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Case Number 01240

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Die Hard 2: Special Edition

Fox // 1990 // 124 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // July 4th, 2001

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All Rise...

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Die Hard 2: Die Harder (published April 20th, 1999), Die Hard 2: Die Harder (Blu-ray) (published October 17th, 2011), and The Die Hard Collection (published June 25th, 2007) are also available.

The Charge

"McClane, you're the wrong guy, in the wrong place, at the wrong time."
"Story of my life."

Opening Statement

1988's Die Hard was a box office smash, proving that Bruce Willis could hold his own in the action ranks of Sly and Arnold. Coincidently, men all over the world had a new everyman hero to look up to. Yes, I speak of none other than Mr. Crocodile Dundee himself, Paul Hogan. In any case, 1990 saw the release of director Renny Harlin's flashy sequel Die Hard 2: Die Harder. Harlin's previous directing credit was the horror sequel A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master. Needless to say, I'm sure that studio heads were smudging their shorts to see what Harlin would produce. On May 19th, worries were put to rest as Die Hard 2: Die Harder became a smash hit with both critics and audiences alike. Fox double dips and brings up a new edition with Die Hard 2: Die Harder—Special Edition DVD.

Facts of the Case

Detective John McClane (Willis) is proof that lightning does indeed strike twice. In 1988, McClane had a bad night when he had to save the Nakatomi building and its hostages from certain destruction in the original Die Hard. This time around, McClane is on the defense as he battles a new band of terrorists in the land of politics and principles.

While waiting to pick up his wife at a Washington D.C. airport on Christmas Eve, John McClane stumbles upon a group of ex-United States military commandos, led by the sadistic Captain Stuart (William Sadler, The Shawshank Redemption), who have taken over the airport's controls leaving dozens of planes circling dangerously low on fuel (including one that is carrying McClane's wife, played by Bonnie Bedelia). Their demands: they want an imprisoned drug lord set free. His name: Robert Downey, Jr. Ha! Just kidding! It's actually Rick James.

Of course, the plot has other twists and turns in it, as well as supporting characters that are on screen just to get in McClane's way. These include the gruff Dennis Franz as an irritable security officer, and a hard-as-nails military strategist played by "Good Times" actor John Amos. Apparently, Jimmie Walker was unavailable to play his sidekick.

As the clock keeps ticking, the planes will start dropping unless McClane can once again come to the rescue. Hold on to your ejector seats: the action's about to start.

The Evidence

By all accounts Die Hard 2: Die Harder shouldn't have worked. It seemed implausible that the same guy could get himself in the same type of situation at the same time of year. Back in 1990 when Die Hard 2 opened, I'm sure many audience members were rolling their eyes right before the credits rolled, mumbling to themselves, "Alright, let's see how they make THIS work." To their surprise (based on its success), the makers of Die Hard 2: Die Harder pulled it off with impeccable gusto. Renny Harlin has a long history of making movies that are pure, unadulterated popcorn entertainment. Cutthroat Island, Deep Blue Sea, and Driven are all proof of that. Give credit where credit is due—what the man does, he does well.

I love the first Die Hard. I also loved Die Hard 2: Die Harder. These films contain such zippy energy that it's hard to believe that anyone other than the Pope and the Quakers wouldn't like it. Like the first film, Die Hard 2: Die Harder moves along at a speedy pace and always keeps the viewer involved. Just when you think things might be slowing down, director Renny Harlin throws in a few gunshots just for good measure. The return of John McClane was certainly a welcome one for moviegoers. Bruce Willis once again embodies an everyman quality while running around with that trademark smirk on his face. He's got his character down to a tee, and his deadpan comebacks are always able to create a chuckle out of this reviewer. It's almost enough to make you forget Disney's The Kid. Almost.

Die Hard 2: Die Harder's script is a bit weaker than the first film's, though not in the way of action or suspense. Now, I'll admit that the first Die Hard wasn't the most plausible film in cinema history. It did have its plot holes. Die Hard 2: Die Harder tends to look more Swiss cheesier than the first film, creating moments that make the viewer go "Oh, sure, like THAT would happen." Just as it's about to lose its credibility, it comes back with a new action sequence that puts you back on its side. The effects team does a great job of producing everything from a frighteningly real plane crash to some great shootouts in the baggage transfer. No expense was spared as everything made of concrete or steel seems to get either A.) shot or B.) blowed up real good! The supporting cast around Willis is once again great, featuring standout performances by William Sadler, Fred Thompson (now "Senator" Fred Thompson), and Die Hard holdover William Atherton as a slimy news reporter trapped in Mrs. McClane's circling airplane.

Die Hard 2: Die Harder is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This transfer even surpasses the Die Hard: Five Star Collection's transfer. Colors are bright with flesh tones looking flawless and natural. There was no detection of digital artifacting, and only a small amount of edge enhancement was detected. The quality of this transfer in incredibly detailed, and does justice to cinematographer Oliver Wood's expansive shots. A hats off salute to Fox.

Audio includes both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS, as well as a Dolby 2.0 Surround track in both French and English. Both the 5.1 track and the DTS track are excellent. When planes zoom over the viewer, you can literally feel the earth shake. Explosions are heard from all directions, and rear speakers are used unsparingly. Once again the DTS track is probably the stronger of the two, though both had well mixed dialogue, effects, and Michael Kamen's evocative music score. Also included are Spanish and English subtitles.

Though not as well packed as Die Hard: Five Star Collection, Die Hard 2: Die Harder—Special Edition is a well-stocked double disc set. Aside of the feature film audio tracks, the first disc offers up a commentary track by Finnish director Renny Harlin. Harlin talks with a thick accent, sounding like a weaker version of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Harlin drones on a bit, though his enthusiasm and pride for the film is obvious. The track is very informative with Harlin talking non-stop throughout the whole film.

The second disc is where most of the features are placed. First up is a section featuring two documentaries, including "Die Harder: The Making of Die Hard 2. This feature runs about 23 minutes and includes interviews with actors and crew about the challenges of making Die Hard 2: Die Harder. Such difficulties as making their own snow and using dangerous pyrotechnics faced the filmmakers, and this featurette is better than most at giving the viewer an insight into the making of the film. The second featurette, "Making Of Die Hard 2: Die Harder," is only four minutes in length and is basically clips from the film interspersed with snippets of interviews from the cast. Not half as exciting as the first featurette.

Four deleted scenes are included, most of which are extensions or alternates that aren't all that exciting. One involving Marvin the janitor is funny, though it's fairly obvious why it was cut (somewhat slow and plodding). All scenes are presented in non-anamorphic widescreen.

"An Interview with Renny Harlin" is a short section featuring director Harlin pontificating upon the effects, the cast and the script. Also prominently featured is actor William Sadler doing a funny impression of Harlin, mocking his thick, Finnish accent. Fun, though ultimately a throwaway. Also included in this same menu is "Villain's Profile," a six-minute featurette that isn't all that great. There are some slight interviews with some of the cast (focusing on Sadler's character), but mostly this is a lot of clips from the film, and we can see that when we just watch the feature.

Two short featurettes, "Breaking the Ice" and "Chaos on the Conveyor Belt" highlight some of the effects work that went into making the action elements of Die Hard 2: Die Harder. Both of these are very informative, featuring behind the scenes footage and more interviews with director Harlin and some of effects team (the producers must have shot about 89 miles worth of interview footage with as many times as it's featured on this disc). One runs about seven minutes in length, the other about four minutes. The "Storyboard Sequence" flip-flops between drawn storyboards and actual film scenes, informing the viewer on how important storyboarding is.

Finally, there are four theatrical trailers, all presented in anamorphic widescreen, as well as one television spot. For my money, I really enjoyed the teaser trailer, a fun watch that must have had audiences cheering in the aisles.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Die Hard 2: Die Harder is an extraordinarily good action movie. Sure, the script can get a little hokey at times (how many times can one guy dodge six million bullets and not get hit?), but how much different is it from the unbelievable yet always fun James Bond movies? Suspension of disbelief is the key, and if you keep that in mind, you're going to end up having a blast with Die Hard 2: Die Harder.

Closing Statement

Like the Die Hard: Five Star Collection double disc set, Die Hard 2: Die Harder—Special Edition is well worth the money. Though maybe a lesser film by only a smidgen of a margin, Die Hard 2: Die Harder is still better than your average Hollywood action film. Bruce Willis is in top form, and the special effects people are at the top of their game. This disc is a great buy, and here's hoping that Renny Harlin once again goes back to his roots and directs another Nightmare On Elm Street movie.

What? I liked The Dream Master. So sue me.

The Verdict

More fun than a barrel of Libyan terrorists. Die Hard 2: Die Harder—Special Edition is free to go! Case dismissed!

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Scales of Justice

Video: 99
Audio: 96
Extras: 92
Acting: 98
Story: 95
Judgment: 97

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 124 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Action
• Blockbusters
• Christmas

Distinguishing Marks

• "Die Harder: The Making Of Die Hard 2: Die Harder" Documentary
• "Making Of" Featurette
• "Villain's Profile" Featurette
• Four Deleted Scenes
• Interview with Renny Harlin
• Behind-the-Scenes Vignettes
• Storyboard Sequence
• Visual Effects Breakdown
• Trailers and TV Spots


• IMDb

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Review content copyright © 2001 Patrick Naugle; Site design and review layout copyright © 2016 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.