Extreme Action 3-Pack (Blu-ray) product details page

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Extreme Action 3-Pack (Blu-ray)

Robert De NiroDenzel WashingtonJean Reno

Director: John FrankenheimerLen WisemanEdward Zwick

rated: NR

released: October 6, 2009

Rating: Not rated: write a review
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This terrorist thriller from director Ed Zwick was underrated upon its initial release, but only a few years later, the film seemed simultaneously prescient and quaint given subsequent real-life events. The idea of a story about Islamic fundamentalists viciously attacking the citizens of New York City certainly wasn't a wild and crazy concept before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. However, the film's depiction of several smaller-scale bombings pales in comparison to the real and horrific genuine article. That doesn't make Zwick's a bad film, and indeed, there are some fascinating tidbits of information about the attitudes, backgrounds, and history of Islamic extremists to be gleaned here. Not only that, but Zwick proves an able hand at keeping a brisk pace and screenwriter Lawrence Wright crafts some gripping, suspenseful scenes. Denzel Washington delivers a typically adroit performance as a conflicted but tough and smart FBI agent, while Bruce Willis is at his coolly pained best in the role of an ambitious general who's mastered the art of political manipulation. Annette Bening is the spot-on choice for the role of an intelligent, competent woman who's somehow duped by her own errant gut instincts, while reliable character actor Tony Shalhoub proves again that he can do nearly anything. The Siege (1998) is probably going to be a difficult, painful film for a post-2001 audience to view, but it will stand for years to come as both a sturdy, effective action-drama and a poignant example of what Hollywood saw as a "worst case scenario" before history proved the film's creators naïvely incorrect. Karl Williams, All Movie Guide

Any directorial career that includes both Seconds (1966) and The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) features more ups and downs than most, and with Ronin, John Frankenheimer announced a comeback. Exploring the territory of international espionage, it compensates for the familiarity of its material by doing just about everything right. A gripping, deliberately paced opening sequence perfectly sets the mood, capturing the uneasy peace of post-Cold War Europe with creepy effectiveness. The rest of the film runs with the notion, developing its vivid, weary characters and terse dialogue between well-staged action sequences. Frankenheimer films car chases as if he'd just invented the concept and David Mamet's pseudonymous script blows his gift for portraying con artistry up to an international scale. A memorable, thoughtful thriller cast to perfection and shot through with the chill of political unease and the knowledge of how easy it is to bargain away one's soul, it provided a late-career peak for a director who had something to prove. Keith Phipps, All Movie Guide

John McClane is back in another installment of the Die Hard franchise -- or is he? That's the question that faces moviegoers upon seeing Live Free or Die Hard, a techno-talky popcorn popper that has enough explosions to wake the dead, but very little to do with the esteemed film series by the time all of the terrorists are toast. So what went wrong? Is it the rating controversy that saw the film released as a very un-Die Hard PG-13? That has a bit to do with it, though the main gripe is that this really isn't a film about John McClane. Sure, there are a lion's share of stunts and one-liners, but the crux of the story has little to do with the cop from South Jersey who virtually reinvented the modern-day movie hero. Sadly, he's made to play second fiddle to Justin Long -- a young, sarcastic hacker whose part in the plot ends up nearly as substantial as McClane. Thus the movie essentially boils down to the two characters squabbling in an annoying "culture clash" fashion as they race from one destination to another, with lots of Long typing away at a keyboard and McClane only in tow to beat up the bad guys when they show up. Sound fun? Then maybe this is the flick for you. One thing is for sure though, this ain't your daddy's Die Hard.To compare this sucker is to kill it. While it's never too easy to reboot an older franchise for modern audiences, Live Free does just enough to forget what came before it that it invites the critique. Bruce Willis has said that he despises the second film for giving too many nods to the original, but at least it acknowledged it. Here, the only thread of continuation has to do with McClane's family -- his estranged ex-wife and a daughter who gets annoyed by him, yet calls for daddy as soon as she gets stuck in an elevator Does the government or the boring baddie (played with zero zest by Timothy Olyphant) even recognize that this is the same guy that thwarted three, count 'em, three terrorist attacks? No, not really. It's a point that thrusts the entire series into "lone wolf" territory, where McClane now has adventures that don't necessarily have to do anything that came before. As soon as this is understood, viewers can either tune out or just not give a hoot and enjoy the big pretty explosions. And to be sure, there are plenty of those.In fact, take away any Die Hard references and this becomes a fairly forgettable summer excursion. The action is nice and at points, over-the-top, but never once is it gripping, just as the humor balances between light and cranky, but with techno-babble that is far too verbose. Casting is another problem, with memorable faces standing in for air-filled characters that the screenwriters didn't bother to invest time into. Additionally, director Len Wiseman does an admirable job of forgetting his Matrix rip-off roots, though his bland blue-hued color schemes and geographically challenged action still has a ways to go to compete with a heavyweight like John McTiernan. In the end, when all the gun shells are collected and freeways fixed, it's pretty obvious that Live Free was half-heartedly tailored to fit the franchise's mold, which is really too bad, because John McClane deserved better...and so do audiences. Jeremy Wheeler, All Movie Guide

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