Alexander Larman has reviewed the Region 1 release of Die Hard 2 SE. A pretty good film gets a good technical presentation, but some weak extras detract from the package.
Sequels to action films tend, on the whole, to be disappointing. The few films where the sequels have equalled or surpassed the original (The Godfather part 2, Aliens) do not tend to be sequels to action films in the first instance, and most action films tend to have effectively the first film remade, often on a more elaborate and money-guzzling level, such as Cameron’s T2 or even Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy Returns. It’s not all that surprising then that Die Hard 2 is a weaker rehash of its predecessor; what is surprising is how much fun the whole ridiculous affair is.
The plot is almost Bruckheimer-esque in its macho stupidity. A group of terrorists, led by the allegedly insane (i.e he exercises naked) Colonel Stuart (Sadler), manage to take over radio communication at an airport, thereby controlling all air traffic, in order that they might assure the safe return of a drug lord (Nero). Needless to say, only one man can stop them, and that man is John McClane (Willis, of course), whose wife is on one of the planes desperately circling the airport. The plot is set up remarkably quickly, if somewhat unintelligibly, and then Harlin takes a perverse glee in blowing things up for most of the rest of the film.
As a sequel to one of the best films of the 1980s, let alone best action films, this is a disappointment. McClane is no longer a vulnerable man forced by circumstances to become a hero, but pretty much a superhero from the outset, heroically killing dozens of villains with his bare hands. A more serious problem is that the film lacks the claustrophobic tension of its predecessor, with little actual sense of McClane being obliged to run for his life from terrorists, instead choosing to stand and fight. There’s also the usual remarkably lazy plotting (i.e the hero realises precisely what the villains are about to do just after the audience does), the usual tiresome police chief whose sole purpose is to be wrong all the time, and a rather colourless group of villains, not one of whom is anything like as memorable as Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber in the first film.
Yet it’s still a very entertaining action film. Set piece after set piece is excitingly done and well staged by Harlin, who seems to have made a career of making this type of stupid-yet-exciting film, including such masterpieces as Deep Blue Sea, Cliffhanger and Cutthroat Island, but who here rises to the challenge of destroying property admirably, even if the notion of McClane pursuing villains on snowmobiles struck me as being closer to James Bond than a serious action thriller. Willis is McClane, as ever, but the rest of the cast does little other than scream, shoot, shout or die, often in that order. This is by no stretch of the imagination a great film, nor even a particularly good one, but it’s a more than enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.
Fox have done a good job with the transfer, if not quite up to the stunning quality of the first film. Colours are bright, clear and detail is sharp, without any noticeable grain or edge enhancement. The only irritation is that occasionally, when the action takes place at night, it can become quite difficult to see what’s actually happening, but the colours are normally well defined enough for this not to become a major problem. A nice result.
The one area of the disc where the film equals the first film, the sound mix is consistently loud, active and well spread out, and copes with the many explosions, shoot-outs and crowd scenes well. The only minor criticism is that occasionally dialogue can feel somewhat drowned out by the noise, but that’s a fault of the film, rather than the sound mixer. A fine effort, and well worth listening to loudly!
A rather dispiriting and boring selection. The main extra, Renny Harlin’s commentary, is entertaining enough, even if he does occasionally seem only to be describing what’s happening onscreen. However, it’s hardly a must-listen. The other extras are of little lasting interest. There are a lot of featurettes, which are all promotional in nature and of little real interest, although the special effects vignettes are of minor appeal. The deleted scenes are dull and add little to the film, and it’s obvious to see why they were removed. One of the best extras, oddly enough, is the first teaser trailer, which does a brilliant job of setting the film up as a high-octane action film while only showing 10 seconds or so of footage. Still, it’s very, very hard to get excited about the extras, although there are a resonable number of them.
The weakest of the ‘Die Hard’ trilogy gets the weakest DVD edition. The extras, apart from Harlin’s commentary, are very mediocre, and not worth bothering with. However, the film itself is presented very well, and it is also uncut, allowing some of the more violent moments (stalactites in eyes, anyone?) to be seen fully for the first time. It’s impossible to really recommend this disc as a must-buy on its own, but, given that it’s available as part of the boxed set, it’s well worth having on that basis.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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