Quality film news, reviews and features
24th October 2007 12:00:00
Posted by Eamonn McCusker

Die Hard 4.0

DVD Video Review

Tron had the right idea. In between all the chatter of bits, RAM and Space Paranoids, Steven Lisberger's film figured that not only were computers not interesting but most of those who work with them are just as dull, if not very much more so. What else to do with them than to take them away from behind their keyboards, drag them into the computer hardware and have them fight for their lives on light cycles and tanks and armed only with a frisbee. That, however, is a trick that the movie business can pull off once and once only. Since Tron, computers have gotten no more interesting - in fact, they've become very much more dull than they were then - and the people who operate them have become a virtual army dressed in polo shirts and chinos who could control the world if they could only organise themselves sufficiently. Ryan Philippe, Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves have all fought against them on our behalf but they needn't have bothered really. This 32-bit army is far too busy keeping on top of an unhealthy interest in Buffy The Vampire Slayer to ever start a revolution.

Die Hard 4.0 offers us the juxtaposition of a very old-fashioned cop, John McClane (Bruce Willis), fighting a very modern enemy, led by Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant). McClane looks to be the kind of man who has trouble making a telephone call - connecting to the Internet looks to be as far beyond him as raising the dead - so, fortunately for him and for the film, his first call of these eventful twenty-four hours is to pick up hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long). Unknown to Farrell, many of those who hacked networks (virtually) alongside him have died in a series of explosions but when John McClane knocks on his door, he's preparing to spend the night in front of his PC breaking down the doors. What neither McClane nor Farrell realise is that not only is there a bomb rigged to explode from a keystroke on Farrell's PC but that a gang of ex-special forces are on the rooftop opposite with a sniper rifle aimed through the window of Farrell's apartment.

Leaving in a hail of bullets and with a trail of dead bodies behind him, McClane takes Farrell downtown but thanks to some malfunctioning traffic lights, has to walk the last couple of miles. Actually, it's not just the one sight of lights that's out but the entire city. Taking Farrell into protective custody, McClane learns that the US is currently in the middle of cyber-attack by terrorists whose motives, demands and nationality are unknown. FBI Assistant Director Bowman (Cliff Curtis) is firefighting this attack but Farrell claims that what's occuring is a fire sale...everything must go. After the lights, the stock market is the next to collapse followed by the television and radio networks. With the utilities being next and with McClane and Farrell struggling to find a sympathetic ear within the FBI, they set off to a gas plant upstate. There, they discover that the terrorist threat originated in a place not far from where they stand and that, unchecked, this attack could cripple the country. But with McClane's daughter having gone missing, this has gone from a country-wide threat to a personal one. McClane, on a mobile call to Gabriel, tells him that he'll see him soon. "I'm coming round to kick your ass!"

Cyber-attack, eh? This explains the '.0' of the title, pointing the way towards this being a very dull thriller with podgy cyber-terrorists doing their thing from the safety of computer monitors. It's quite the comedown from Jeremy Irons planting enormous bombs in primary schools. Going some way to make up for this, Die Hard 4.0, with the aid of some very obvious CG, is quite the most preposterous film that this viewer has ever seen. Superman would have us believe that a man can fly but Die Hard 4.0 has John McClane leaping out of a truck falling backwards down a collapsing bridge onto the rear wings of a fighter plane and, even after the pilot ejects, surfs this multi-billion dollar jet towards the ground. He drives an SUV into the stick-thin Maggie Q at speed through several windows and into a lift shaft. Somehow, she survives, whereupon she and McClane have a good old-fashioned brawl in this car as it inches down the drop towards the ground. And later, McClane actually shoots himself - the bullet passes through him - to take down a terrorist standing behind him.

There is the slight suggestion in this that Thomas Gabriel is somehow a threat to the US. A good actor, Olyphant doesn't have very much to do in the film other than meet McClane's phoned-in threat with one of his one and click aimlessly at various onscreen windows to, via some very whizzy hacks, clear out McClane's bank account, discover the whereabouts of McClane's daughter (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and interrupt television stations with make-believe footage of the Capitol Building exploding. Of course, McClane, being the kind of action hero who, if presented with a computer keyboard, would only think of using it to bash a terrorist over the head with, is completely out of his depth against Gabriel. Instead, playing to the same buddy-movie thread in Die Hard With A Vengeance, McClane is the muscle to Farrell's brains, one punching out bad guys as the other taps away on a keyboard. Not that this isn't an important part to play in a certain type of action film, it's just that it's not McClane's part. McClane is no idiot but Die Hard 4.0 has him dragging his bruised knuckles behind Farrell.

That is why, after Die Hard and Die Hard With A Vengeance still leading the pack, Die Hard 4.0 creeps in just above Die Harder in a personal and entirely unscientific ranking of the four films. But given the size of gulf that exists between those two pairs of films - wide enough to fit the Grand Canyon into - this is very far away from being vintage Die Hard. The film isn't helped by a poor Kevin Smith cameo as arch-hacker Warlock, Mary Elizabeth Winstead doing the kind of useless twittering that Elisha Cuthbert became famous for in 24 and a plot that owes much, much more to Enemy Of The State than it does any of the previous Die Hard films.

That is this film's greatest crime. Make no mistake, I laughed through John McClane standing on the tail-wings of a still-airborne fighter jet, cheered him on as he took down a helicopter with a police car and celebrated his proving that kung fu is no match for a movie-style series of haymakers but this still doesn't feel like a Die Hard movie, more a fairly typical thriller that just so happens to star Bruce Willis. Indeed, so like Enemy Of The State is it that one doesn't just miss John McClane but also Brill (Gene Hackman) and the creepy NSA cast of Barry Pepper, Jake Busey and Scott Caan. However, as much as one can complain about Die Hard 4.0, it's an event movie that has all the daft stunts, the big explosions and the no-you're-spoiling-me teasing between cop and terrorist that one expects of a summer blockbuster. But it's not a vintage Hollywood action thriller, something that is made perfectly clear by one of the many computer boffins announcing that an incoming tide of free Viagra and penis enlargement offers is, "...an e-bomb!" If that sounds utterly hopeless, it does make perfect and somewhat disapointing sense in this noisy if empty film.



Transfer

In the Making Of... that accompanies this two-disc set, the men behind the digital intermediate process used on Die Hard 4.0 talk about creating a mood for the film in post-production, by slightly changing the colours to make it look colder than it did during filming. Die Hard 4.0 tends towards blues and greys for most of its running length, which not only complements the fully kitted-out trailer that serves as Thomas Gabriel's HQ but also the upstate countryside that McClane and Farrell drive through on their way to a utilities plant. However, that's a rare trip out of the city and an even more rare trip outside of rooms filled to the brim with computers and network routers.

On DVD, Die Hard 4.0 could have looked very much better than it does here. The picture has a certain softness that comes and goes. When called upon to portray the sharp fluorescent lights of a computer monitor, the DVD doesn't have a problem. However, when it asks that Bruce Willis drive a squad car into a helicopter or jump onto an F-35 fighter jet, the picture blurs a little, as though compensating for CG that isn't up to being what the film asks of it. Once Bruce Willis dusts himself off, applies a plaster to the cuts on his head and staggers off through the rubble, Die Hard 4.0 returns to normal. This isn't entirely unexpected but it is obvious and drags down what could have been a very decent transfer of the film.

There is a choice of two audio tracks, a DD5.1 and a DTS surround track. Both are pretty good, the latter edging it very slightly, but while there's plenty of bombast from the front speakers, the rear channels are more muted than I would have expected. However, dialogue, background ambience and sound effects all stand out against one another and the disc gives sufficient space to each so that while it is loud, it very rarely sounds cluttered. Finally, there are English subtitles throughout, including the special features, which are also subtitled in a range of other languages on the 2-disc set.



Extras

Single Disc Edition

Commentary: It might not sound as though Bruce Willis, in spite of his being billed as a contributor, is actually on here but he is, kind of making a late entry without so much as a hello. Other than Willis, this commentary features director Len Wiseman and editor Nicholas D Toth and while it's a reasonably chatty affair, which goes into some depth as to the rating of the film, it's not a particularly interesting listen. Willis doesn't say a great deal and neither does Toth, leaving Wiseman to deal with the rating, the writing of the film, the filming of key scenes and how his film carried on the Die Hard series of films.

Deleted Scenes (3m38s): Interested in Justin Long plugging Red Bull? More of Kevin Smith? I thought not but just in case you do, there are a handful of Deleted Scenes that are much better placed here than they would have been in the main feature.

Gag Reel (7m48s): For once...no, not a funny Gag Reel but one that's actually presented rather professionally with a title screen, credits and everything else you would expect of a film rather than simply a collection of really very dull outtakes strung together. Although that is really the only thing in its favour as, otherwise, it's as dreadful as Gag Reels usually are.

Guyz Nite...Die Hard (4m30s): I could offer you a critique of this song by Guyz Nite - nope, I'd never heard of them either and, somehow, I don't think I will again - but better that you just read the lyrics. Even without the music - rock-lite, wouldn't ya know - you'll get the gist of what Guyz Nite have done here...

Remember when we first met John McClane?
Argyle picked him up from the plane,
And took him down to Nakatomi Tower...
To meet with Holly.

He came to get her back and to be her man,
But Hans and his buddies fucked up the plan,
And that's about when everything went sour
At the Christmas party.

And the terrorists were over-zealous,
But it was sweet when they killed Ellis!
And, with a little help from Allen,
John McClane kicked ass!

We're gonna die, die, die, die hard!
We're gonna die, die, die, die hard!
We're gonna die, die, die, die hard!
We're gonna die, die, die as hard as we can!

No one dies harder than John McClane,
Even when his wife's stuck on a plane
About to crash into the Potomac River...
On the eve of Christmas.

And airport security kicked him out,
But John McClane is just too damn proud,
And nothing could have made him not deliver...
'Cause that's his business!

And with a lot of fights and gunplay
He blew that plane up on the runway.
And, with a little help from Allen,
Holly's plane could land!

We're gonna die, die, die, die hard!
We're gonna die, die, die, die hard!
We're gonna die, die, die, die hard!
We're gonna die, die, die as hard as we can!

Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!

No one dies harder than John McClane,
Saving all the passengers on the train.
But Simon wasn't clear with his intentions:
It was just a distraction!

And there was no way McClane could know
That Hans Gruber was Simon's bro.
And that's what made it "Die Hard: With A Vengeance"
With Samuel Jackson!

And the good cop wouldn't miss this,
Even though it wasn't Christmas.
He didn't get any help from Allen...
But only in part three!

We're gonna die, die, die, die hard!
We're gonna die, die, die, die hard!
We're gonna die, die, die, die hard!
We're gonna die, die, die as hard as we can!

Finally we're back with John McClane
Now we got a choice, and the choice is plain:
We can live free or we can die hard,
As hard as we can.

From taking on a terrorist he's never met,
To taking on an F-35 jet,
With the greatest car explosions by far...
This sure looks sweet, man!

And we know what the basic gist is:
There ain't no Allen, and it's not Christmas.
We don't know but we're pretty sure that
John McClane kicks ass!

We're gonna die, die, die, die hard!
We're gonna die, die, die, die hard!
We're gonna die, die, die, die hard!
We're gonna die, die, die as hard as we can!

Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!


"This sure looks sweet, man!" Sounds sweet too! I hope they do the Three Colours trilogy next.

This is actually followed by a Behind The Scenes with Guyz Nite (5m47s), which, if nothing else, shows up the notion that being a rock star is all sex, drugs and rock'n'roll. Instead, being in Guyz Nite seems to involve wearing an ill-fitting vest, wearing ill-fitting facial hair and holding a guitar without ever implying any knowledge of what to do with one.

Two-Disc Ultimate Edition

All of the special features on the single-disc edition are carried over onto the Extended/Ultimate Edition with the exception of the commentary. Moving on to the second disc in the set, the extras begin with...

Analogue Hero In A Digital World (95m31s): This is an in-depth making documentary that covers pretty much everything that one could ask for as regards this film. Split into ten chapters, each one deals with a particular aspect of the production, such as Eye Candy and the visual effects, Casting And Characters with the return of Willis and the new faces in the cast and The World Of D.I., which looks at the use of the digital intermediate process to change the mood, colour and style of a film in post-production. Every chapter is detailed, sometimes, as in the case of the D.I. technologies, far too detailed, but there has been an impressive amount of time and effort bringing this together. Unfortunately, all the laughs seem to have been spent on bringing Guyz Nite into the set, leaving this a fairly dry documentary that will be a struggle for fairweather fans to sit through.

Yippie-ki-yay Motherfucker! (21m44s): Or Mother F***** as the DVD would have it. This documents a conversation between Kevin Smith and Bruce Willis on the set of Die Hard 4.0 talking about the series of films, Willis' thoughts on each of them and the character of John McClane. Kevin Smith, who as a writer and director I don't much care for, approaches this like a fan and asks the questions that anyone who likes the Die Hard films would if they were given the opportunity to talk to Bruce Willis. Willis tends towards diplomatic answers but is relaxed and fairly interesting throughout even to the story of his pitching up on the aintitcoolnews forums under the name Walter_B to general disbelief.

Fox Movie Channel Presents Fox Legacy (6m19s): Tom Rothman of 20th Century Fox narrates this short feature, which looks back at the Die Hard series of films, the initial doubts about whether Willis could cut it as an action movie star and how Die Hard On A... has become a high concept pitch of a new movie.

Hacker Underworld (8m51s): Ex-hacker and current technology consultant Kevin Mitnick is the first voice that we hear in this feature telling a story about being tried for hacking and being imprisoned in solitary confinement after the judge believed the prosecution's story about Mitnick being able to call into NORAD, whistle down the phone line and start a nuclear war. Thereafter, he went on the run and began using computer networks to keep one step ahead of law enforcement by tracking those times that his name was mentioned on newspaper and government sites. All very interesting, if too brief but only half the story, although certainly the more glamourous half.

Homeland Security in a Cyber Age (10m00s): And this is the other half in which the US Department of Homeland Security describe the risks that come with unauthorised access by computer hackers and how the government minimise such risks through security. Although never really very dull, it's not particularly glamourous either with each one of the talking heads reinforcing the notion of a bunch of intelligent if unkempt hackers being swatted off networks by The Man.

Matt’s Pad With Justin Long Featurette (6m43s): That will be an actor guiding the audience on a tour of his character's apartment, which, in its clutter of computers, junk food and posters, doesn't look so very different from the average teenager's bedroom.



Overall

I watched both the Theatrical Cut of Die Hard 4.0 and the Extended Edition for the purpose of this review and I'll be damned if I can tell any difference between the two. Granted, there is a little more swearing in the Extended Edition, which brings the rating up to a 15 and there might be a tiny bit more CG blood spatter but being stuck in the middle of a half-dozen horror movies in the run-up to Hallowe'en, this is tame stuff even in the Extended Edition. Or as the Americans have described it, the Unrated cut. So if you're feeling particularly sore about the teen-friendly tone of the film, this DVD release won't change that. With the loss of the commentary on the two-disc set, not a great deal of difference between the two cuts of the film and a set of bonus features that don't really deliver - take it from me, the highlight of the entire set is the Guyz Nite Die Hard track on the first disc - I would, if I were buying this, take the single-disc edition.

Details and Specifications
DVD Video Review

Region: 2

Certificate: 15

Distributor:
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Running Time:
123 mins approx
Soundtracks:
English DD5.1
English DTS

Subtitles:
Main Feature
English
Special Features
Czech
Danish
Dutch
Finnish
French
German
Greek
Hungarian
Italian
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Russian
Spanish
Swedish

Director:
Len Wiseman

Main cast:
Bruce Willis
Timothy Olyphant
Justin Long
Maggie Q
Cliff Curtis
Jonathan Sadowski
Andrew Friedman
Kevin Smith
Yorgo Constantine
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
-- more --
Ratings
Film
6
Video
7
Audio
7
Extras
7
6