After a long wait, Bruce Willis has returned as John McClane in Live Free or Die Hard, one of the biggest movies of the summer, and deservedly so. While there was a bit of an uproar over the director of the film, Len Wiseman, the PG-13 rating, and the overall plot, I have to say that this makes for a fun action flick. It’s fast-paced, has a lot of great action sequences, and has a copious amount of one-liners. But, is this a good Die Hard movie? I mean, John McClane “killing a helicopter” with a car? Doesn’t that seem a bit to over the top for an action series which tried to ground itself with a sense of hyper-realism? And can it really be a Die Hard movie with a PG-13 rating? Well, thanks to the DVD release, yes and no.
He’s still an easy man to like and still a hard man to kill – the action never lets up when John McClane finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time once again in Live Free or Die Hard. New York City detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) delivers old-school justice to a new breed of terrorists when a massive computer attack on the U.S. infrastructure threatens to shut down the entire country over Independence Day weekend. Director Len Wiseman (Underworld) takes the series into the new millennium with a seamless composite of explosive scenes, jaw-dropping stunt work, groundbreaking special effects and the ever popular clever quips.
It seems over the past few years, a popular insult fans have started using is “in name only.” For example, when Transformers hit theatres this past year, fans dubbed it TINO, which is short for Transformers In Name Only. Of course, Live Free or Die Hard was also subject to this. And, in some ways, I’d agree. This feels like almost any other action flick, but with only Bruce Willis and the Die Hard name tagged on. If both the name of the movie and Willis’s character was changed to something else, the movie would remain unaltered. It would pretty much be the exact same movie, which is a big fault against it. The previous Die Hard movies had a tone about them, had a feel, a feel this one is lacking. I just can’t picture the John McClane from the first film driving a car into a helicopter, ducking inbetween two cars to avoid being crushed by another, or, in a real inane sequence, taking out a helicopter sharpshooter by running over a fire hydrant and hitting him with a geyser of water. What the? This doesn’t have the approach and the tone the original Die Hard movies had.
John McClane, in the first three Die Hard movies wasn’t some superhuman cop who could do all these jaw-dropping stunts. He was just an average cop, had a lot of attitude, wasn’t trained to handle terrorists and the like. If you’ve seen the previous Die Hard movies, you’d know what I am struggling to say here. It’s just odd to see the same guy who tied a fire hose around his waste in the first flick jump off a friggin’ jet and then avoid a fireball within seconds of each other. It’s with this film that McClane graduated to the superhuman action stars that we see in nearly every other action movie. McClane wasn’t like that in the previous movies. Sure, while some of the situations in Die Harder and Die Hard With A Vengeance were a bit out there, nothing tops what we see here.
I suppose this does all make sense, however, since the script to this movie wasn’t originally whipped up as a Die Hard movie, but was later changed to be apart of the Die Hard franchise. Then again, and I’m not sure of this, but I think this was also the case for the third installment. However, with this one, the changes made weren’t enough to make it fall seamlessly into the Die Hard franchise. So, understandably, fans of the franchise were disappointed with what they saw. You have to admit it seems a bit odd to see once “Regular Joe” cop McClane now performing superhuman stunts to save the day, especially when you compare the McClane in this movie to the original.
However, as an action film, the movie works. If you can just forget all the odd Die Hard references, this is actually a pretty fun action flick. While PG-13 for its theatrical release, Fox has released an unrated version of Live Free or Die Hard and the difference is palpable. This is a fun action movie that, with this release, adds a lot more punch to an already gritty PG-13 flick. Personally, I though the movie was already pushing the PG-13 limits in the theatre, but this version gleefully pushes it overboard. For action buffs, there’s plenty to like here, including an ingenious climax between McClane and the main bad guy. And there’s an abundance of action, action which never really slows down. The plot is pretty standard, but some of the really ingenious action sequences save the movie (that is, if you can forget this is a Die Harrd flick through some of the more dumb/fun sequences).
This film, for all its flaws and problems, is still a damn likeably ride. It has some great action sequences, some pretty good one-liners, and good interaction between Willis and his “sidekick,” played by Justin Long. The movie is incredibly predictable, but it is still a lot of fun. There’s just something about all the ridiculous stunts and the goofy plot that adds to the film’s charm, oddly enough. Live Free or Die Hrad may not be the best of the franchise, but it’s still pretty damn fun if you can accept the flaws.
And speaking of flaws, let’s discuss the DVD release, shall we? Well, Fox has opted to release Live Free or Die Hard in three different formats, a single-disc full screen rated version, a single-disc widescreen unrated edition, and a unrated two-disc edition. As you can expect the two-disc unrated edition is the way to go. The DVD itself is housed in a standard hinged-flip two-disc case, covered in a shiny cardboard slip case. The audio and video for this movie is topnotch, excellent across the board. The only I flaw I see is the unnecessary release of a full screen viewing alternative to the film, but that’s just me.
There’s plenty of goodies to be found in this two-disc set, many which should keep fans engaged. The only extra on disc one with a commentary by Bruce Willis, Director Len Wiseman and Editor Nicolas De Toth. We then jump over to the second disc with the feature-length, ten-part “Analog Hero in a Digital World: Making of Live Free or Die Hard” documentary. The documentary, running almost an hour and forty minutes, covers pretty much every aspect of this movie and gives a nice broad general look at the franchise itself. In short, there’s something here for everyone, whether you’re new to the franchise or have been enjoying it for years. After that, we get “Yippee-Ki-Yay Mother F*****!” featuring a rather candid one-on-one conversation with Bruce Willis & Kevin Smith. It’s pretty raw and actually pretty entertaining, even if it doesn’t provide anything new. The disc is rounded off with a “Die Hard” by Guyz Nite music video coupled with a featurette about said video, a six minute promo featurette for the movie and Die Hard franchise and then, finally, the trailer. It’s a nice assortment of extras, enough to keep anyone satisfied, no doubt.
Overall, what we have here is a solid two-disc DVD release for a fun action movie. And yes, it’s a fun action movie, but it just doesn’t feel like a Die Hard movie to me. Regardless of that, I still really enjoyed watching this movie and I would Recommend it to anyone else, too. It’s just fun, plain and simple, from start to finish. Yes, it’s upsetting that the Die Hard franchises ends on such a dumb note, and this movie is pretty dumb, but there’s just so much fun to be had here. The film ended up being much better than I expected, even if McClane has sort of morphed into an unkillable supercop. But the film is just damn fun and some of the action sequences are just jaw droppers. Live Free of Die Hard is worth checking out, and action fans will undoubtedly enjoy it.
Live Free or Die Hard: 2-Disc Unrated Collector’s Edition is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray (rated edition).