In comparison to Die Hard with a Vengeance and Die Hard, I still consider the original to be the best.
However, Live Free or Die Hard has some things going for it.
First, what it doesn't have going for it--
The premise is unbelievably dumb. At one point, Matt says, "It took five days for FEMA to get water to the super-dome!" Yeah, and in the meantime, the rest of the country was working just fine.
However, cataclysmic overload IS the fantasy of action movies--as Matt points out regarding the "fire sale." In my review of Die Hard, I comment that "we get to see the trashing of a building and city block! We don't want the bank robbers to succeed, but we get to see them (temporarily) succeed when the bank vault opens (accompanied by great music)."
This is really what end-of-the-world stuff is all about: giving the little anarchist in all of us (some) free reign.
In reality, even Rome took a long time to fall. (And don't tell me computers would speed it up; as Joe points out, modern companies--including the government--still don't use computers as efficiently as they could. Upload all the nation's finances to one place?! Oh, please.)
Allowing (and dismissing) the premise, the movie is far more tightly constructed than Die Hard with a Vengeance. Good action movies should have simple needs--in this case, get Matt to a place where he can figure out what the bad guys are up to computer-wise.
And Justin Long as Matt is far, far, far less annoying than as the Mac guy (and a surprisingly good actor--who knew!). He and Bruce Willis have great comedic timing, and the underlying theme (what does it take to be a hero?) is nicely paid off in several scenes.
I especially like that McClane is back to being just this ordinary cop who got pulled into an extraordinary situation--all he did was go pick up this hacker!
This concept of McClane is straight out of the first movie; more than Vengeance, Live Free or Die Hard captures the original motifs without simply recasting them.
For example, Timothy Olyphant plays the debonair bad guy. Though not as great as Rickman, he is far more tolerable than Jeremy Irons--and far more interesting to look at--partly because his motivations are well-established and also because he is a coward, unwilling to face McClane until he (falsely) believes McClane is toast. This makes his behavior towards McClane completely comprehensible throughout the entire movie.
Finally, the ultimate Die Hard theme--an analog guy in a digital world--is excellently paid off. (If one ignores all the people made out of rubber--I never thought human beings could bounce so well!)
John McClane proves why he, more than Stallone or Ford or Eastwood or even Schwarzenegger, is the origin of all the "Bournes," savvy action heroes of the modern age. McClane is the hero that can bridge the generation gap.
For example, the writers do a great job showing that despite the difference in age and perspective, Matt and McClane have a similar libertarian view of the world. And of bad guys. McClane is downright proud when Matt snows the On-Star lady into starting the car, and he is more than a little amused by Matt's "spamming" the bad hacker.
So . . . McClane *might* let Matt date his daughter (BTW, I love how totally like her dad, Lucy is.)
Which isn't to say that Matt doesn't have his own take on the world. One of my favorite exchanges is this one:
Matt Farrell: I'm not a doctor but-but you look like you're hurt.Analog meets digital. They both think the other is kind of odd--but mostly, they get along.
John McClane: Sexy, right?
Matt Farrell: Um, no.
McClane will always be classic.