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Die Hard 2: Die Harder(1990)
Bruce Willis returns as the heroic cop who battles not only terrorists, but also an incompetent airport police chief, the hard-headed commander of the Army's anti-terrorist squad and a deadly winter snowstorm. The runways are littered with death and destruction, and McClane is in a race against time. His wife is trapped on one of the planes circling overhead, which is desperately low on fuel. It's all-out war, a heart-stopping, jet-propelled journey filled with excitement and terror. Fasten your seat belts!
For more about Die Hard 2: Die Harder and the Die Hard 2: Die Harder Blu-ray release, see the Die Hard 2: Die Harder Blu-ray Review
Starring: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, William Sadler (I), William Atherton, Franco Nero, Dennis Franz
Director: Renny Harlin
» See full cast & crew
Die Hard 2: Die Harder Blu-ray Review
Second verse? Bigger, but not better than the first.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, January 29, 2010
I'm not going to contest the impact that the Die Hard franchise has made on the action genre. The first movie is a bona fide macho classic that, like a Hitchcock film on steroids, took an unsuspecting everyman and thrust him into a situation that required calm under fire, ingenuity, and massive balls of steel. It employed never before seen set pieces and special effects, it gave us a wickedly memorable villain in Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber, and it launched Bruce Willis into an action star orbit previously only occupied by Stallone and Schwarzenegger. But for all its ante- upping and ingenuity, Die Hard wasn't immune to sequelitis, that damnable disease that plagues most high-grossing, blockbusting summer crowd pleasers. Die Hard 2: Die Harder might as well have been subtitled Try Harder, as it adheres to the bigger-faster-harder- more follow-up philosophy, resulting in an over-bloated experience that's sloppier, more tedious, and infinitely less memorable than its game-changing predecessor. It's still decent, lazy Sunday afternoon entertainment if you're feeling particularly non-discerning and just want to turn your brain off for two hours, but that really isn't saying much, is it?
"Another basement, another elevator," says Willis's John McClane. "How can the same s—t happen to the same guy twice?" Well, I'll tell you how. It's clear that screenwriters Richard E. de Souza and Doug Richardson were either at a loss for where to take the story, or they just decided to take the easy way out and reuse the first film's premise—renegade cop rescues his wife and others from a group of terrorists—and simply reset it in a new location, Dulles International Airport. Even the Christmas Eve time frame is recycled without any questions of implausibility. If I were a superstitious man, I'd make damn sure I was as far away from John McClane as possible on the night before Christmas. Thankfully, the series moves away from its Yuletide origins in later installments, but in Die Harder we're left to scratch our heads along with McClane and wonder why we're given almost the exact same set-up as last time.
The variables, of course, are slightly different. Instead of a charming East German terrorist, we get William Sadler as Colonel Stuart, an ex-military man who is introduced doing Tai Chi—naked, buttocks tightly clenched—in front of a hotel mirror. These are the kind of people we're dealing with. Colonel Stuart has an intricate plan to rescue a deposed Latin American general—a Fidel Castro look-alike—who is set to arrive at Dulles and be transferred into U.S. custody. Basically, the plan is to set up a truckload of high-tech equipment at a nearby church—we know it's high- tech because there are lots of flashing lights—and hack the air traffic control system so that he's effectively holding every airborne passenger on the eastern seaboard unknowingly hostage. As it so happens, John McClane's wife (Bonnie Bedelia) is aboard one of the planes, and if there's one thing that potential terrorists shouldn't do if they want to successfully carry out their sinister agendas, it's take John McClane's wife hostage. Seriously, it's not going to get you anywhere.
For Die Harder, directing duties were handed off to Renny Harlin, then a hotshot Finnish helmer with style to burn, and now unfortunately recognized as a guy who's pretty good at making big budget garbage like Exorcist: The Beginning, The Covenant, and Deep Blue Sea. (One wonders what Alien 3 would've been like had he saw it to completion, as was 20th Century Fox's original intent.) Harlin handles the action quite competently here, actually, but despite bigger-should-be-better explosions, some crazy shootouts, and even an ejector seat moment straight out of a Looney Toons episode, a stale air pervades the film and keeps the sequences from being as memorable as anything the first Die Hard had to offer. The film is at its best when McClane is playing hardball with the local law enforcement, led by a somewhat overzealous Dennis Franz as Captain Lorenzo, or making his way alone through the labyrinthine hallways beneath the airport. Willis is a dependable presence with his tender tough guy shtick, and he's always fun to watch, but the obligatory one-liners and quick retorts aren't nearly as punchy here. It certainly doesn't help that the film is much longer than it needs to be, spending far too much time on an initial set-up that requires very little. Tension sags at several points, and what suspense the film does manage to ratchet is unspooled by plot holes, implausibility, and continuity issues.
If anything, Die Harder is good for a dose of late '80s, early '90s nostalgia, especially if you're pining for the days when fax machines were novel, hacking a computer network was an original plot device, and airport security was much more lax. At one point, both McClane and a hot-for-the-scoop journalist (Sheila McCarthy) waltz up into the air traffic control tower, no questions asked. Try that now and you'd probably get deported to Guantanamo. Even the film's brand of ultra right-wing terrorism—the Fidel Castro look-alike is actually anti-communist —seems quaint in retrospect, especially because the villain's goons are all of the you know I'm bad because my hair is slicked back variety. And William Sadler's Colonel Stuart really is the film's undoing. Where Hans Gruber was a worthy and intelligent adversary for McClane, Colonel Stuart is merely sour and mean-spirited. When he brings down a 747, killing all passengers on board just to make a point, it becomes increasingly more difficult to find humor in Die Harder's goofier moments. Renny Harlin ups the gore quotient and gives us more sprawling action sequences, but without a wily foil for McClane, bigger is simply bitter, not better.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder Blu-ray, Video Quality
Originally released in late 2007 as part of The Die Hard Collection, Die Hard 2 shows its age in both hazy late '80s filmmaking techniques and a 1080p/AVC encode that seems like it's still feeling out the boundaries of its then relatively new high definition format. The film doesn't look bad by any means, but it doesn't exactly provide the 50-foot leap in clarity and color that we've become accustomed to with Blu-ray. While close ups show a fair amount of fine detail— see the texture on McClane's Eddie Bauer-looking sweater—anytime we pull back into longer shots the image takes on a noticeably softer quality. Certain colors appear very strong, like the reds and blues of police sirens, or the pinkish glow inside the air traffic control room, but skin tones occasionally veer towards an overly tanned orange, and other hues seem flat and lifeless. Likewise, contrast seems a bit dull and black levels, while truly deep at times, have a tendency to go opaque and grayish during the darker scenes, effectively crushing shadow detail. On the plus side, I didn't notice any rampant compression artifacts, aside from some brief banding and color blotchiness during a few explosions, and both edge enhancement and noise reduction seem to have been kept to a minimum. Grain is mostly unobtrusive, but look out for the special effects shot, which swarm with huge chunks of it.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Die Harder arrives on Blu-ray with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that sounds about average for an action film of its 1990 vintage. Meaning, the effects are kind of clunky, stocky, and artificial, directionality lacks subtlety, and the track's mid-range sounds slightly hollow. Real speaker usage is frequent but not entirely convincing. Airport ambience seems canned, movements through the surround channels are heavy handed, and machine gun blasts feel as if they were selected from a sound effects library and simply dropped into the track with little concern for acoustics. When Michael Kamen's score kicks into high gear and the action scenes really ramp up, some of this artificiality is lost in the sheer amount of sound, but it's always there if you listen closely. The track's low-end is adequate, but the two or three massive explosions in the film, which should rattle the picture frames on your walls, seem to lack any real heft or presence. Overall, the sound is suitable but it doesn't really bring anything new to the experience of watching the film—not that that's necessarily a bad thing.
Do note that some viewers have reported problems with their players being unable to decode the DTS-HD Master Audio track and forcing the Dolby Digital mix instead. For the record, I had no problems on my PS3 with up-to-date firmware.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Commentary by Director Renny Harlin
He may not be the most creative or credible director, but Renny Harlin knows how to enthusiastically fill up a commentary track with anecdotes, thoughtful ruminations on shooting action sequences, and endless amounts of trivia. The pace rarely flags here, so prepare to get an earful.
Deleted Scenes (SD, 8:15)
There are four deleted scenes, including one with a horrible children's choir at the airport wearing ridiculous red bows.
HBO First Look (23:08) is a vintage making-of documentary that's even more dated than the film itself, but certainly worth a watch for fans. A condensed and aptly named Featurette (4:07) follows, which recycles material from the HBO special. The Bad Guys (6:39) is a quick look at the film's baddies, complete with interviews with William Saddler. Breaking the Ice (4:10) takes us behind the scenes of the film's snowmobile chase. Chaos on the Conveyor Belt (7:53) leads us through the early shoot-out in the baggage room. The Interview with Renny Harlin (6:44) is somewhat of a misnomer, as it features just as much screen time by William Saddler.
Next up are three visual effects breakdowns, Ejector Seat (3:19), Airport Runway (1:58), and Storyboard Sequence (2:58), followed by three side-by-side comparisons, Chopper (1:19), Airplane Models (3:13), and Wing Fight (1:44).
Trailers and TV Spots (SD, 6:17)
Includes four trailers and two TV spots.
Fox on Blu-ray (1080p, 7:48 total)
Includes trailers for Die Hard, Die Hard: With a Vengeance, Live Free or Die Hard, and Alien vs. Predator.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Die Harder is definitely the black sheep of the Die Hard franchise, and I don't really mean that in a good way. Director Renny Harlin kicks the action up a notch, but the film's darker tone means the first film's characteristic humor is noticeably dampened. I don't think I'd personally pick this one up on its own, but I definitely wouldn't mind having it as part of The Die Hard Collection, which fans should consider before buying the individual releases.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder: Other Editions
Blu-ray bundles with Die Hard 2: Die Harder (2 bundles)
Die Hard 2: Die Harder Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Amazon Gold Box Deal of the Day: Die Hard (Expired) - February 14, 2013
Amazon's Blu-ray Gold Box Deal of the Day affects the Die Hard: 25th Anniversary Collection. Twentieth Century Fox's popular action franchise centers on the increasingly catastrophic adventures of John McClane (Bruce Willis, Looper), a cynical policeman who finds ...
• Amazon Blu-ray Deal of the Week: The Die Hard Collection (Expired) - July 22, 2012
Amazon's Blu-ray Deal of the Week affects The Die Hard Collection. The set bundles together all four films in Twentieth Century Fox's popular action franchise, which centers on the increasingly catastrophic adventures of John McClane (Bruce Willis, Pulp Fiction), ...
• Deal Alert: Die Hard Collection Blu-ray $32.99 - September 5, 2010
Amazon's current Blu-ray Boxed Set of the Week is for The Die Hard Collection (comprised of Die Hard, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Die Hard with a Vengeance and Live Free or Die Hard) for only $32.99 (59% off MSRP, or just over $8 per movie). The price tracker shows ...
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