Plot: What’s it about?
For the second year in a row, John McClane (Bruce Willis) is trying his best to spend the holidays with his wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), but once again, lady luck is not riding on McClane’s shoulder. He is supposed to pick up his wife at the airport, and bad things happen to him before he even enters the building. As soon as he prepares to step inside, he sees that the car he drove, which belongs to his mother-in-law, is being towed away for being illegally parked. Once he does manage to get inside, his luck doesn’t improve, as weather has caused the flights all sorts of trouble. And to add to the tension of a jam packed airport on the holidays, the government is flying in a foreign drug lord to face the courts. While all the hustle and bustle is happening, a team of master terrorists are setting up base camp in a nearby church, and preparing for a mission to rescue the drug lord and get the hell out there. The terrorists have everything set up, they can control the control tower, they can control the runway, and no one knows how to stop them. But what they can’t control is one man, John McClane, who will not let anything, including an asshole security chief or an overbearing military commander, stand between him and his wife.
While sequels are not always a good idea, this one certainly is, packed with action and thrills. While the tension and solitude of the first are gone, the stunts have been taken up a few notches, which fills in the gap. The sheer scope of some of this stuff is amazing, and the visual and audible impact is huge. The scene with McClane inside the plane, when the terrorists are tossing grenades inside with him is a personal favorite of mine. I do miss the whole “one against many” concept, but there is still a lot to like with this movie. The pace is quick and fluid, and the action scenes are well planned and executed. This movie also continues many ideas and relationships from the original film, such as the asshole reporter and the McClane’s friend at the L.A. police station. The old woman aboard the plane provides some nice comic relief as well. While I don’t think this is in the same class as the original, it is a fun action ride, which is all you should expect from any Renny Harlin flick. This is a very cool movie and with this deluxe two disc edition, I simply cannot recommend this release enough, as it is excellent in all respects.
Renny Harlin (Cliffhanger, Driven) was handed the directorial hat for this installment, and he does his usual turn, producing an action movie with no merits outside of action. The only aspect of character development here is the shreds of character that seep over from the first movie. I think Harlin is good at mindless action, but little else, and I am happy to say he was able to stick with the action here. Bruce Willis returns as McClane, which is good since no one else could come close to getting this role right. While he has some funny lines here, he lacks the depth shown in the first movie. So, Willis shows off his action skills more here, and does a fine job. Returning from the original film are Bonnie Bedelia (They Shoot Horses Don’t They, Salem’s Lot), William “I’m a master at playing assholes” Atherton (Bio-Dome, Ghostbusters), and Reginald Vel Johnson (Tv’s Family Matters). New members of the supporting cast include John Amos (The Player’s Club, Coming To America), Dennis Franz (Tv’s NYPD Blue), and William Sadler (Solo, Stealth Fighter). Also appearing in this movie is cult superstar Franco Nero, who starred in the classics Django and Django Strikes Again.
Video: How does it look?
Die Hard 2 is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This film was the best looking release in the first batch of Die Hard discs, but it still lacked the refinements we’d come to expect. But Fox has done an immense turnaround since those discs and now, they’ve given this flick the visual treatment it deserves. The image shows a little grain and a couple print flaws, but this is still a dynamic presentation and I’m sure it will thrill fans. The dark visuals come across very well here, with sharp black levels and no visible detail loss at all, impressive work indeed. The colors here are usually on the subdued side, but often move into brighter hues and in either instance, I saw no problems in the least to report. Simply put, this is the best Die Hard 2 has ever looked on home video, so kudos to Fox for revisiting this title and getting it right this time around.
Audio: How does it sound?
This release has been rigged with 5.1 surround tracks in both Dolby Digital and DTS options, so everyone should be pleased here. As you can imagine, this flick offers a lot of chances for the audio to be showcased and thanks to these tracks, your home theater will be more than put through the paces, to be sure. I was very impressed with both tracks here and while they’re very close in nature, the DTS is a little smoother and more immersive, though not by a large margin. In either case however, the surrounds are used often and to very effective ends, this is how an action movie should be heard, no doubt about it. I was very pleased with the balance of the elements also, as dialogue was never obscured, even in the most active and powerful sequences. This release also includes 2.0 surround options in English and French, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish, just in case you might need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This two disc edition is packed with features, including an audio commentary track with director Renny Harlin. I’ve always liked Harlin’s sessions and this one proves to be no exception, he seems very open and talkative, which makes this more than worth a listen. He discusses the various action sequences, difficulties during the production, and even his thoughts on the cast, all of which makes for a pretty interesting overall session indeed. The second houses the rest of the extras, such as The Making of Die Hard 2, a behind the scene piece that runs about twenty-three minutes and was created for television broadcast. This is pretty much a promotional piece, but it has some worthwhile moments and good interviews, so I am glad was tacked onto this release. Another featurette is also found here, but it runs about four minutes and is your basic promotional fluff, to be sure. Next is an informative, but brief interview with Harlin and while only seven minutes in length, Harlin is very detailed and offers more information than expected. A brief featurette is also devoted to the villain’s profile, in which cast & crew members talk about the baddies seen in Die Hard 2. An additional pair of featurettes focus on specific sequences from the flick and while brief, they do shed some light on how the scenes were put together. The first offers a peek at how the snowmobile sequences was created, while the other is devoted stunts found within the conveyor belt scene, both are well are well worth a look. An animated storyboard presentation is next and it shows the attack involving the “painters,” a most wise choice I think, as it offers plenty of action to use as a comparison. In a most welcome gesture, you can also look at two special effects sequences from the film and then compare the finished product with the in-production version, very cool indeed. The ejector seat scene and airport runway sequence were chosen, both of which seem like natural choices, if you ask me. Even more special effects comparison are included however, as three sequences can be viewed in various stages, to gain insight into how they came to be, again a most welcome inclusion on this release. This release also includes a selection of four deleted sequences, a total of four theatrical trailers, and a television spot.