Die Hard Collection

Die Hard Collection
There’s bad luck and then there’s John McClane. Known as "the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he’s always the right guy for the job, though you’d never get him to admit it. A timely collection, coinciding with the theatrical release of the fourth instalment, Live Free or Die Hard, this four-disc box set gathers all three of the films, as well as a bonus disc looking back on the franchise. John McTiernan’s Die Hard (1988) is the quintessential action flick. Recently recognised by Entertainment Weekly as the greatest action movie ever, its one/two/three punch of explosive encounters, compelling plot twists and droll comedy makes it a diamond in the rough. Bruce Willis’s effortless everyman character, McClane, acknowledges every stupid little stunt he pulls ("This is a bad idea, John!”) while constantly hanging in there, be it with a bullet in his side or glass tearing up his feet — another masterful twist that makes this film all the more memorable. The villain, as well, is a stroke of genius. Alan Rickman set the benchmark for baddies as Hans Gruber, a sneering German terrorist who’s as likeable as McClane. And let’s not forget the most important supporting character: Nakatomi Plaza, the skyscraper, which provides the perfect backdrop. Throw in some redemption for McClane to strive for — the marriage he’s looking to patch up with his wife, who is of course, in the building — and it checks off all the criteria to make it a classic. Unfortunately, McTiernan didn’t return for its sequel and the camera went to the insufferable Renny Harlin. Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990) is a considerable drop in both adrenaline and quality from its predecessor, using the airport and the release of a convicted terrorist as the main tools. William Sadler is a poor man’s villain, playing a begrudged ex-U.S. solider. Despite his proclivity for antagonistic roles back in the ’90s, he just doesn’t have the clout to be McClane’s nemesis. In addition, Harlin’s motives turn grimmer and even mindless, at times — something he even mentions himself in the featurette when he points out the obvious exaggerations. Though the series would never quite reach the pinnacle of the original, Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995) was at least a return to the fun ride of the first. McTiernan came back to direct this New York-based sequel, which as you can imagine, has an eerie 9/11 precursor vibe hanging around like a bad stink. Willis is teamed with Samuel L. Jackson for a great odd couple collaboration that re-establishes the humour the first one introduced. Jeremy Irons is a little too astute in his portrayal of a German bad boy but he has fun with the role, sending the day-saving duo through NYC running errands and solving his "Simon Says” riddles. The Canadian-set ending could have used a rewrite, however. Mirroring two similar collections that saw the light of day in both 2003 and 2004, the commentaries by McTiernan and Harlin are nothing new. In fact, these discs have been stripped of surplus extras. However, a bonus disc entitled "Yippee Ki Yay” makes up for some of the loss with two featurettes. "Wrong Guy, Wrong Place, Wrong Time” examines the first film and the impact it had through interviews with a number of the main players — with the exception of Willis. It’s a lot of celebratory back patting but even when you hear Euro cheesemeister/cinematographer Jan De Bont explaining the difficulty of acting in an action film it feels somewhat pertinent. "The Continuing Adventures of John McClane,” on the other hand, looks back at the two sequels with hack Renny Harlin reducing Die Harder to an implausible scenario, though with plenty of pride. McTiernan, meanwhile, stresses his second turn was a chance to re-establish the fun of the original. Zing. Plus: Live Free or Die Hard teaser trailer. (Fox)