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John McTiernan
Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Reginald VelJohnson, Bonnie Bedelia, Alexander Godunov, Paul Gleason, William Atherton, De'voreaux White, Hart Bochner
Writing Credits:
Roderick Thorp (novel, "Nothing Lasts Forever"), Jeb Stuart, Steven E. de Souza

Twelve terrorists. One cop. The odds are against John McClane ... That's just the way he likes it.

The movie that launched a lucrative franchise, spawned numerous rip-offs, and made Bruce Willis an international star, Die Hard is all about John McClane (Willis). He's a New York cop who flies to Los Angeles on Christmas Eve to spend the holidays with his kids and estranged wife (Bonnie Bedelia). He arrives at his wife's company party at the 40-story Nakatomi Tower, but the two have a fight in her office and McClane finds himself momentarily alone. Minutes later, German terrorists, led by Hans (Alan Rickman) and planning to steal $600 million in bonds from the building's vaults, storm in, take everyone hostage, and make their demands. The FBI is called in, but only one man is calling the shots — the reluctant, amusingly profane McClane, who responds like an action hero should.

Box Office:
$28 million.
Opening Weekend
$7.105 million on 1276 screens.
Domestic Gross
$81.350 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 132 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 6/19/2007

• Audio Commentary with Director John McTiernan and Production Designer Jackson DeGovia
• Scene Specific Audio Commentary by Special Effects Supervisor Richard Edlund
• Text Commentary
• Interactive Still Gallery
• “The Newscasts”
• Trailers and TV Spots


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Die Hard [Blu-Ray] (1988)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 18, 2012)

For better or for worse, Die Hard remains one of the most influential films of the last 25 years. I hesitate to say that it revolutionized action films upon its release in 1988, but it certainly gave that genre a well-needed kick in the pants. Prior to Die Hard, superhuman Schwarzeneggers and Stallones dominated the genre as unimaginable powerhouses who largely knew neither pain nor fear.

As a contrast, Die Hard offered John McClane. Although he was a cop, he was really a fairly ordinary guy who managed to Save the Day by virtue of his wits and street smarts. He proved to be a decent fighter, but he certainly was no sort of unstoppable killing machine. Throughout the film, McClane always seemed to be on the verge of death, only to escape by the narrowest of margins. Indeed, many of his victories came from cleverness, not from raw firepower.

As a result, also for better or for worse, Die Hard launched Bruce Willis's career as a movie star. Prior to this film’s success, he was just another TV star who sought fame on the silver screen. His only prior starring role in a theatrical picture came in 1987's box office flop Blind Date. Actually, I thought that was a decent movie, but it didn't exactly inspire Willis to quit his day job on TV's Moonlighting.

Die Hard, however, was a completely different matter. Indeed, Moonlighting was off the air by 1989 because Die Hard firmly established Willis as a bona fide Cinematic Presence. It certainly changed many people's minds about him. I definitely couldn't stand the guy before Die Hard. Initially, I felt no desire to see the movie; only its positive reviews for the film persuaded me to give it a shot. Man, was I glad I did!

Even with a long roster of imitators over the years, Die Hard remains the best of its genre. Largely this stays true because of the film's solid cast and characters. While I initially didn’t want to see the flick due to his presence, ultimately I can't fault his work. He does McClane to a "T" (and a "T"-shirt, too – ha!). Although Willis’s patented wiseass smirk pops up too frequently, it makes sense in this role, and he does a terrific job of making McClane a believable person.

Die Hard offers a strong cast in the supporting roles, including terrific character actors such as Paul Gleason and William Atherton. I'm not a fan of Bonnie Bedelia's own smirky tendencies, but she generally holds them in check here. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the case with the movie’s sequel, 1990’s Die Hard 2, but I thought Bedelia added able support and emotional grounding for the original flick.

However, Alan Rickman's virtuoso turn as villain Hans Gruber easily remains the standout performance in the film. Die Hard was this stage veteran's initial movie role, but you wouldn't guess that from his stunning work here. His performance as Hans really did redefine and expand the nature of what a movie villain could be.

While Hans is clearly a vicious bastard, he comes across as much more sophisticated and less dogmatic than the typical Hollywood bad guy. As with Willis, Rickman creates a full-blooded person here. To Hans, nasty actions are simply a means to an end. He doesn't do bad things for the sake of being evil; it's just part of the job for him. Actually, his calm and charming nature makes him a more frightening villain, as his violent outbursts seem that much more shocking.

Rickman's sublimely suave but scary performance clearly set a new standard for movie villains. Indeed, Hans resides on a very short list of the most memorable film bad guys of all time.

While Die Hard boasted a pretty strong cast overall, it did falter in one area: Willis’s stunt double looked very little like him. We see a lot of this guy, and it becomes painfully obvious when Willis does not perform his own stunts. Either Willis did more of his action work in the following films or the producers found a stuntman who more closely resembled him, but this problem did not mar the sequels.

Speaking almost 25 years down the road, Die Hard stands as probably the most influential action movie of the 1980s, and it has lost none of its luster or appeal since it first appeared. Die Hard remains a nearly perfect example of an intelligently executed and tremendously exciting film. It moves along at an appropriate clip and integrates its action within the plot seamlessly. Put simply, action movies don't get much better than this.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Die Hard appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though some concerns appeared, this was a generally acceptable transfer.

Sharpness caused some of the problems. While much of the flick appeared clear and accurate, during a wider shots, I thought the image became slightly soft and fuzzy. This meant a mix of shots that offered terrific definition and others that looked moderately blurry. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement was minimal. Source flaws weren’t much of a problem; I saw an occasional mark or streak, but most of the movie looked clean.

Die Hard featured a rather subdued and earthy palette, but the colors it included appeared well reproduced. Occasional red lighting looked tight and concise, and the brownish tones that dominated the film were clear and accurate. A few dusk shots came across especially well, as the movie presented a nice golden glow that seemed quite attractive. Black levels appeared nicely deep and rich, and shadow detail consistently was appropriately heavy but not excessively dark; low-light scenes provided appealing amounts of opacity. The issues with softness and light dirt left this one a “B-” presentation.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, the soundfield was a high point, as the movie offered a nicely broad and engaging environment through most of the film. The forward spectrum dominated to a degree, and it provided a nicely separated and lively atmosphere. Within the spectrum, sounds seemed to be accurately placed, and they blended together well. During the quieter scenes, the environment was also fairly subdued, but it appeared to be natural and believable.

Since Die Hard is an action flick, however, we really don’t care all that much about the quiet scenes. Where the movie earned its pay was during the slam-bang sequences, and those became quite involving. While the forward channels continued to provide the best-defined elements, the surrounds kicked in a terrific amount of information as well.

Split surround usage occurred only occasionally, and mainly happened when I heard gunfire. Otherwise, the rear speakers tended to feature more general audio, but don’t let that factor make you think they weren’t vibrant participants. When the track demanded a full five-channel meltdown, all the speakers were up to the task and they provided a wide and encompassing track that helped ratchet up the action.

Audio quality was more erratic and caused me to find some fault with the track. The dialogue was the weakest aspect of the mix. Throughout much of the movie, speech sounded somewhat thin and reedy, and many lines didn’t sound as natural and warm as I’d expect from a reasonably recent film. A little edge appeared during louder lines. I never found the dialogue to seem unintelligible, but the quality level was not as high as it should have been.

Some flaws also affected the effects, but these were more consistent. A few elements appeared somewhat flat or bland, but as a whole, effects came across as pretty rich and lively. Explosions and gunfire showed no signs of distortion, and dynamic response seemed to be quite strong. Bass response consistently sounded tight and rich. Blasts rocked the room, and even more subtle low-end elements - such as the hum heard during chapter 39 - were deep and believable. While the effects occasionally displayed a few flaws, they generally appeared very strong.

Also positive was the film’s score. The music showed fine range and seemed clean and vibrant throughout the movie. Highs were crisp and well-defined, while the bass appeared taut and distinct. Music played a strong role in Die Hard, and the soundtrack reproduced it well. Overall, the audio worked well given the movie’s age.

When I compared this Blu-ray to the special edition from 2007, I thought audio was a wash. Both discs presented sound that seemed pretty similar, though the Blu-ray was a bit clearer. However, the Blu-ray definitely improved on the old disc’s visuals. The Blu-ray was cleaner, tighter, and more dynamic. Even with the flaws it offered, it provided a step up in quality.

The Blu-ray includes the same extras as the 2007 DVD plus a couple from the 2001 SE. We find a variety of commentary options. The main track features director John McTiernan and production designer Jackson DeGovia. Both men were recorded separately and the results were edited together for this fairly interesting piece.

The commentary has a few empty gaps, but as a whole the two men cover most of the film, and they do so with useful remarks. Not surprisingly, DeGovia’s statements stick largely with technical issues, and he adds some nice details in that regard; his information helped me better appreciate the design decisions made for the film and how they integrate with the action. He also goes over some of his work on other movies and what issues he feels are important for various sorts of flicks.

McTiernan provides a variety of fun tidbits. He covers some basic issues that related to the production and he discusses changes made to the story along the way. He also adds some notes about his general filmmaking ideas, which means we occasionally hear bits about a few of his other films. Both men occasionally point out continuity flaws and silly aspects of the movie, which contributes a fun tone to the piece. Ultimately, I thought this wasn’t a terrific track, but I enjoyed it and it added to my appreciation of a great film.

(And by the way, if anyone out there has access to McTiernan, tell him that yes, it’s clear that Theo and Karl bet on whether Gruber would shoot Takagi.)

The second commentary is a more limited affair that features special effects supervisor Richard Edlund. Edlund only speaks a few times during the movie, but the disc provides a convenient index that allows us to easily skip the many gaps. Edlund’s remarks appear during 10 of the movie’s 55 chapters, and the amount of material per chapter ranges from a low of 34 seconds in chapter 40 to a high of almost 10 minutes during (and after) chapter 50. All in all, Edlund speaks during approximately 40 minutes of the film.

Although this represents a fairly small percentage of the movie, I like Edlund’s commentary. Obviously he mainly sticks to technical issues, but he covers them concisely and entertainingly. In addition to specific discussions of Die Hard-related topics, Edlund also delves into his work on other films, and since he’s had a very rich career, that makes this piece even more compelling. Although it’s brief, I rather like this mini-commentary from Edlund.

In addition to these two audio tracks, Die Hard includes a text commentary. This piece transcribes interview snippets with a variety of participants. We get new interviews with DeGovia, screenwriter Steven E. DeSouza, special effects coordinator Al Di Sarro, supervising sound editor Stephen Hunter Flick, producer Lawrence Gordon, composer Michael Kamen, editor John F. Link, stunt coordinator Charlie Picerni, and actor Alan Rickman. A variety of archival statements appear as well, and these come from folks like actors Bruce Willis and Alexander Godunov and a mix of film critics.

General remarks from film historian Eric Lichtenfeld tie this piece together and help make it quite interesting. A wide variety of issues receive coverage, and we hear a lot about the production, technical concerns, and interpretation of the movie. The latter elements were probably the most compelling as they helped add depth to the flick and also placed it within the spectrum of movie history. Overall, I found this text commentary to be a very entertaining and useful program.

Under The Newscasts, we get a collection of the TV news clips seen in the film. Actually, the seven-minute, 59-second reel expands on the stuff we view in the movie. Along with the tidbits we find in the flick, we get some additional lines and outtakes. The quality’s weak, but it’s a fun extra.

Next comes an Interactive Still Gallery. What makes it “interactive”? Occasionally you’ll see the Nakatomi logo on-screen; when that happens, press “enter” and you’ll get items like set blueprints, deleted footage, and dailies. Including the “interactive” stills, this area includes 108 shots plus the video material. It’s a valuable resource.

Trailers and TV Spots includes a bunch of ads, of course. We find three trailers along with seven TV promos. “Fox on Blu-ray” also gives us clips for Die Hard 2, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Live Free or Die Hard and Alien Vs. Predator.

Many have imitated Die Hard, but none have matched it. 24 years after it wowed theatrical audiences, it remains one of the best action films ever made, and it stands as a seminal experience in moviemaking. To say that it’s a lot of fun would be a gross understatement, as action movies simply don’t get much better than this. This disc provides erratic but generally good picture and sound plus a decent set of supplements. The Blu-ray doesn’t give us a perfect slam-dunk presentation, but it’s the best we’ve gotten to date, so it’s a must-own for Die Hard fans.

To rate this film visit the Five Star Collection review of DIE HARD

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main