The movie begins with the unfolding of a huge technical plan, with a cute female Asian (Maggie Q) unfolding portions of the plan. She pays off several hackers, only to have their homes blown up with pre-planted C4 and their accounts "cut off".
Meanwhile, at a college campus, a young girl (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) holds off her aggressive boyfriend. Suddenly, John McClane (Bruce Willis) breaks up the party, and the girl has a huge fight with him since he's her dad. She storms off to go to sleep, and the boyfriend bolts while McClane tries to figure out what's going on. Meanwhile, he receives a call to go check on a local hacker, since an FBI system has recently seen a breach.
The hacker (Justin Long) answers the door, just as thugs arrive outside his apartment to monitor the situation. When they see that the pre-planted bomb they set up didn't go off, they go up to investigate. Meanwhile, McClane has arrived to take him into custody, and soon a gun battle erupts. McClane gets the upper hand by launching a bad guy through a window with a fire extinguisher, and takes out the others by punching out a guy through a wall and with a pre-planted bomb device on the hacker's computer. They escape the fiery apartment, subdue a couple of other thugs while in the vehicle, and escape. The thugs regather, under the command of their leader (Timothy Olyphant).
The next morning, McClane brings the hacker to an FBI division, in the middle of a shutdown of Washington D.C.'s traffic system shutdown (initiated by the thugs). An FBI man commands McClane and the hacker to be taken into protective custody, but the terrorists catch on and begin tracking their location. The hacker recognizes the lady's voice over the police scanner, but a helicopter soon arrives to launch a full-scale attack. McClane and the hacker jump into a car to escape, only to end up in a tunnel. The leader initiates a clever attack with traffic coming in both directions via open gates. McClane and the hacker escape harm (just barely), and he hops into a cop car to fire off an attack on the chopper. The car flies through the air and crashes head-on into it, with a thug jumping out to report back to base. McClane and the hacker escape through another route in the tunnel.
At this point, McClane tries to re-establish contact with the FBI when a commercial plays on TV, showing off a "fake" explosion of the Capitol building and trying to create panic throughout the United States. The hacker helps McClane locate the next power plant that's going to be shut down, courtesy of the thug's Asian assistant and her two thugs. The two head off to the scene after an overnight drive and a funny encounter, with the hacker trying to convince Onstar services to start up a stolen vehicle.
The two arrive at the plant, and McClane handles the first thug easily. The Asian woman, however, turns out to be a challenge. She throws McClane down a few levels before attempting to kill the hacker. McClane strikes back by driving a vehicle her way, carrying her all the way to an elevator shaft. He fights with her a few times before gaining an upper hand. A thug shows up, but the hacker subdues him and knocks him down the shaft. McClane escapes harm by grabbing onto a chain as the vehicle drops to its fiery doom, taking the Asian woman with it. The hacker tries to restore order while McClane talks to the leader, who redirects the gas lines right back to their station. McClane and the hacker barely escape with their lives as the place explodes.
McClane and the hacker decide to pay the Warlock (Kevin Smith) a visit, trying to get information out of him about this guy. It turns out that he designed a new security system for the US after 9/11, knowing all the ins-and-outs about it. McClane and the leader have some exchanges, leading up to the online kidnapping of McClane's daughter, whom he was having differences with. She was trapped in an elevator shaft and gets picked up by the thug's FBI correspondent. The Warlock tracks down where the guy's coming from, a station in a nearby city where the power has been shut down and control is maintained through a series of towers. McClane and the hacker set out to rescue his daughter and shut down the leader.
The two arrive at the base just as the daughter is being dragged in. The hacker tries to re-route the system while McClane fights off a couple of thugs, one by breaking his neck and another by freezing his arms and dropping him in a shredder. The leader shows frustrations with McClane's persistence. They eventually find the hacker and bring him in to custody, although he has set up a security code preventing the leader from accessing social security accounts to access their money. They eventually move to a truck, with McClane not far behind. He shanghais a mobile truck unit and gives chase.
The leader, not appeased with the code lock-up by the hacker or McClane's pursuit, calls in an F5 jet to deal with his pursuers. The jet fires off missiles and gun attacks to stop McClane and the truck, but to no avail. It does blow up a good chunk of the freeway, though. McClane eventually escapes the damage of the truck, landing on the plane and jumping to safety. He sees the leader's truck making off to a nearby warehouse and follows after it.
By this point, the leader has lost patience and shoots the hacker in the leg, requiring him to disrupt the decryption system on a laptop so he can access the funds. Before he can, however, McClane shows up and shoots a couple of thugs before taking a shot in the arm from another assailant. While the guy holds his daughter hostage, the leader picks up McClane, wanting him to watch the death of the hacker and the daughter. Meanwhile, the hacker has picked up McClane's gun. While the leader asks McClane to stick around, he shouts out his "Yippie ki yay!" line and shoots himself, with the bullet going through him and killing the leader straight up. The thug releases the daughter to fight back, but the hacker shoots him dead. Peace is restored.
Afterwards, the hacker sits in an ambulance while McClane asks him how he feels after being shot. After a few words, he goes back to his daughter, who seems romantically curious about the hacker. They all head off to the hospital, safe and sound.
*CUT TO THE CHASE*
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It turns out that the villain (Timothy Olyphant) is giving the "illusion" of a fire sale when in fact he's robbing the very system he created, gathering social security numbers and bank account information for his own needs. John McClane (Bruce Willis) catches onto this, thanks to the help of a newfound hacker buddy (Justin Long) and his friend, the Warlock (Kevin Smith).
McClane dispatches of thugs by way of gunfire, neck breaking on the stairs, and cleverly taking care of one foe via shredding unit. He eventually hijacks a truck and chases after Olyphant and the gang, only to run into an F5 false commanded to attack him. McClane survives the attack, forcing the jet pilot to eject and watching his plane burst into flames. He then chases after Olyphant and the gang, eventually shooting them all and even shooting himself to bring down the main bad guy (along with the eventual "Yippie ki yay" line, nicely done.
At the end of the film, McClane's daughter (who was kidnapped midway through) and the hacker exchange worries about each other through him, and they all head off to the hospital in one piece.
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