Die Hard 2 DVD Review

Vaulted into international superstardom with the release of the $80 million blockbuster "Die Hard," Bruce Willis became a household name practically overnight. Two years later, most of the cast and crew return for another round of action and comedy, but something went wrong. Missing the frantic pace of the original (or any respectable acting), "Die Hard 2" falls flat.

John McClane (Willis) waits for his wife who is soon to land at Dulles Airport in Washington. Suspecting something is wrong, he is soon entangled in terrorist plot to rescue a drug lord from captivity. Leading the technically advanced group is Colonel Stuart (William Sadler) who soon discovers his plans going awry when McClane makes the first kill. Keeping his wife's plane in the air as a threat by cutting power to the landing strip, McClane has a short amount of time to help the numerous aircraft stranded in the air and make sure the escaping fugitive fails to make an exit.

"Die Hard 2" wastes no time in getting started. The first shoot-out begins within the first 15-minute mark. Then things quickly go downhill fast, the script filled with countless characters and hardly amusing attempts at comedy. Returning cast and crew are many including Bonnie Bedelia, William Atherton, Reginald VelJohnson, and of course Willis himself. The only missing crewmember is Jon De Bont, who fails to return as the cinematographer.

This makes it even a bigger mystery as to what exactly went wrong here. Renny Harlin is a capable director, producing some great actioners including "Cliffhanger" and the enjoyable creature feature "Deep Blue Sea." The pacing of the film is dull, lifeless, and downright boring at times, an unforgivable mistake in an action film.

Nearly everyone playing an employee of the airport is terrible, including Dennis Franz who's character is beyond aggravating. The few action scenes included don't match up to any of the originals and the special effects produced by ILM are laughable (especially the ejection seat sequence). The only high point is the rather surprising twist towards the end, which definitely comes from left field. This is easily the weakest entry of the series (though a fourth film is pending) and is better off forgotten. (** out of *****)

The 2.35:1 widescreen transfer for "Die Hard 2" is solid and a slight step up from the treatment the first film received. Colors are bolder and black levels are deep. The film uses many bright colors (especially red) and compression issues show through because of it, but it's tolerable. The light grain is only noticeable in a few scenes, but it can be a little distracting. Otherwise, this is a crisp, clean, and clear transfer from a nearly flawless print. (****)

Presented in either 5.1 or DTS, the film sounds decent when the action picks up. Gunfire comes from all angles when it should, but the LFE channel gets a day off. Even during the films few explosions, the bass never really kicks in leaving everything sounding scratchy and washed out. Ambient noises, particularly in the opening scenes of the airport are nice as are echo effects in the control tower, but the entire package falls flat without any decent bass. Dialogue sounds better this time around, but the source material is a few years younger as well. (***)

Compared to the triple commentary treatment the first film received, the single track here from the director seems limited. However, how many people really watch a film three times for commentaries? Anyway, everything special here is contained on disc 2.

Starting things off are two promotional featurettes. The first making-of aired on Fox (in prime time if my memory serves me right) and runs for nearly 25-minutes. It's obviously a commercial, but behind the scenes footage is always welcome. The second 4-minute short was contained in a press kit for the film. Four deleted scenes of varying length are included and one of them is an alternate take.

Renny Harlin is featured in a brief interview while a short featurette on the movie's villains is included in the same section of the features menu. A short but deep look at two action sequences, the snowmobile chase and conveyor belt gunfight, gives an overview of how these scenes came together. Storyboards are included for the attack on the SWAT team. Visual effect breakdowns show certain scenes in various forms of completion up until the final cut. Finally, three scenes are shown intercut with footage from other stages of the shot. (****)

This is a move that simply slows itself down. It spends too much time trying to reacquaint audiences with characters from the first film and then tacks on even more people. The few action scenes that are included are great to watch, but when you can just get the original, why bother?

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