Plot: What’s it about?
John McClane (Bruce Willis) must have the worst luck of anyone on the planet. On suspension and hung over, McClane is called back to active duty, since a terrorist is detonating bombs and threatens to trigger more unless McClane does just what he says. So, McClane finds himself in Harlem, standing on a street corner with a sandwich board sign on that reads “I Hate Niggers,” and back up is nowhere in sight. He escapes with his life and some abrasions, thanks to a local shop keeper, Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson), who decides to save McClane from the beating. This does not sit well with the terrorist Simon (Jeremy Irons), so he stages a series of stunts for the pair to complete, or else more damage will be done. As such, the two manage to work together long enough to finish the tasks, when they are told of an even bigger plot. Simon has placed a large amount of explosives inside a public school, and will trigger them to go off unless his word is followed. McClane has his mind in several other places, but he has to focus on the task at hand, or else lives will be lost.
This is the third installment in the Die Hard series, and this episode takes the series on a different path, one that uses teamwork and open spaces to challenge McClane. The sneaking around or enclosed areas of the first two are missing here, as McClane races all over New York City to track down Simon. While I prefer the claustrophobic feel of the first movie, this type of approach does offer many new takes on the action. The footrace scenes are quite good, and make for some great tension. It was also nice to see McClane behind the wheel, proving he is just as good with a car as he is with a gun. While Die Hard 2 upped the action pace, this movie manages to dial it one more notch, with breakneck pace thrills from the first few seconds on. This extra action and frenetic pace does not mean the story is lost either, this installment uses dialogue to a fuller extent as well. As I said, I prefer the cramped, one man style of the first movie, but the McClane/ Zeus team up offers some great lines and happenings. This incredible two disc edition is the first acceptable home video release of this film and as such, fans can finally feel safe spending their hard earned cash, even my buddy Chad “Iron Wallet” Hickman will want to pick this one up.
John McTiernan makes his return to the series here, after taking the second installment off. McTiernan brings his talents full blast, and makes his return a memorable one. The intense stunt scenes and chases are present, but so is more explored dialogue and characters. Bruce Willis makes his third turn as McClane just as good as the others, but also adds some desperation we haven’t seen before. McClane seems depressed and desperate here, which more testament to his valor and persona. I will miss new adventures of McClane, but I hope this was his final adventure. Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Deep Blue Sea) gives his usual raving and ranting performance, which I think is vastly overrated. He does good as this character though, who hates white people and cops. As the villain in this flick, Jeremy Irons (Lolita, Chinese Box) gives a by the numbers turn, although some lines prove worth remembering. Others appearing in this movie include Colleen Camp (Election, The Swinging Cheerleaders), Graham Greene (The Green Mile, Grey Owl), Anthony Peck (In The Line Of Fire, Last Action Hero), and Nicholas Wyman (Funny Farm, Private Parts).
Video: How does it look?
Die Hard with a Vengeance is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The original release of this film has to stand as Fox’s poorest visual effort on this format, so I am very pleased to see an improved treatment here. This is almost like watching a new movie, it is that much better than not only the previous disc, but any other home video editions to this point, very impressive indeed. The heavy grain has been lifted from this release and that opens up the image like you wouldn’t believe, I never figured the flick would look this great on home video, what a real knockout job by Fox on this one. The colors look brighter and bolder, flesh tones are natural, and contrast is much sharper and more refined. Simply put, this is a much needed revisit and while it has taken a while, fans finally have a visual transfer for this flick that stands up well, so I have to say, kudos to Fox on this most wanted improved transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
As they’ve done for the other Die Hard movies, Fox has included dual 5.1 surround options in Dolby Digital and DTS forms, which keeps both camps satisfied, to be sure. This movie is filled with car chases, foot chases, gunshots, yelling, explosions, and other sorts of power sound effects, so both tracks have plenty of room to show off and trust me, that is just what happens in both instances. Both tracks feature an immersive, very effective atmosphere loaded with directional effects and surround presence, from the intense sound effects to Michael Kamen’s terrific score, it all sounds great in these mixes. The dialogue is also well presented, so all the plot details and one liners come through in fine form at all times. I think the slight edge rides with the DTS option, but I think both tracks are awesome and should please audiences, no doubt about it. This release also includes 2.0 surround options in English and French, as well as Spanish and English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This new special edition doesn’t just look and sound good, it also packs a punch when it comes to bonus materials. I chose to start with John McTiernan’s audio commentary track and while is he less talkative than I’d like, he offers enough information to make this worth a listen, if you’re interested, that is. He talks about how the character of McClane has changed and how his technique as a director has changed since the first flick, which provides some insight into his approach and that’s always welcome. As usual, he lacks the enthusiasm and chatter we’ve come to expect from these sessions, but his comments are more than worthwhile, I think. On the second disc you’ll find the bulk of the supplements, such as two better than expected featurettes, both created for television broadcast, then slapped on this release. One is an HBO special and the other a piece made to run with the film’s broadcast on Fox, which clock in at just over twenty-one minutes each and combine to offer a nice look behind the scenes. Not as in depth as a dedicated documentary, but enough to answer some questions and provide information, so no complaints in the end. The brief promotional featurette from the original release is also included, but is a real fluff piece, to be sure.
A six and a half minute interview with Bruce Willis is next up and while on the short side, it is still nice to hear his comments, to be sure. Some material is repeated from the other featurettes, but some new information is also found, so don’t pass this one up, especially if you’re a fan of Willis or these flicks. Yet another featurette takes a look at the villains from Die Hard with a Vengeance and I really liked this one, though at just over four minutes, there’s not much room for depth, to say the least. Even so, it was cool to view and it makes a nice addition to this release. A selection of special effects breakdowns are also included, which take you step by step through the process of each, though in very brisk fashion. A total of seven scenes are offered in these section and all are worth a look, but don’t blink or you’ll miss some of them. You can also view more behind the scenes featurettes, which showcase the subway derailment, park chase, and the opening scene explosion, giving a brief look at how each was created. The main draw for me on the second disc is the alternate ending, complete with optional audio commentary from writer Jonathan Hensleigh. This was a real highlight for me and I was thrilled to own here, along with the other excellent supplements. This release also includes a storyboard presentation, two theatrical trailers, and ten television spots.