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DIE HARD 2: SPECIAL EDITION

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Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, William Atherton, Reginald Veljohnson, Franco Nero, William Sadler, John Amos, Dennis Franz
Director: Renny Harlin
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1 Surround, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 124 Minutes
Release Date: July 10, 2001

“Now you’re just the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time!”
“Yeah…the story of my life.”

Film ****

It is said that most movie sequels can’t even come close to the quality of the original, but I dare anyone to place Die Hard 2 in that category. This sequel, perfectly dubbed Die Harder, shows the same level of top craftsmanship that elevated the first Die Hard into the realm of masterful Hollywood moviemaking. It also made for a very challenging production, as the weather conditions grew harsher by the day. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first action movie to use the Die Hard formula, since its predecessor. Add to that a new setting, another top notch director at the helm, and some very nasty winter weather, and Die Hard 2 adds up to two hours of pure movie powerhouse.

Picking up a year after the events in first movie, the setting this time is at Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International Airport on Christmas Eve. Bruce Willis returns as heroic cop John McClane, who’s now reconciled with his wife, Holly (Bonne Bedelia), and is working with the LAPD. McClane is patiently awaiting his wife’s plane, which is being delayed due to severe snow conditions. However, the conditions at the airport itself begin to grow more hostile by the minute. After McClane chases down two gun carrying thugs in the baggage room, he begins to suspect a possible takeover of the airport. His reason for this reason isn’t entirely laughable. A cargo jet carrying imprisoned dictator General Esperanza (Franco Nero) is due to arrive at Dulles at some point in the evening. Of course, he can’t get anyone at the airport to believe him, especially the hard-bitten Capt. Lorenzo (Dennis Franz), who wants McClane thrown out of the airport.

Soon enough, McClane’s theory is right, as a group of renegade military operatives cut down the airport’s power, preventing all incoming flights from landing. So now, with his wife’s flight in danger of crashing, McClane goes up against all odds to prevent such a thing from happening. With the setting of Die Hard 2 being that of an airport instead of a condensed building, it provides as a much bigger landscape for McClane to fight off terrorists, which this time are a group of rouge ex-commandoes lead by the shady Col. Stuart (William Sadler), an ex-CIA operative who is now an outspoken traitor of his country, obviously being paid handsomely by Esperanza for providing safety. Stuart’s plan is to recover Esperanza, and then demand a fully fueled plane to carry them to freedom. McClane isn’t completely alone on this battle, as Dulles calls in an “anti-terrorist” unit, led by Major Grant (John Amos), who taught Col. Stuart everything he now knows.

The lucky factor in Die Hard 2 was craft of director Renny Harlin. At the time, Harlin was only credited with directing one movie, which was Nightmare on Elm Street 4. It may have been a somewhat risk taking choice, but Harlin turned out to be just as an impressive as John McTiernan was with the first Die Hard. Harlin is a master at maintaining thrills at nearly every minute and stupendous action scenes in addition. Such sequences as McClane pulling his way out of sewer on a runway with a landing jet fast approaching, followed by a duel with the villains in which McClane ejects himself out of a cockpit full of grenades (the most awe-inspiring scene, I might add), a chase between dueling snowmobiles, and a gasp-for-breath, all out climax battle on the wing of a moving plane all display Harlin’s show-stopping quality. Harlin would then go on to direct more fierce thrillers such as Cliffhanger and Deep Blue Sea.

Die Hard 2 is another standout installment in an outstanding movie series that really deserves its place as one of the greatest entertainments ever brought to the screen, and this particular Die Hard will likely have you shouting “yippie ki-yay” at its end.

Video ****

The folks at Fox fire up yet another striking DVD transfer to Die for. Fox has pretty much illustrated how to go back and fix up early DVD releases with this new Die Hard Ultimate Collection. The transfer for Die Hard 2 is a stellar Fox quality. This anamorphic presentation includes a superbly sharp and clear image, which has zero flaws even in its many darkly lit scenes. The many action sequences, and many visual effects ignite the screen with technical DVD power.

Audio ***

Perhaps the weakest audio transfer of the three movies, but certainly not a horrible sounding disc by any means. The 5.1 Dolby Digital track for Die Hard 2 suffers a bit in its first half hour, but then picks up fantastically well from that point on. The last half of the movie more than makes up for the flawed first half, as various loud explosions and immense gunfire pick up amazingly well. A DTS track is also included, and probably sounds a bit better, too.

Features ****

Fox wasn’t lying at all when they labeled this package “The Ultimate Collection”. Each disc gets its own share of fabulous extras, and the disc for Die Hard 2 is no exception. Included on disc one is a running commentary by director Renny Harlin, who always offers lots of insight into the process of making movies.

Disc 2 includes more explosive goodies, including three documentaries, The Making of Die Hard 2, which was made for the Fox network, the original 5 minute press kit, and a Villain’s Profile featurette. Also featured is an interview with director Renny Harlin, 4 deleted scenes, a storyboard sequence, a breakdown of visual effects sequences, and trailers and TV spots for the movie.

Summary:

Die Hard 2 makes for a perfect follow up to a landmark action movie. Without a doubt one of the best sequels to date, and pivotal point for director Renny Harlin.