Die Hard 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
I always wonder what the younger generation thinks of the original DIE HARD film, especially if their first experience with John McClane was the atrocious A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD. Much like what the Rambo sequels have done to FIRST BLOOD, the Die Hard sequels have made people forget how truly great DIE HARD is. For my money, it’s the greatest action movie ever made. I know that’s saying a lot, but it has all the ingredients; a great leading man, a great villain, a great sidekick and a unique premise. Sure, it’s been copied dozens of times since it’s release, but DIE HARD is just as good in 2018 as it was in 1988.
While still making audiences laugh as David Addison on TV’s ‘Moonlighting’, Bruce Willis was coming off the average comedy BLIND DATE a year earlier. It seemed obvious that the guy that made waves as a comedian would stick to comedy, but Bruce Willis decided to take on the action film DIE HARD, much to everyone’s surprise. Even as a little kid, I remember the media scoffing at the idea of David Addison shooting a gun. But the film was a massive success and all but ended his run on ‘Moonlighting’, launching his career as an A-list actor. It turns out he was a perfect action star, adding a vulnerability to the John Wayne hero type that was refreshing in the days when Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger were stoically muscling their way through action films. To this day, John McClane might be the greatest action hero to ever grace the silver screen, even if his repeat appearances haven’t come close to matching the original.
As original and refreshing as McClane was, Alan Rickman deserves equal credit for his portrayal of Hans Gruber. He turns in such a seasoned actor performance, but DIE HARD was actually his feature film debut and all he did was give us one of the best villains in action movie history. Maybe the greatest thing about Hans and his team is that I’ve never heard anyone or any critic criticize the fact that we don’t know anything about him other than what he’s trying to steal. We don’t know why he’s trying to steal it or what his motivations are, but we love to hate him all the same. That’s because Rickman gives Hans such a slick, subtle, evil spin that we’re more interested in watching him interact with his henchman or McClane than we are learning about his rough childhood.
When I think of great directors, I don’t usually think of John McTiernan, but he was coming of the great PREDATOR when he made DIE HARD and then followed it up with THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER. That’s a pretty good stretch for any director. McTiernan had a great knack for capturing intensity without beating you over the head with it that worked to perfection with DIE HARD. From the moment McClane grabs his gun and looks out the office door, there’s an intensity and anxiety surrounding the film. We know McClane is going to make it out, but we have no idea how he’s going to do it since he’s trapped in half a building with only a gun and no shoes. It almost seems funny to think about that situation now because it feels like that premise comes up in an action movie a couple of times a year. But in 1988, it was new and original.
When it comes to listing my favorite films of all time, DIE HARD ranks very high. I always hate to speak in hyperbole, but I do feel that DIE HARD is the greatest action movie of all time. But maybe the biggest compliment you can give DIE HARD is that it’s not only a great action movie, it’s just a great movie.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: The video history of DIE HARD has always been frustrating for me. The DVD was almost unwatchable and although the Blu-ray was a significant step up, the transfer was lacking compared to lesser popular titles. Couple that with the fact Fox seemed to rerelease the film in new packaging every couple of years and I was constantly left wondering why they never put the effort into restoring one of the most popular films in their catalog. Thankfully, we finally get the home video version we deserve with this 4K disc. Compared to some modern releases, the DIE HARD 4K doesn’t hold up, but if you consider the gritty nature of the film and the fact it’s 30 years old, it’s actually an impressive transfer. The 4K and HDR give the film a clarity and level of detail that has been missing on all previous releases. You can see the shades of gray and black in the surroundings as McClane is running through the upper level talking to Sgt. Powell that just weren’t visible on the Blu-ray. I think everyone has a scene or two that they remember looking horrible on the DVD or Blu-ray (the early scene of McClane on the airplane or the first time Hans speaks to the crowd) and all of those are fixed with this release. My high grade for this disc is probably more of a comparison to it’s Blu-ray rather than comparing it to other recent catalog titles, but since I watch DIE HARD at least once a year, I’m thankful I can finally come close to mimicking its original theatrical presentation.
Audio: The audio is the same DTS-HD track from the Blu-ray. I’m not much of an audio snob, but I would have liked a remixed Dolby Atmos track. However, the DTS track is more than sufficient.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
There are no special features exclusive to the 4K, but it does include a Blu-ray of the film, which includes ll of the special features found on the original Blu-ray release.