Die Hard: The Ultimate Collection

Available at Amazon.com

Once upon a time, every action film featured some muscle-bound he-man who mowed through hundreds of men and saved the day without a scratch. One film changed it all and inspired two sequels and dozens of imitators: DIE HARD!


Image Courtesy of Amazon.com

Disc One – Die Hard (Five Star Collection)

Director

John McTiernan

Cast

Bruce Willis ..John McClane
Reginald Vel Johnson .Sgt. Al Powell
Bonnie Bedelia Holly Gennero McClane
Alan Rickman Hans Gruber

The death of the 80s action hero can be traced back to a singular moment in time. Unlike the death and emergence of many treads in film, which can be attributed to many sources and events, one film changed the way action movies were to be forever: Die Hard. Originally a script meant as a sequel to Commando, one of Schwarzenegger’s hit films, Arnold passed and an unlikely candidate emerged to star in the film: Bruce Willis. The star of Moonlighting who dabbled in feature films, Die Hard was never meant to be anything more than a Christmas action movie that snared adults into a time when children’s films led the way. The film’s success changed the way action movies were made, signaled the end of the Stallone/Arnold era of muscle build action stars and made Bruce Willis an A-list star overnight.

Willis stars as John McClane, a New York cop on vacation in L.A for the holiday to visit his wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia). Holly is a successful businesswoman and invites John to her company’s Christmas party. Terrorists have other plans for the evening, as Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) takes the building and the people in it hostage. Escaping capture, McClane decides to wage a one man war against Hans and his dozen men in a vain attempt at saving the day. Trapped with little ammunition against a well-armed group of terrorists, an L.A beat cop (Reginald Vel Johnson) his only contact with the outside world, McClane has to survive with his wits, some luck and some sort of crazy bravado to stay alive and save the day.

What made Die Hard such a revelation in 1988 was that Willis wasn’t the usual one man army, unstoppable and invincible against an army of highly armed bad guys. McClane was a normal guy surviving on luck and guts, as opposed to a muscle clad warrior who couldn’t be denied, and that’s what was so appealing about him. He had the usual assortment of witty one-liners that every good action hero has; he just always seemed to pull it off by the seat of his pants. He was so lucky and against tremendous odds the whole time and manages to somehow keep surviving by using his brains as opposed to brawn. McClane was a much more realistic hero than had been on the screen for years, owing to one of the great action scripts of all time, and being played by an everyman type of actor like Willis made him someone easily able to root for. It’s a phenomenal script for the genre that still holds up 20 years later; films still try to have that same effect that this one had and imitated it endlessly.

And for every good hero, there has to be a good villain. And the sign of a good villain is that they’re so despicable that no matter how much charisma they have, or who plays them, rooting against them is easy. Alan Rickman is perhaps the greatest action movie villain to grace the silver screen ever as he’s dashing and suave as Hans but is so deliciously evil that rooting for him becomes impossible. We dislike him plenty enough that even a bland hero would be worthwhile, but with the quality of heroism from Bruce Willis and this becomes a classic that holds up.

Disc Two – Die Hard Special Features

Die Hard: The Vault is a collection of Deleted Scenes and Outtakes that didn’t find their way into the film. The usual reasons as to why they weren’t included abound, and some of the outtakes are amusing in their own way. The Cutting Room allows you to play editor and set up key sequences in the film with various shots that weren’t used as well as the shots that made it into the film. Interactive Slide Show is a series of still shots of various scenery parts of the film. The film’s Script is included as well as Trailers and TV Spots from the film’s original advertising campaign in 1988, as well as a Featurette hyping the film.


Image Courtesy of Amazon.com

Disc Three – Die Hard 2: Die Harder (Special Edition)

Director

Renny Harlin

Cast

Bruce Willis .John McClane
Reginald Vel Johnson .Sgt. Al Powell
Bonnie Bedelia .Holly Gennero McClane
William Atherton ..Richard Thornburg
William Sadler ..Col. Stuart
Franco Nero .Gen. Ramon Esperanza
Fred Thompson ..Trudeau

For every great action film there must be a sequel. Speed, Beverly Hills Cop and Lethal Weapon all had one or more sequels, thus leaving Die Hard open for the continuing adventures of John McClane (Bruce Willis).

It’s a year after McClane defeated Hans Gruber and crew, a nationally recognized name as a “super cop” of sorts. At the airport to pick up his wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), McClane stumbles onto a plot by Colonel Stuart (William Sadler) to free a deposed general (Franco Nero) by commandeering command of the airport from Trudeau (Fred Thompson), who’s in charge that night. Facing the same sort of challenges and bad guys as he did a year ago, including a rather interesting twist on the events, McClane has to save the day in the gutsy manner in which his bravado counts as much as his brains.

Credit Willis for picking another top notch script to make a sequel with, as it has the same sort of tone and realism the first has. While not nearly as good on occasion, as Renny Harlin isn’t a match for McTiernan behind the camera, the second installment of Die Hard relies much more on its star than its script this time around.

Willis is definitely in control of the film as McClane. This is the role he will always be remembered for, much like Arnold has The Terminator and Stallone has Rocky Balboa, and he has a phenomenal grasp of what it means to be an action hero in this one. McClane has gone through a lot in the last year and the last thing he wants to be is a hero again. But when the chips are down and the score is tied, John McClane is there to somehow pull victory out of nowhere and kill the bad guys. McClane adds some subtle nuances to the character this time around; this isn’t a retread of Die Hard, as Willis adds lots of nonverbal things to the character as well as in terms of his presence. He’s completely comfortable being an action star now, which was the black mark between the first film and this; Willis’ special connection with the McClane character has defined his career and is most evident in this film; he finally has his complete and total bearing as an action star and is fully capable of being the Arnold type who can carry a film based on his charisma and presence.

Disc Four – Die Hard 2: Die Harder (Special Edition) Special Features

The Making of Die Hard 2 is a feature that was made specifically for Fox affiliate networks by Fox studios. Purely a fluff piece, this feature does go into some of the difficulties of working in subzero weather and the cast and crew’s reflection upon it. Some of the effects and more difficult scenes to work are shown in some detail as to how they were pulled off, but the film is essentially EPK with some interesting tidbits thrown in. There’s also another Featurette form the original electronic press kit that Fox used included as well. The film’s Trailers and TV Spots, as well as Deleted Scenes, are included as well. The deleted scenes were cut for the usual reasons, but there is another version of how a major event in the film happens that’s included which is interesting as well. Some of the film’s Storyboards are included, as well as Interview with Renny Harlin and a profile of the main villain are included as well.


Image Courtesy of Amazon.com

Disc Five – Die Hard with a Vengeance (Special Edition)

Director

John McTiernan

Cast

Bruce Willis .John McClane
Jeremy Irons .Simon Gruber
Samuel L. Jackson .Zeus Carver

If the first two films in the Die Hard trilogy were the defining moments of Bruce Willis’ action career, Die Hard with a Vengeance marks the change in Willis’ career from action star to actor. From that point until recently, Willis only action films were The Fifth Element and Tears of the Sun, as the man took on a diverse set of roles highlighting his thespian pursuits. It also marks a change in the series, as well; the film was much more of a buddy action film than it was John McClane saving the day.

This time around McClane has to deal with a man with connections to his past. Hans Gruber’s little brother Simon (Jeremy Irons) has sworn vengeance upon McClane as part of a convoluted plot to rob the Federal Reserve in New York. Teamed up with a shop owner named Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson), McClane has to prevent several bombs from exploding all over the city. And if it sounds rather clichéd and trendy for an action film, that’s because that’s what the film feels like. The problem lies in the script. It is a good film, better than most, but it just doesn’t have the sort of grit and dirt than a Die Hard film has.

Originally written as an independent film called “Simon Says,” it was adapted to feature McClane and Zeus, and the film shows. McClane as a character isn’t the same as he was in two other films; this is the usual generic Bruce Willis action hero archetype as opposed to being another in a series of adventures of McClane. If the film hadn’t had the phrase “Die Hard” in the title one would be remiss to see how it fit into the franchise. Willis is playing the same type of action hero that he could probably do in his sleep; there’s no difference between this John McClane and his character from The Last Boy Scout or The Fifth Element.

While it’s an entertaining film, and certainly is better than most of Willis’ action films, to have the title “Die Hard” above the marquee seems a bit off. It’s a good action ride, and would probably be considered a much stronger film without the first two words of its title, but for a film featuring John McClane and following two of the best action movies of the last 30 years it seems rather hollow.

Disc Six – Die Hard with a Vengeance (Special Edition) Special Features

Three Featurettes and TV Specials are included. One was originally created for broadcast on HBO, another with the world television broadcast of Die Hard 2: Die Harder and the other was for the Fox electronic press kit. The first two are quite interesting, as they stray towards being like the third but they do have some interesting tidbits as well as members of the cast reflect on the trilogy. The DVD also has an Alternate Ending with optional commentary by screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh as well, which is interesting in and of itself. It provides the same happy ending the original one provides but with a bit darker of a tone to it. There’s an Interview with Bruce Willis and a profile of the villain, Simon Gruber, in this edition as well as TV Spots and Theatrical Trailers and a special section on the Visual Effects of the film.

The Audio

Presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 format on all three films, all three films sound excellent. These are big special editions for all three so the audio component has been refined from the single disc editions somewhat; these are the big ticket editions and as such have a much stronger and better separated audio to them.

The Video

With a widescreen format, the three films have stellar video transfers as well. These are the special editions of all three films and as such have a terrific visual component to them as well.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Die Hard: Ultimate Collection
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

10.0
THE VIDEO

10.0
THE AUDIO

10.0
THE EXTRAS

5.0
REPLAY VALUE

10.0
OVERALL
10.0
(NOT AN AVERAGE)