Live Free or Die Hard (2-Disc Unrated Widescreen Edition)

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Rating: Unrated

Starring:
Bruce Willis as John McClane
Timothy Olyphant as Thomas Gabriel
Justin Long as Matt Farrell
Maggie Q as Mai Lihn
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Lucy McClane
Cliff Curtis as Bowman
Jonathan Sadowski as Trey
Andrew Friedman as Casper
Kevin Smith as Warlock
Yorgo Constantine as Russo
Cyril Raffaelli as Rand
Chris Palermo as Del
Sung Kang as Raj
Zeljko Ivanek as Molina
Christina Chang as Taylor

Directed by Len Wiseman

Special Features:
Analog Hero in a Digital World: Making of “Live Free or Die Hard”
Yippee Ki Yay Motherf*****!
Music Video: Die Hard by Guyz Nite
Behind the Scenes with Guyz Nite
Fox Movie Channel presents Fox Legacy
Theatrical Trailers
Trailers

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
DTS 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish and French Language
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 130 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is from the DVD description:

“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.”

“Live Free or Die Hard (2-Disc Unrated Widescreen Edition)” is not rated.

The Movie:
It’s been two decades since the heyday of the blockbuster Hollywood action films when life was cheap and bullets were plentiful, but that hasn’t stopped Fox from trying to tap into them one more time, albeit with limited success. So now, it’s “Die Hard’s” turn.

A group of terrorists, naturally, have begun to wreak havoc with the nations infrastructure by hacking into the computer systems that control everything from traffic signals to power lines. The only thing they can’t seem to control is New York detective John McClane (Bruce Willis), who is supposed to be escorting a suspect (Justin Long) to the FBI for interrogation, but quickly finds himself in the middle of a cybernetic armageddon.

The premise is absolutely preposterous, but that’s never really been a problem for “Die Hard” before and might even honestly be considered one of the series’ hallmarks. That being said, it’s still the least plausible of any of the “Die Hard” stories so far, and that includes terrorists taking over an airport. It hovers right on the cusp of being a deal-breaker – how much so, I imagine, will depend largely on how much you do or don’t know about computers.

That’s never really mattered before, as the setup is largely just an excuse for Willis to engage in well-designed set pieces and trade witty banter with his co-stars. In that regard, “Live Free or Die Hard” half works. Director Len Weisman (“Underworld”) has a very good eye for stunts and set pieces and “Live Free” offers him his biggest canvas yet for indulging it. That turns out to be both a plus and a minus as he occasionally lets his spectacle run away with him, particularly towards the end, in an effort to continually top himself. The final big action segment involving an F-35 dodging pieces of falling freeway while trying to blow up a speeding semi simply defy belief. It’s too big, too insane to work, and that’s saying something about a series largely built out of an every man dealing with impossible situations.

And if the spectacle doesn’t work, then Weisman’s got a real problem on his hands, because spectacle’s about all he’s got. The plot is borrowed pretty thoroughly from the first “Die Hard” just on a larger scale, and with less panache. In theory that’s all his audience may want, but in practice it means a movie that is largely heartless, as opposed to being merely mindless. “Live Free or Die Hard” doesn’t really offer anything resembling characterization or a compelling plot. Willis slips back into McClane’s shoes with effortless ease (although part of that may be merely because he’s been doing variations on the part for 20 years) but there’s no real emotional connection with him, and what little there is – concerning his now adult daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) – is forced.

Which pretty much sums up all the characters. The incredibly vapid villains, led by the excessively whiney Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) don’t seem particularly invested in what they’re doing or each other. Forget not seeming like real people, it is an action movie after all, they don’t even seem like real characters. They’re plot devices created to give McClane something to shoot at, and it shows. Poor Justin Long exists largely to spout exposition and wise cracks. The “Die Hard” franchie tried its hand at a buddy cop story previously with marginal results, and it had Samuel L. Jackson to play off of. “Live Free or Die Hard” doesn’t fare anywhere near as well.

But none of that is “Live Free or Die Hard’s” real flaw. It may sound illogical, but for “Live Free or Die Hard” to work it doesn’t really need an ironclad plot. Which is good, because Weisman doesn’t seem at all interested in his plot except as a setup for scenes, many of which (such as Long arguing with an OnStar operator, despite it being clearly and repeatedly stated that all communications nationwide have been disabled) absolutely do not work in view of what has come before them. It doesn’t really need interesting characters or connections between them. Which is good, because it doesn’t have them either. Most of the characters are flat and exist only to service the plot, which is strange considering how under-thought the plot actually is.

What it needs is a sense of joy, a sense that despite the harrowing nature of the situation, there is something entertaining – even to the participants, and through them, the audience – about the absurdity of the situation. It’s that joy that makes the fun moments and the dark moments, when the joy is taken away, feel dark. And “Live Free or Die Hard” doesn’t have that. Willis tries here and there, but he’s struggling in vain. It’s technically proficient, and never really bad, but it’s also quite dull.

The Extras:
Here’s what you’ll find among the bonus features:

Analog Hero in a Digital World: Making of “Live Free or Die Hard” – This is your usual ‘making of’ featurette. They talk about the challenges of continuing the “Die Hard” franchise, the practical effects, the stunts, the characters, and all the good stuff you’d typically want to hear about.

Yippee Ki Yay Motherf*****! – This is probably the best of the bonus features. It’s an informal interview with Bruce Willis hosted by Kevin Smith. It’s as close to having a fanboy conducting an interview as you could hope for. And when I say ‘informal’ I mean ‘informal’. Garbage literally blows across the screen as they talk. Willis gives candid thoughts on the other “Die Hard” sequels and other cool stuff.

Music Video: Die Hard by Guyz Nite – This is a funny song recapping all of the “Die Hard” movies. It’s worthy of Weird Al, just with more language. The video simply shows clips from the films as the music plays.

Behind the Scenes with Guyz Nite – While the video was fun to watch, this featurette is a lot more of “Guyz Nite” than I ever needed to see. These guys are so out there that I started thinking they were doing some sort of mockumentary or joke. Unfortunately, I don’t think that was the case. Anyway, they got more screentime on this DVD than they deserved.

Fox Movie Channel presents Fox Legacy – This is a Fox special on the “Die Hard” franchise. Nothing much special here.

Rounding out the bonus features are the Theatrical Trailers.

The Bottom Line:
While not the best “Die Hard” film, “Live Free or Die Hard” is certainly entertaining. What it lacks in believability it makes up for in action.

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