DIE HARD: 25th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION (Blu-ray)
20th Century Fox / 2013 / 515 mins / R, PG-13
Hot on the heels of A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD and the 25th anniversary of the series, Fox released a DIE HARD Blu-Ray collection of the first four films. And, yes, it is a quick cash-grab to make a few more bucks off DIE HARD fever. But, hey, who could say no to one of the greatest action movie franchises of all-time? And while this is far from being a Criterion-style set, it's the best one yet with a bit more to offer over previous collections.
The first DIE HARD is the quintessential action film and a staple of the genre. With its bearded-British baddie (Alan Rickman), a hostage situation in a tower and the one-man army known as John McLane (Bruce Willis), it defines a true action classic. The tense atmosphere combined with the gritty violence is what makes this film work so well. After 25 years, the film still holds up well. You root for McLane, you want to see the Euro-trash suit get his just deserts and the action scenes get you pumped. It can't be stated enough: it is THE classic action film.
All that being said DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER had a lot to live up to. While it does quite a bit of rehash and one of the least original sequel titles ever, it still manages to recapture some of the explosive magic. Placing John McLane in an airport where he deals with brutal mercenaries and ignorant bureaucrats provides a lot of room for great scenes of actions and dialogue. It's a gorgeous looking film that may not be the best of the series, but it certainly doesn't sully the series.
DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE is where the series take a much different turn. McLane's building running and gunning takes to the streets of New York where he finds himself in a cat-and-mouse game of bombs. This third entry in the series is certainly the most bombastic and dives straight into over-the-top action set pieces. It's also more of a buddy flick as Bruce Willis teams up with a racially-obsessed Samuel Jackson. Jeremy Irons also does an amazing job as the villain with great motivation that makes him one of the most interesting of the series.
Wait, did we say that WITH A VENGEANCE was the most bombastic? Sorry, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD blows that one out of the water. So over-the-top was this 2007 sequel that physics pretty much seems to evaporate in a ridiculous scene where McLane tap dances on a fighter jet. The plot involves Timothy Olyphant as a cyber-terrorist threatening the government with his own army of hackers and gun-toting baddies, but it's nothing more than an excuse for more stunts and explosions. As eye-popping as they are, this is certainly the weakest of the four films with its generic villain, simplistic plot and a lukewarm cop/nerd dynamic. That's not to say it's uninteresting for an action flick though. The set pieces alone are strong enough for the movie to hold its own. Sadly, this set doesn't contain the uncut version, making this the only movie on the set to have a PG-13 censor for McLane's iconic catchphrase.
All that being said the DIE HARD series is incredibly solid for an action movie series. It defined for a generation how we perceived the gritty hero and the classy villain. Heck, it served as the template of action movies for years, forming various tributes and satires. Through its ups and downs, DIE HARD manages to be an enjoyable journey that's worth going back to again and again. You haven't seen an action flick until you've seen DIE HARD.
For an anniversary collection, it's a little depressing that all four films don't have a new video transfer. That's not to say they're bad transfers, but it would've been nice to see some improvements from the previous releases. They vary in quality, but the best looking is obviously the most recent film on the set, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD.
Just the same, the audio is equal to the previous releases. Good quality, but nothing new.
The packaging is very exceptional in that each disc is housed within a waxed sleeve of the booklet packaging. Unlike previous multi-disc booklet packaging there are not a lot of extra enclosures with only one easy-to-remove slipcover. It's easy enough to slip off the cover, open the booklet and slide out a disc.
In addition to the carryover extras from previous Blu-ray releases, there is an entire disc packed with new extras. Most of these are just retrospective interviews, but there is also some cool featurettes on the stunts and special effects of the DIE HARD series that are amazing to watch. It should be worth noting that there are some great interviews with all the past bad guys with the exception of Timothy Olyphant. The disc also includes a collection of trailers for all the current DIE HARD films, including the conveniently missing A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD. For hardcore DIE HARD fans, they'll get a huge kick out of these extras.
If you already own Die Hard 1-4 on Blu-Ray and you're not too big on extras, there is no need to double dip with this set. But if you've been meaning to get around to buying a DIE HARD collection, this is a darn good set. Granted, Fox will probably produce another set since this one doesn't include the fifth entry, A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD, but who knows what that set will look like or if it'll even be released. It's not quite the definitive DIE HARD collection, but it's a good looking set with its slim packaging and a full disc of new special features.