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Blu-ray Review: Die Hard 2 – Die Harder

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Vaulted into international superstardom with the release of the $80 million blockbuster Die Hard, Bruce Willis became a household name practically overnight. Two years later, most of the heroes returned for another round of action and comedy, but something went wrong. Missing the frantic pace of the original (or any respectable acting), Die Hard 2 falls flat.

Die Hard 2 wastes no time in getting started. The first shoot-out begins within the first 15-minute mark. Things quickly spiral downhill fast, the script filled with countless characters and badly mistimed (or even misplaced) comedy. Returning cast members are many, including Bonnie Bedelia, William Atherton, Reginald VelJohnson, and of course Willis himself.

This makes it even a bigger mystery as to what exactly went wrong. Renny Harlin is a capable director, producing some great actioners including Cliffhanger and the enjoyable creature feature Deep Blue Sea. The pacing of the film is dull, lifeless, and heading into boring territory, an unforgivable mistake in an action film.

The action has a necessary frantic feel, but never captures the intensity of the original. The snowmobile rumble is memorable for its concept, not its execution. It doesn’t have the tension needed to sustain the idea. Nearly everyone playing an employee of the airport is terrible, including Dennis Franz. His character is nothing short of aggravating. Special effects produced by ILM are laughable (especially the ejection seat sequence). The only high point is the rather surprising twist towards the end, which definitely comes from left field. This is easily the weakest entry of the series.

A fuzzy, inconsistent transfer greets viewers. At times this looks no better than the DVD editions, and other times, it’s noticeably sharper if not as clear as it probably could be. The overall print looks faded, and the black levels are too light for a film with this many dark shots. Detail is lost, and in the end, this looks worse than the original which is two years younger.

The surround channels have been nicely beefed up in this Blu-ray effort. However, like its SD DVD counterpart, bass is weak. Gunfire sounds strained and scratchy. The constant use of the rear speakers makes for an immersive mix, but one that is lacking punch or depth.

Compared to the triple commentary treatment the first film received, the single track here from director Renny Harlin seems limited. Following that are two promotional featurettes.

The first making-of aired on HBO and runs for nearly 25 minutes. It's obviously a commercial, but behind the scenes footage is always welcome. The second 4-minute short was contained in a press kit for the film. Four deleted scenes of varying length are included and one of them is an alternate take.

Renny Harlin is featured in a brief interview while a short featurette on the movie's villains is included in the same section of the features menu. A short but deep look at two action sequences, the snowmobile chase and conveyor belt gunfight, gives an overview of how these scenes came together. Storyboards are included for the attack on the SWAT team. Visual effect breakdowns show certain scenes in various forms of completion up until the final cut. Finally, three scenes are shown intercut with footage from other stages of the shot.

Welcome to corporate brilliance at its best. Die Hard 2 carries all of its DVD special features from the two disc special edition. Die Hard barely received any of them. There’s no excuse for ripping off the customer in this way.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.