Live Free or Die DVD: Review By Brian Gallagher

Some fine writing, directing and acting all around in this surprisingly good flick.
  • OVERALL
    4.0
    GREAT
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
Some fine writing, directing and acting all around in this surprisingly good flick.
THE BAD
It starts out too slow, very few of the jokes don't work and a few of the features were dull.
THE FEATURE
When the new Die Hard sequel Live Free or Die Hard was shipped to the theaters, they shipped it under the code name "New Hampshire" because the Granite State's motto is Live Free or Die. I wonder if they shipped this movie, Live Free or Die under the code name "McClane" or something like that. Regardless of how they shipped it, it's really too bad they didn't ship this to more theaters in late March when this opened on a whopping 5 screens and, apparently, was out of the theaters in two weeks, earning less than $14,000 for a domestic haul. Don't let that paltry number fool you, though. This is one hell of a comedy, one that I hope really soars on DVD.

OK, the premise isn't entirely original, as this can be construed as another Bottle Rocket knock-off with a loser named John "Rugged" Rudgate (Aaron Stanford) who tries to make everyone else (and himself) believe that he's really a criminal/badass. He claims to have committed this sleepy New Hampshire town's unsolved murder, but he really is a schmuck, forging rebate checks, selling "stolen" speakers and other petty doings just to get by. One day he runs into an old semi-friend Lagrand (Paul Schnieder) who we'll say is "slow." He's back in town because his dad died and he's helping his sister Cheryl (Zooey Deschanel) run their father's successful storage locker business. Despite the airs he puts on, Rugged really has nothing, and decides to try and latch on to this half-wit and see what will happen... and what does happen is quite out of the ordinary (for Rugged and the audience) and quite hilarious.

This was written and directed by a pair of Seinfeld writers Gregg Kavet and Andy Robin, both making their feature writing and directing debuts. You'd think they were doing this for years, though, with the performances they draw out of this diverse cast and the way they craft this movie. Granted, for an 89-minute movie, they sure do take their time in really getting us into the story, with a rather mundane start, but as we start to get to know these characters, little by little, minute by minute, they all start to grow on us. At the same time, the story gets more complex and more brilliant by the minute and by the time we get to the simply spectacular ending you're almost left in sheer awe of the way they built this story up. What starts out as a garden-variety loser-tries-to-be-somebody tale turns out to be a superb tale about legends (not urban legends) and the seesaw of truth and fiction that makes them possible.

If the story wasn't enough to grab you, we get an ingenious turn from Aaron Stanford, whose range and uncanny grasp of character seems to grow with each role he takes. He delivers a smashing performance as John "Rugged" Rutland, bringing such a wonderful familiarity to the role that almost anyone can identify with him. We've all know those guys who just flat-out lie about everything, and Stanford captures his persona to a T. I've never heard of Paul Schnieder before, but this guy delivers a masterful performance as the possibly-retarded Lagrand. His delivery and mannerisms almost look to be copped from Will Ferrell, only not nearly as overdone, perhaps almost an homage to him of sorts. Still, it's really a terrific performance. Aside from those two leads, we get some great supporting work out of Michael Rappaport as a emotionally-troubled cop, Zooey Deschanel as Lagrand's uppity sister, Ebon Moss-Bachrach as a shady swindler, the always-zany Judah Friedlander as a hardware store owner, and Kevin Dunn (Shia LaBeouf's dad in Transformers) as the town's sherrif.

Live Free or Die is one damn-funny flick, folks. It's sad that it made probably the same amount in its entire run that Live Free or Die Hard did in the first hour (probably during the previews), but this indie comedy is certainly a diamond in the rough for humor fans.
THE EXTRAS
We get a decent amount of features here, starting with the Alternative Ending which is kind of cool, but I'm really REALLY glad they stuck to the original ending, because it's just genius. I won't spoil anything for you, but it's about four and a half minutes long and worth a look-see, but I'm still glad they stuck to the original ending.

The Making of Live Free or Die is up next and it's just a random collection of behind-the-scenes footage that goes for a little over six minutes... and is just fun to watch. It's always interesting to see on indie sets how they accomplish/get away with certain stuff, and we get some of these tidbits here along with just a nice view of what life was like on the set. Not highly structured, no, but it's still fun to watch.

The Blooper Reel is only about 3 and a half minutes long, and we don't get any totally hilarious moments here or anything. It's probably the worst feature, as most of it is Zooey Deschanel wanting more takes. Oh well.

The only other thing we get besides the Theatrical Trailer and Trailer Gallery for the previews are some Deleted Scenes... all two of them. They're more extended scenes than anything, but whatever. They're not terrible. Not great. You've watched everything else so far though, so why not, eh?
THE VIDEO
The movie is presented in the "anamorphic full frame" format, in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. I put anamorphic full frame in quotes because I've never heard of that before and that's what it said on the package.
THE AUDIO
The sound is handled through the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound format.
THE PACKAGE
Some nice work here. On the top of the front cover they have these mugshots of the six main players of the movie and then a big title card, a nice quote from AICN and an interesting shot of Stanford and Schnieder trying to get away on the moped (the ones where you actually pedal). The back has some more praising critic quotes, a nice synopsis, some random shots from the movie, a special features/tech specs listing along with the billing block and the tech specs just shown differently. Weird, but effective, I suppose.
THE FINAL WORD
I always get these movies in my DVD packages that I'm always initially on the fence about. This was one of them but it far exceeded my expectations and has turned from a sleeper to a keeper. This is one unique comedy, folks, which isn't a statement you hear a lot, but one I'm proud to make about this flick.

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