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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: DTS 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    Hebrew, Czech, Polish, Hungarian, Dutch, Portuguese, English - Hearing Impaired, Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  Extras
  • 4 Deleted scenes
  • 4 Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - Director Renny Harlin
  • 9 Featurette
  • Animated menus
  • Interviews
  • Awards/Nominations
  • Storyboards

Die Hard 2 - Die Harder: SE

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 118 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Following the unexpected runaway success of what became one of THE most loved Big Dumb Action Films of all time, Die Hard, a sequel seemed inevitable – after all, who gives a toss about critical acclaim when audiences lap the things up? With a leading character in John McClane (Bruce Willis) whose quip-laden, laconic style was already adored by fans and who could easily be transplanted into most any situation involving lots of baddies with lots of guns, lots of attitude and lots of lousy aim to dispose of, and other films such as Lethal Weapon proving how successful such a flick could be (mind you, Speed 2 later proved you’re by no means on a sure winner with the idea), it was back to the story board and sure enough a few years later Die Hard 2, or Die Harder if you prefer, was born.

For this instalment McClane is basically the same - wisecracks, “why me?” attitude and all - and needless to say it’s Christmas time again. However this time his situation is somewhat different, as gone is the air of claustrophobic tension provided by the confines of a skyscraper in the first film in favour of giving him an entire airport and its surrounds to play around in, and needless to say play he does.

Our baddies for this instalment are a bunch of commandos-turned-mercenaries sympathetic to some South American-styled dictator, involved in all the usual South American-styled dictator stuff we’re used to from movies such as this, who is being extradited to the US to stand trial. In fact they’re so sympathetic that they decide to take the airport hostage in order to carry out their plans to liberate said South American-styled dictator from the clutches of the US government upon his arrival. Regardless of all their careful planning, however, they didn’t count on the presence of one John McClane, at the airport to pick up his de-estranged wife for the holiday break. Even when he’s not on duty his baddie-senses tingle away merrily, and he’s soon up to his neck in bad guys once more, firing off lots of bullets, battling unhelpful bureaucrats, firing off lots more bullets, crawling around ventilation systems, firing off even more bullets and single-handedly taking on a rather well-oiled nasty terrorist machine.

"Just once, I'd like a regular, normal Christmas. A little eggnog... a f*ckin' Christmas tree... a little turkey... but no!"

Not only is the actual airport held hostage, but so are all the planes bound for it. After the terrorists offer up some rather fiery proof of just how serious they are, the tension builds as a flotilla of winged metal sausages full of people circles the airport, unable to go elsewhere due to fuel restrictions or the icky weather, and unsure as to whether they’ll reach the ground in the traditional wheels-down, aim at the runway style, or by plummeting fuel-less somewhat straight downward. Oh, did we mention McClane’s wife is on board one of these planes? Actually, did we have to?

Finnish director Renny Harlin was given directorial duties on Die Hard 2, and actually commenced work on it straight after, of all things, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. With no real prior experience in the BDAF genre, he did a fabulous job – adhering to many of the already established visual clichés, and even adding some of his own that went on to become genre staples. Bruce is, well, Bruce – as he seems to be no matter what sort of script you throw at him – and, of course, it works a treat. Story-wise, despite this being based on an existing novel (58 Minutes by Walter Wager) the writers have gone to town in their adaptation, adding some neat examples of meta-humour in the subtle and not so subtle digs hinting that they know they’ve just taken the basics of the first film and remixed them a little, not to mention the preposterousness of the situation – basically the same thing happening to the same guy at the same time of year but 12 months later. Still, to help distract from such things which no fan of BDAFs should ever even contemplate anyway, things have been turned up to 11 somewhat, with some of the most over the top action sequences you’ll ever sit back and go, “Wow!” at – a thrilling bout of fisticuffs on the wing of a taxiing 747 being one of the first to spring to mind.

  Video
Contract

If you thought they did a great job cleaning up the first Die Hard instalment for its recent special edition release, just wait until you clap your peepers upon this!

Only two years younger than the first film, this anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 transfer is exemplary, save only for a couple of extremely minor niggles that only the most anally retentive of whiners could ever be concerned about. These consist of extremely occasional instances of aliasing, none of which are overly intrusive, and also some tiny and fleeting examples of grain. Really the only thing that you could go “AGH!” about is the layer change, which is truly appallingly placed, in the middle of a line of dialogue no less.

So what’s left that’s so good about it? Well, everything basically. The print is essentially entirely free of speckles and marks, it exhibits fabulous shadow detail – which is rather important as so much happens in darkened places here, it is fabulously detailed without getting all jaggy with it and colour is – well – as good as it gets for a film that sees most of the action taking place in a snowbound setting.

  Audio
Contract

Once again we’re treated to fabulous Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 audio options, and neither disappoint. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times and is balanced nicely with Michael Kamen’s rather atypical and pedestrian action film 101 score and the many big booming explosions, gunshots and thundering aircraft zooming about. Needless to say surround usage is at its peak when there’s action happening, and there’s plenty of it, with the rears put to great use and the subwoofwoof called up for much active duty. The front doesn’t miss out, with the centre speaker naturally taking care of most dialogue duties, and the left and right used for much effective stereo effects work throughout. Once again there is little to distinguish the two mixes from each other, save for that usual DTS thing of it being mastered somewhat louder. Anyway, no matter which mix you plump for you’re in for a sonic treat.

  Extras
Contract

You want superbly animated introductions and menu transitions? Well, you sure as heck get ’em. Needless to say they are airport themed here, with disc one’s featuring a somewhat in your face 747 before segueing to a control tower setting, and disc two foregoing the jumbo jet action to simply take us straight to the tower. Ah, but what’s hidden away in these menus for us to play with, you may well ask? Well, whilst there isn’t as much depth to the bonus material as the super-stacked first release gave us, there’s still over an hour of supplemental stuff to get well and truly immersed in...

Disc One
Audio commentary – director Renny Harlin: Boy, can this guy talk or what?! In much the same as other commentaries Renny has done, he starts at the beginning and scarcely pauses for breath, obviously excited and very enthusiastic about his involvement in such a classic BDAF – for let’s face it, he’s had his name attached to some true stinkers in his time. From going straight from working with Andrew Dice Clay to Die Hard 2, to all manner of casting and location information, creative licence decisions and even fun and trivial ‘did you notice?’ moments, this scene specific commentary that was recorded especially for this release is certain not to disappoint any fan of the film.

Disc Two
Featuring nothing but extras, this disc has its contents tucked away within six sub-menus. All of these extras feature Dolby Digital stereo sound, and are full frame unless otherwise stated...

Television Special and Featurette: The prior is a 23:09 feature entitled Die Harder – The Making of Die Hard 2, which was made for Fox affiliate networks, and certainly wears its television origins on its sleeve. After a brief look back at the first film, the usual stuff such as interviews with all manner of cast and crew and behind the scenes footage is the order of the day, and while there is much of interest you will have to wade through some hype to get to it all.

The featurette is simply a 4:08 puff piece mostly culled from the longer ‘making of’, which was included in the film’s EPK.

Trailers: Four are included, all in anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1. Three are teasers (1:24, 1:35 and 0:41 in length respectively) and the other is the release version, which clocks in at a healthy 2:41 running time. All are fun in their own particular ways, the first being a great example of how to make a teaser when you seemingly have very little footage to work with.

Deleted Scenes: Once again the magic number is four. These non-enhanced 2.35:1 snips all look pretty good, and more specifically are...

Merry Christmas (0:45): Shots and the sounds of a children’s choir accompany McClane’s arrival at the airport...

Down the Rabbit Hole (0:59): If this hadn’t been cut the body count would have numbered an extra two...

Marvin (2:54): More of McClane and the airport’s janitorial guy’s meeting...

The Boiler Room (3:31): An alternate take of McClane’s trip to the Skywalk...

Interview and Profile: First up is what’s billed as an interview with Renny Harlin, however the 6:45 featurette also includes brief interview footage with a number of other cast and crew members. Clips from the film are in non-enhanced 2.35:1.

The Villain’s Profile (6:40) is similar in design and structure to the Renny interview featurette, except naturally enough it concentrates on the bad guys (Boo! Hiss!)

Behind the Scenes and Storyboards: Starting proceedings here are two more featurettes, Breaking the Ice (4:11) and Chaos on the Conveyor Belt (7:54). The first concentrates on snowmobiles, with a sequence of interviews, storyboards and behind the scenes footage presented. The second follows much the same format, concentrating on the biffo in the baggage handling area from near the start of the film.

As for storyboards, this 2:59 sequence alternates between panning down the sketched storyboard of part of the Skywalk scene and the actual footage from the film.

Visual Effects: Two sections are stashed in here, the first being Visual Effects Breakdowns. Rather than being things going wrong, as some may believe the title suggests, we get a 3:20 combination of storyboards and blue screen shots of the ejector seat scene which work their way through to eventually showing the completed composite shot as seen in the film, plus a somewhat stranger 1:59 sequence involving the airport runway towards the film’s end, with little images zooming about the screen showing how many scenes were combined to make what we finally see. Some commentary or annotation on these would have been nice.

Rounding out the package are three Side By Side Comparisons, which can be selected individually or played as one continuous lump. These are more breakdowns of how special effects were achieved, more specifically they are the rather tellingly named Chopper (1:20), Airplane Models (3:14) and Wing Fight. The airplane one in particular is kind of fun, there’s something quite entertaining about watching a man putting a leash on his airplane and then taking it out for a quick fly. Well, it tickled me...

  Overall  
Contract

Despite lacking a little of the punch that its predecessor had, mostly insofar as this sequel borrows heavily from the first film in many ways, Die Hard 2 is still a marvellous thrill ride of a BDAF, with all those things that such a beast needs in order to work – including the name ‘Joel Silver’ in the credits.

As for this DVD, the visual presentation is simply exemplary, the sound packs a fabulous wallop and the extras section is anything but short on interesting diversions for action buffs.

Be thankful that John McClane is the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time yet again, for Die Hard 2 is reason once more to gleefully cry “yippee-ki-yay!”. It just may be advisable to avoid it if you’re about to fly anywhere...


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1614
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      And I quote...
    "A marvellous thrill ride of a BDAF, with all those things that such a beast needs in order to work..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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