DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE (SE)
Reviewed July 29th, 2001 by David Nusair
When the third Die Hard film was announced, a lot of people had to have been wondering where they could possibly throw Bruce Willis' John McClane this time - a train station? A shopping mall? Without becoming trite or repetitive, the series would have to envision a new way to place Willis in peril.
Die Hard With a Vengeance opens several years after the events in Die Hard 2 and John McClane isn't doing so well. He's separated from his wife, Holly, and nobody in his department respects him. He's unwillingly offered the chance for redemption, though, when a sinister terrorist named Simon (Jeremy Irons) singles McClane out and forces him to do his bidding (along with Samuel L. Jackson).
While not nearly as claustrophobic as the first one or as violent as the second one, Die Hard with a Vengeance proves to be just as valid an entry into the series (though the absence of lovable cop Al - played by Reginald VelJohnson - is felt throughout). By moving the action into a big city like New York, director John McTiernen (who also helmed the first one) brings an entirely new feel to the series. Now McClane can inflict damage upon an entire city block, instead of being limited to a small section of a building.
The movie falters, though, when the emphasis shifts from McClane to Simon, as we see him at work with his fellow cronies. But this is a mild complaint for a movie that packs in more action than it has any right to.
Audio: Die Hard With a Vengeance has been remastered with DD 5.1 surround and DTS 5.1, and it'll really knock your socks off. Check out the sequence in which McClane causes the derailment of a subway car. Pump up the volume. In either the DD or DTS track, this scene alone is worth the price of the disc. For quieter scenes, the dialogue is sharp and crisp. As for whether or not the DTS track is really necessary, it is. While the DD track is certainly nothing to cough at, the DTS track does offer a wider and more substantial soundscape, inundating your ears with thundering bass. Just as with Die Hard 2, this is truly reference quality. There's also a 2.0 channel Dolby surround track, but when you have the DD and DTS tracks to choose from, why would you pick this? And for anyone that speaks French, there's even a track in that language.
Video: The first DVD release of Die Hard With a Vengeance quickly became an infamous one, mostly due to its lackluster transfer. But where that one was full of artifacts and grainy, this one is awe-inspiring. The detail is so sharp, that every cut and scratch on Willis' face can be closely examined (if you want to, that is). This is a movie with a lot going on - from avalanches of water to gigantic explosions - and this transfer will not disappoint.
Extras: As with Die Hard 2, this has not been given the label of Five Star Collection, but the amount of extras here is truly amazing. The first disc features a newly recorded commentary track, with John McTiernen, screenwriter Jonathon Hensleigh, and former Fox head Tom Sherak. They've been recorded separately, but have been seamlessly edited together. This is an incredibly informative track. If one person has nothing to say, another person is quickly replaced. They talk about everything from the origins of the script (which was initially not a Die Hard story) to the huge stunts that had to be accomplished. This is a stellar commentary track. Also on disc one is the THX OptiMode feature, which allows you to calibrate your TV and audio settings to the ideal. Moving onto the second disc, you're first presented with three featurettes. The first is an HBO Behind-the-Scenes deal which is, oddly enough, hosted by deposed co-star Reginald VelJohnson. This is a breezy, if PR heavy, 22 minutes. There's a lot of interviews in which the actors talk about how much fun they've had working on the picture (and there's even a section in which they mention their favorite moments in the series). This is pretty much what you'd expect - flashy, entertaining, but rarely informative. Somewhat more useful is “A Night to Die For” - a 21-minute special produced for CBS television during a strategic re-airing of Die Hard 2. This is pretty much the same deal as the HBO special, but for some reason, celebrities ranging from Dr. Joyce Brothers to Kato Kaelin to Kareem Abdul Jabbar offer their respective opinions on the Die Hard series. There's even a clip from the David Letterman show, featuring “Top Ten Signs You're Watching a Bad Action Movie.” But towards the end of the special, there's a look at how they accomplished that subway scene mentioned earlier. That was pretty interesting. Next is a 4-minute EPK that's essentially a super-condensed version of the previous two featurettes. The next section contains a 6-minute non-anamorphic widescreen (with timecode on the bottom) alternate ending. You can watch it with or without commentary from screenwriter Jonathon Hensleigh. While it is interesting to see how the movie might have ended, there is no doubt that the current ending is far superior. It's a great addition to the disc, though. Up next is a section featuring three short (they're between 7 and 10 minutes) featurettes, each dealing with a different action sequence (the subway derailment, the taxi drive through the park, and the initial explosion). These vignettes are interesting, though all feature footage that have already been seen in the featurettes mentioned previously. Also in this section is a comparison between the storyboards and the final cut of the underground flood sequence. The next section is called Interview and Profile, and this is easily the weakest segment on the disc. The first option is labeled an interview with Bruce Willis, but it's more of a John McClane profile - with Willis and director McTiernen talking about what kind of a guy McClane is. This goes on for about 5 minutes. Next is a villains profile, which essentially takes a lot of clips you've already seen prior, and puts them in the context of Irons' Simon character. This is 4 minutes. But this section does have a hidden feature that is quite entertaining. Click on the exit sign and you will be shown a few minutes of bloopers. These are quite funny and easily one of the best features on this disc. The next portion of the disc, entitled Visual Effects, contains a look at the special effects behind 7 key sequences (from Willis' fall in front of the taxi to Jackson falling off a bride onto a boat). These are all, while incredibly short, really interesting since you get to see the actors working with a green screen. Finally, the last section features a teaser and a trailer (both anamorphic) and 10 commercials.
Conclusion: If you already own Die Hard 3 in it's previous DVD edition, it is certainly time to chuck that one in favor of this. It's worth your while - even if it's just to take advantage of the remastered transfer.
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