequels' to date - Spider-Man 3, Pirates 3 and Shrek The Third.

As a far-fetched, oldfashioned, action-packed, carslamming, gun-toting, helicopter downing, jet-smashing summer blockbuster, you might have to go back as far as James Cameron's True Lies in 1994 to find its equal for pure entertainment.

Stone me, it's even got a proper 15-certificate, yet doesn't contain repetitive bad language.

Willis has not survived in Hollywood because he's a brilliant actor with a Shakespearean eye for a quality script. It's simply because he churns films out relentlessly and is often likeable even when his movies are rubbish.

As with all actors, there are plenty of duds on the Willis CV (Hudson Hawk, The Kid etc) but he escapes career gravity every time.

He is as unsinkable as Det John McClane in 4.0 - so called because it references computer software systems which are numbered and then updated on a regular basis with point digits.

Older viewers wondering what all this means will be in the same boat as McClane, a technological dinosaur.

Enter the geeky Matt Farrell so his computer skills will save their skins in a different way.

The beauty of Die Hard 4.0, in the first half at least, is that our increasing dependence on computers is going to be the Achilles heel of the developed world.

"What if it all goes wrong?" is the nightmare essence of a script which sees Underworld I & II director Len Wiseman driving us down a one-way alley like Lewis Hamilton on speed.

All governments fear international terrorists and incidents like last weekend's car bomb at Glasgow Airport.

But, as this movie so graphically illustrates, there can be nothing more dangerous than aggravating one of your own.

Knowing the inside track of homeland security enables cyber-fiend Thomas Gabriel to take control of everything from traffic lights to utilities like gas and electricity.

A series of car crashes appear like bolts out of the blue and moving the camera overhead as the network of city streets rapidly grinds to a halt creates a masterpiece of action cinema.

Yet Die Hard 4.0 is by no means just a testosterone frenzy.

There's plenty of comedy too and Hawaiian star Maggie Q gives the film a striking, feminine edge.

Her character, Mia Lihn, is the toughest female butt-kicker since Dutch actress Famke Janssen crushed men like cloves of garlic between her thighs in GoldenEye.

Coincidentally, that was back in 1995 - the last time we saw McClane in the tepid Die Hard With a Vengeance.

We all thought we'd never see the indestructible detective again, but the years have been kind to the now 52-year-old Willis.

In a year of sequels, his willingness to resurrect the 19-year-old franchise was too good an opportunity to miss for dollar-hungry studio accountants.

And Willis is still lean enough to get away with the action scenes (though one of his stunt men was seriously hurt on set). McClane's daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) also offers a neat predator-turned-parent twist on one of Hollywood's most enduring sex symbols, making Die Hard 4.0 the blockbuster with everything.

This time around, there's no love interest for the old man himself. Die Hard - The Taming of John McClane will just have to wait.

Websites: www.livefreeordiehard.com and www.brucewillis.com

CAPTION(S):

BATTERED... Bruce Willis as Det John McClane.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Jul 6, 2007
Words:637
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