J.D. Lafrance
Live Free or Die Hard: Unrated DVD Review

Live Free or Die Hard: Unrated

December 18, 2007

Director: Len Wiseman,
Starring: Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Cliff Curtis, Maggie Q, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kevin Smith, Yancey Arias, Christina Chang,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

It seems like some of the action stars from the 1980s are trying to make a comeback. You’ve got Sylvester Stallone resurrecting the Rambo franchise. Harrison Ford is donning the hat and bullwhip to play Indiana Jones again. Hell, even Jean-Claude Van Damme is starring in a biopic about himself. This summer, Bruce Willis re-entered the summer action blockbuster ring with Live Free or Die Hard (2007) to prove that he still has the chops to mix it up with new crop of action star wannabes. His return to the very popular (and profitable) Die Hard franchise was also a return to old school stuntwork – a refreshing alternative to the glut of CGI saturated films (Transformers anyone?).

Fans of the Die Hard franchise were pissed when it was announced that this film would be the first one in the series to be rated PG-13, an obvious bid to attract a younger audience. Thankfully, the more violent, profanity-laden unrated version is included on this DVD so that we can watch the film the way it was meant to be seen.

A group of terrorists are killing the most notorious computer hackers across the United States. The FBI is stretched too thin so they order local law enforcement to pick up the remaining hackers over the Independence holiday weekend. When he’s not embarrassing his daughter Lucy (Winstead) with her latest boyfriend, Detective John McClane (Willis) gets the call to go to Camden, New Jersey and pick up computer hacker Matthew Farrell (Long) and take him to FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. Of course, he gets there just as the bad guys move in and much carnage ensues as McClane and Farrell narrowly escape.

It turns out that the terrorists are led by a computer hacker named Thomas Gabriel (Olyphant), a disgruntled former government employee who went crazy after his suggestions for fortifying our nation’s defenses after 9/11 weren’t implemented. To show that he means business, Gabriel messes with the traffic lights in downtown D.C., screws up Amtrak’s schedule, and disrupts the Wall Street commodities trading. Naturally, Farrell has a theory: the terrorists will hack into and shut down all of the country’s systems: transportation, financial and utilities thereby sending the nation into chaos. McClane spends the rest of the film trying to keep Farrell alive, finding the bad guys and stopping them. It soon becomes a battle between McClane’s old school brawn and the terrorists’ high technology.

There’s something refreshing nostalgic about McClane and Farrell’s odd couple generation gap as evident early on with their argument over music – McClane digs Creedance Clearwater Revival while Farrell is baffled by his ignorance of Grunge or any music in the last 20 years. However, they need each other. Farrell can problem solve the technology difficulties that challenge them while McClane deals with the bad guys that show up to try and kill them. Bruce Willis and Justin Long make a good team as the old fogie straight-man and the annoying punk kid comic relief. Willis is his usual rock-steady self firmly in action hero mode while Long plays a harried version of his Mac vs. PC guy. His character garners plenty of laughs as he marvels in amazement at all of McClane’s physical heroics.

As with every Die Hard film, McClane becomes progressively bloodier over time and yet remains defiantly indestructible but Willis, with his trademark world-weary charm, makes it work much like he’s done in the previous installments. Fans of the series were worried when it was announced that John McTiernan would not be returning to direct and that in his place, Len Wiseman of the Underworld films would step up. Those films were a decent warm-up for Die Hard 4, and prove that he can play with the big toys on a much larger playing field.

Special Features:

The first disc includes an audio commentary by director Len Wiseman, actor Bruce Willis and editor Nicolas De Toth. Right from the get-go, all three men address the studio-imposed PG-13 rating thing and how they went ahead and shot an R rated version anyway. Wiseman and Willis talk about their additions to the screenplay which included Lucy. De Toth points out what they had to remove in order to secure a PG-13 rating. Willis talks about the grueling challenge of shooting a big film like this out of sequence. There are quite a few lulls as the three men tend to get caught up watching the film but manage to deliver a fairly decent track.

The second starts off with “Analog Hero in a Digital World: Making Live Free or Die Hard,” a feature-length documentary that can also be viewed as 10 separate featurettes. Wiseman admits to being a big fan of the series, especially the first one, and this motivated his decision to accept the gig. In fact, some of the cast and crew heap all kinds of praise on the first Die Hard (and rightly so). Wiseman talks about the challenges of living up to the franchise’s legacy and how he approached the material, putting his own stylistic stamp while still keeping it consistent with the other installments. Throughout filming, there were constant changes to the script. The challenge was to contemporarize the franchise while keeping McClane basically the same. Various other aspects of the production are covered in detail, including casting the main roles, set design, stunts, editing, visual effects, and sound. This is done in an accessible way that is entertaining and informative.

“Yippee Ki Yay Motherf*****!” Filmmaker Kevin Smith interviews Bruce Willis in this fun, entertaining extra. Smith flat out asks Willis why he decided to do yet another Die Hard sequel. He admits that mistakes were made on the second and third films and with this new one he was more conscious about not repeating those mistakes. Smith asks good questions which Willis answers them honestly.

There is a music video for “Die Hard” by Guyz Nite, a pop punk band. The song pays tribute to the Die Hard films with a montage of clips from all four films.

“Behind the Scenes with Guyz Nite” is forgettable look at this rock band as they talk about themselves and their music.

“Fox Movie Channel Presents Fox Legacy” takes a brief look at the Die Hard franchise, giving a little backstory.

Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 85%



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