The Die Hard series has always been the pinnacle Blockbuster movie. While Live Free or Die Hard is the fourth in the series, many fans of the first film never felt that series had a true “sequel”; Die Hard 2 was simply a rehash of the first film and Die Hard With a Vengeance, while it had elements of a great film, still didn’t quite feel like the first Die Hard. In Live Free or Die Hard, however, fans can finally get the same feeling they did while watching the first Die Hard: a rousing action movie that only lets up when our characters need to breathe.
Not yet retired, Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) is sent on orders to pick up a hacker named Matt Farrell (Justin Long) and take him to Washington D.C. While getting Farrell to leave his apartment and come with him, the apartment comes under attack by a group of terrorists who are attempting to bring down the United States via glitches in their network security. It’s only with hacker Farrell’s brain and McClanes nature to never die that they’re able to save the country from the “fire sale” that brought down the traffic control system, the stock market and countless other critical utilities.
While nothing will ever match the magic that the original Die Hard brought to the big screen, it’s hard to deny that Live Free or Die Hard isn’t a close follow up, especially when compared to its brothers who were less than impressive. Perhaps it was Willis’s active role as a producer of the film that led to a stronger production in the end, but even in its PG-13 state Live Free or Die Hard was a superb film, making excellent use of the Fourth of July holiday and giving the audience a good ol’ jolt of patriotism as McClane saved the United States from complete shutdown.
There were several elements of the film that still stick out in my mind as I type this; the first is, of course, the sending of a car into a helicopter. That aspect of the film was well publicized in the trailers and in magazines before the film’s release, so it wasn’t a real “surprise” to see it, but man if it isn’t cool as hell. Minutes before that with the cars colliding in the tunnel also offer some jaw-dropping moments and the semi-trailer / jet fight was hilariously absurd, but awesome at the same time. One half expected the two vehicles to turn into Megatron and Starscream (Transformers joke, I’m a nerd, don’t mind me), but the action was so well done in the film that it really just makes it a delight to watch for that alone.
Of course there are other things to enjoy in the film. The characters and writing are all well done and without this I don’t think we would’ve gotten a real feel for Die Hard. Perhaps I’m still shaken by the PG-13 rating the film had originally, but something about the film, even in all of its actiony glory, still felt off. The unrated version of the film, which features nothing more than a dozen f-bombs or so, helps push the edge back on McClane, as before it just seemed odd that there wasn’t something with an “f” and a vowel coming out of his mouth at certain moments in the film. I know some film goers continue to be offended by the use of the word, but in McClane’s case that’s part of his character and what made the original Die Hard so great—no holds barred action and offensive language.
Even without the cursing in the unrated cut, however, there was plenty to love in the PG-13 version. One thing I did enjoy in the PG-13 cut was the placement of the “Yippee Ki Yay” phrase. While the phrase usually ends with “Motherf******”, the PG-13 version placed a gun blast over the f-bomb. Oddly enough, with that being the only time that phrase appears in the film, I think it works better uncensored that it does otherwise.
Regardless of which cut you choose (although I ultimately prefer the new Unrated cut, of course), you’re sure to be entertained either way. It’s an awesome film that is just a ton of fun to watch any time of the year. Highly Recommended.
Live Free or Die Hard lands on the digital disc format in several formats. First is a single disc rated (fullscreen) DVD, single disc unrated (widescreen) DVD, two disc unrated (widescreen) DVD and a PG-13 Blu-Ray edition. Apparently manufacturing of the Unrated print was not done in time for a Blu-Ray release of the unrated, so that may be coming at another point in time. Amidst these editions are retailer exclusive editions like Steelbook packaging and the like.
The video and audio transfer for the film is a pure powerhouse. While video is clean and clear and free of artifacts, the audio is borderline insane at times with the amount of power it pushes to the subwoofer. I felt like ducking a few times during the film simply because the blasts would come so abruptly and so powerfully—really an awesome track. There’s no DTS track this time around, but most Fox releases rarely warrant such a track, as the differences between their 5.1 and DTS tracks are often negligible.
First up on the special features docket is a commentary by Bruce Willis, Director Len Wiseman and editor Nicolas De Toth. The commentary is your standard fare, with some back patting going on but the most interesting aspect of it is the discussion of how the film was shot as R and cut to be PG-13. De Toth takes the reins the most for this portion and Willis and Wiseman throw in a few good anecdotes along the way. It’s a solid commentary track, although I wish Justin Long could’ve been thrown in there as well. Oh well.
With the commentary being the only extra on the first disc (with there being two editions of the film on the same disc, it’s no wonder), we get to push onto the second disc. First up is “Analog Hero in a Digital World”, an over two and a half hour documentary on the production of the film, from start to finish. These are the type of exhaustive documentaries that are fun to watch, as they leave no stone unturned that went into the process of making the film. Of course I also like shorter documentaries, but for films such as Die Hard, seeing the process that goes into making the onscreen mayhem is just a real treat.
Next up is a great little sit down with Bruce Willis and Kevin Smith on Fox’s lot. Titled “Yippee Ki Yay, Motherf******”, Smith and Willis have a nice twenty-two minute conversation that is also rather frank in Willis’s opinions of the Die Hard series. Willis freely points out that he didn’t enjoy the second or third films too much, but really thinks that the fourth film brings a nice bookend to the series. On top of this, they discussion Willis’s internet presence in promoting Live Free or Die Hard and defending it against the naysayers; overall a really nice sit down that is undoubtedly one of the better extras I’ve watched on DVD in years.
“FOX MOVIE CHANNEL presents FOX LEGACY” goes into the history of the Die Hard series, but with past DVD releases and the documentary on this set, this almost seems pointless to include. The original theatrical trailer for the film is included, as well as a “Die Hard” music video by Guyz Nite. Many may find the video stupid or silly, but I thought it was rather well done. The accompanying “Behind the Scenes with Guyz Nite” was a bit frivolous and stupid to watch, but the song was still a lot of fun to listen to.
Also included are digital versions of the film, right on the second disc. This is a neat little extra that was first introduced on this DVD (Warner Bros. did a similar thing with the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix DVD) and works via ways of DRM tagged WMV files. The video quality on these files is rather impressive and well worth your time if you’re going to be watching these on the road rather than at home. One drawback is you can seem to use the license only once; I copied the files to my XP machine after the DRM process kept failing on my Vista machine and when I attempted to play them on my Vista PC I was met with an “Already activated” error, which leads me to believe that those files are locked to one PC at all times. I’ve no idea what happens if you reformat the PC, but it’s kind of a downer, especially if you don’t know about the limitations beforehand.
Overall Live Free or Die Hard is the best installment of the franchise since the original. While I doubt any sequel will top the original, Live Free or Die Hard comes very, very close. Highly Recommended.
Live Free or Die Hard: Unrated Two-Disc Edition is now available on DVD.