Review for Die Hard Quadrilogy
Ah, Bruce Willis, the heartthrob of Moonlighting who wanted to move from small screen to big, and began the trip with the aid of comedy Blind Date, followed by a flick with James Garner, entitled Sunset. Yes, you probably haven't heard of the latter, but the former is still good fun. However it took the first action thriller blockbuster Die Hard to really launch him onto the silver screen, spawning a set of sequels which many years later can still be found popping up every few years.
So let's start at the beginning, and I'll try my best not to include spoilers just in case you are one of the few unfamiliar with the series.
Having already handled the classic Arnie outing Predator, John McTiernan proves to be a very safe pair of hands for the first and best of the action flicks. Bruce is perfectly cast as the stubborn New York cop who somehow refuses to accept the fact his wife moved to Los Angeles for a big job promotion in a multinational company.
After flying in he meets up with her at the office Christmas party, where they begin to continue what is obviously a long running argument about who is right and who is wrong, when suddenly terrorists with a lot of firepower burst into the building and take everybody hostage. Everybody that is except John McClane, the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time.
What follows is a cat and mouse game between John and bad guy Hans Gruber, played with ease by Alan Rickman, because everyone knows the best bad guys are nearly always played by a Brit. But more on that later. Poor John does his best to survive, until the final showdown, being battered, bruised and bloodied along the way.
The grittiest and most realistic of all the films, this is classic action movie fodder where stunts look like stunts, and disbelief is only required for the FBI agents at the end, although their comedy contribution helps that.
Audio and visual wise, it looks and sounds great. I think this film got a nice restoration a few years back for the DVD, so what you have here is a nicely treated print from a late 80s film with all the grain and definition you'd expect. The explosions and rumbles seem a small improvement on the DVD version, not that I did a side by side comparison, however this is uncompressed DTS audio, so it should be a tiny bit better even if most wouldn't notice.
Die Hard 2
How can the same thing happen to the same guy twice? It's a quadrilogy, it's going to happen more than that, someone should have told Bruce. Another year, another Christmas, only now we are at an airport where every circling plane is taken hostage as terrorists, including a pre-Terminator 2 Robert Patrick, attempt to hijack the ATC tower and kidnap a general being extradited to the United States.
Renny Harlin takes the reins for the second feature, and things quickly begin to go downhill. Everything is nicely shot, with much of it having the same claustrophobic feel of the original, but ultimately this features a few too many cliches, unhelpful New York cops and airport security, plus a few moments where John McClane defies the laws of his own bones, and a plane takes about four runway lengths to take off.
But it's still fun, if lacking some of the humour from the first outing. If the first film was a 9/10, then this is more of a 6. As for how it looks and sounds, again this is all good, you can probably sit on this knowing you have the definitive print, if they ever start releasing it in a 4k version I'd be amazed if you'd notice the difference.
Die Hard With a Vengeance
Some five years pass between sequels, and so often with a poor second in the series, a third begins the total slide into repetition. But not here, in part thanks to John McTiernan taking the helm again, and also to a genius bit of casting by bringing in Samuel L. Jackson as a co-star. With his meteoric rise from jobbing actor, to bit part in Jurassic Park, and now Pulp Fiction behind him, this role was a very astute move for Jackson, and the first big budget film to show off his comedic talents.
When you need a good baddie, who do you call? The Brits of course, so Jeremy Irons enters as the meanie who has stolen an awful lot of explosives and decided to play a game with John McClane and shop keeper Zeus Carver who nicely plays the slightly racist black guy, a flip of the usual stereotype in this sort of movie.
You could probably get Jackson to read the phonebook and find it entertaining, so with the dialogue he is given here we have a field day. With one or two stunts aside, most of the action is back rooted in the reality of the first feature, with McClane once again ending the movie covered in scratches and scrapes, oh and the obligatory dirt.
There is much that can go wrong when you screw with a formula like the one man war, especially when that adjustment is to bring in a second. But the script writing is well done, the interplay between Jackson and Willis is a joy, and of course we'd watch Jackson in anything, so it would be hard to mess this up, and McTeirnan is a very safe pair of hands.
If perhaps there is one reason not to rate this as a 9/10, then maybe its the weak ending sequence, which is somewhat of a let down after everything that had gone before it. But it's got SLJ in it, so a 9 it remains! Oh, and as you'd expect from a more recent movie, the sound and audio are excellent, although at this point I started to think that surely there must be a higher channel mix than 5.1 out there somewhere? But no, it seems not.
The centre rear, it stays silent.
Die Hard 4.0
Nearly ten years after the third, Len Wiseman takes over for what is the stupidest film by far in the quadrilogy. At the time of writing, nothing in Wiseman's directorial offerings looks beyond brainless popcorn fodder, and this is unfortunately no exception. First let's look at the good, visually things are quite impressive, in many ways almost as if it was a practise run for Transformers which came out a week later.
Story wise this carries on with the co-star idea, although now we get more of a sidekick, as Justin Long plays a hacker that McClane has to protect, yet somehow terrorists want dead, and I mean really, really dead. A lot of buildings, fly-overs and power stations get blown up in the process.
Visually this is a really crisp print, but then it's a recent movie so you'd expect that, or you should anyway. Sound wise, this is a very noisy movie, your subwoofer will be worked very hard. Whilst that is great some of the time, in others it just irritated me, so now I'll start with just a few of the trillion things wrong with this flick.
Firstly I swear nobody in Hollywood knows what a computer is, which I don't really understand when so many of them are used in the making of a modern film. I just want to shout at the screen every time they do things with them that are just impossible, stupid, or just plain wrong. And that is most of the screen time.
Then we have a cartoon Bruce Willis who can be thrown down any shaft, blown up any amount of times, and somehow is immune to impact injuries and broken bones. McClane must be brainless not to have had brain damage before we are even 30 minutes in. You wonder if Wiseman had seen the first three, and if he had then he clearly missed the point. This isn't a super hero, this is an ordinary cop who does things because nobody else is there to do it, don't say he goes to the gym and works out, then use that as a reason he can survive high falls yet be running around like a rabbit moments later.
Despite all of that, Justin Long is perfectly cast and enjoyable, Olyphant is an okay bad guy but lacks both the plot and malicious intent of his predecessors, and we get some nice if unbelievable action sequences to much our popcorn to. An enjoyable ride if you can turn off your brain completely, which you will need to.
Oh, and still nothing more than 5.1.
So, we have four films, one of which is almost saved by the cast, one of which is watchable, but two of which are great fun. Considering you can grab this for under £11 if you shop around, this is a must have for any ones collection. It does not include the latest movie that came out this year (2013), however I've not heard good things about that, so perhaps that is a blessing.