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Die Hard with a Vengeance(1995)
On the streets of New York, police officer John McClane has just about seen it all. He's got a nose for danger, a penchant for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and a talent for overcoming incredible odds. But this time, danger is looking for him. Seeking a very personal and mysterious revenge against McClane, a malevolent genius named Simon is forcing the heroic cop to play a deadly game. The stakes: New York City itself. The game begins when a phone call from Simon sends McClane to Harlem, where he unexpectedly forms an alliance with the very unwilling Zeus Carver. McClane and Zeus soon find themselves careening across the Big Apple, pursuing the deadly Simon, who's always one step ahead of them. In the past, McClane's had his share of bad days. But on this blisteringly hot summer day in the City, Simon Says John McClane is about to have a really bad day...
For more about Die Hard with a Vengeance and the Die Hard with a Vengeance Blu-ray release, see the Die Hard with a Vengeance Blu-ray Review
Starring: Bruce Willis, Jeremy Irons, Samuel L. Jackson, Graham Greene (I), Colleen Camp
Director: John McTiernan
» See full cast & crew
Die Hard with a Vengeance Blu-ray Review
Third time’s the charm.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, January 30, 2010
Die Hard With a Vengeance opens with a big bang—the front of a department store in downtown New York City explodes, sending cars flying and a massive cloud of debris rolling through the street. When the film premiered in May 1995—only a month after the Oklahoma City bombing—the image touched a raw nerve and both sensitive viewers and finicky critics recoiled. Never mind that the film was shot and finished long before Timothy McVeigh's act of ultra-right-wing terrorism, Die Hard 3 set the media pundits loose to spew the perennial art-imitating-life, life-imitating-art arguments that are as circular as they are square, if that makes sense. "Too soon!" they essentially cried, without the prophetic foresight to see that even now, some fifteen years later, the film's imagery still carries cultural baggage, though the sights and sounds of 9/11 are more likely to come to mind. There's definitely a discussion to be had about the way historical events can retrospectively alter the perception of fiction in its many forms—and I'll leave that one to the media historians—but it's impossible not to think of 9/11 when you see Bruce Willis' John McClane jogging with the Twin Towers in the background, or dust-covered businesspeople emerging from the site of an explosion, white sheets of copy paper strewn everywhere. We're far enough removed from the event that it doesn't exactly sting, but it does set off a kind of arthritic ache that gives the film more resonance than it actually deserves.
Because, when it comes down to it, Die Hard With a Vengeance is just another action- packed extravaganza, the kind whose sole purpose is to offer some big-budget thrills and keep you on the edge of your seat until good inevitably overcomes evil. And with that in mind, the film is moderately successful, and a huge improvement over the dour Die Hard 2, which features ante-upping action sequences but zero charisma and little of Die Hard's humor and charm. Where director John McTiernan's series-starter crackles with the cinematic suspense that grade-A action material is made of, Finnish helmer Renny Harlin's follow-up is a long slog through a soulless story that forsakes character for spectacle. It's no surprise, then, that McTiernan's homecoming to the series in part 3 marks a welcome return to witty banter, character struggles, and plain old fun. Though that's not to say that he doesn't fall into a few of the same traps that Harlin encountered when trying to make a sequel that was bigger, better, and more hardcore than the first film.
You'll note, for instance, a certain spatial progression in the Die Hard franchise. The first installment was limited to a Los Angeles skyscraper. In Die Harder, the action is moved to the sprawling corridors, terminals, and tarmacs of Dulles Airport. And in Die Hard With a Vengeance, John McClane has to cover the whole of New York City in his attempts to foil his terrorist foes. With each bump in size, the series loses a bit of its initial intimacy and claustrophobic suspense, but McTiernan makes up for some of the loss by giving us a familiar New York-of-the-movies setting that feels like a sandbox for the director to play in, using subway trains, big-rigs, and taxis as toys. I'm just waiting for some ambitious young YouTuber to recreate the whole film in Grand Theft Auto IV, a feat that would be time consuming but seemingly possible.
The plot is even more absurd than Die Harder's air traffic control-hacking terrorists, but therein lies the film's charm. It feels like something that could only happen in a summer blockbuster, but it's staged with enough realism to pull off the illusion. When a terrorist who goes by "Simon" (Jeromy Irons) blows up a department store to get the attention of NYC law enforcement, he demands to play a game of "Simon Says" with rogue cop John McClane, who is now separated from his wife and a borderline alkie. If McClane doesn't do exactly what he's told, well, boom goes the dynamite (or rather, binary liquids that, when mixed, from a dangerously unstable solution). The requests start small. At first, McClane has to walk into central Harlem in only his boxers, wearing a signboard adorned with a potent racial slur. He's saved from certain gang-induced death by local electrician and whitey-distrusting Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson), who inadvertently gets sucked into the whole fiasco, turning Vengeance into an unlikely buddy film. As it turns out, Simon (who is neither simple nor a pie-man) is the brother of Hans Gruber—the villain from the first film, whom McClane threw off the side of skyscraper—but he's got more than revenge on his mind. With McClane and Zeus sent on a goose chase to disarm bombs across the city, Simon can get down to work—making off with most of the gold in the Federal Reserve.
Jeremy Irons operates in the long tradition of villains with ridiculous accents—here, a German brogue that has him sounding like he's got marbles in his mouth—and while he's not nearly as memorable as Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber, he's essentially Iggy Pop as an arch-nemesis, with a sinewy physique and devilish confidence. Granted, it's hard to take a villain who talks in rhyme seriously—thankfully, the couplets stop a third of the way through the film—but Irons somehow makes it work. Even better is the chemistry between Willis and Jackson, who offset each other quite nicely. Bruce is once again the wisecracking cop with authority issues that we've come to love, but Samuel L. ups the intensity considerably as he fumes in wide-eyed disbelief. It's a typical buddy movie scenario—two disparate dudes get tossed together and eventually learn to like each other—but seeing their characters verbally spar is the highlight of the film. A close second would be McTiernan's action sequences, which have Zeus and McClane going off-road in Central Park in a taxi, dodging wayward subway cars after a massive explosion, and generally scraping through by the skin of their teeth, whatever that actually means. Vengeance does falter in its final act after one too many false denouements, but the explosive payoff is rewarding.
Die Hard with a Vengeance Blu-ray, Video Quality
Die Hard With a Vengeance looks noticeably better on Blu-ray than both of its predecessors, and it's also a vast improvement on the DVD, which was heavy with artificial edge enhancement. There's still some awkward edginess to be found, but the image on the whole looks much more natural here. The 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer benefits from the film's largely outdoors setting, which allows for a bright daytime image with tight black levels, plenty of contrast, and more high definition "pop" than the previous films. Colors are strong but not overpumped—see the classic yellow taxi cabs, the green grass at Yankee Stadium, and the fresh red blood that flows prolifically from McClane's face—and skin tones are more balanced here than they are in Die Harder (i.e., no tanning bed oranges). Clarity is also much more consistent, with fine detail apparent in McClane's three-day stubble, the textures of clothing and props, and the chaotic architectural jumble of NYC that serves as a backdrop. The film's healthy grain structure is rarely obtrusive, and aside from some slight color pixilation during explosions and one or two instances of minor contrast wavering, there are no real technical issues to report.
Die Hard with a Vengeance Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Vengeance's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track also bests its predecessors with more ample bass, a more nuanced and immersive soundfield, and more detail and clarity in dialogue reproduction. Where Die Harder had sound effects that seemed plucked from the archives and tossed into the mix with little regard to acoustics, Die Hard With a Vengeance uses sound design much more intelligently, especially when it comes to the surround channels. Of course, you can expect lots of New York City ambience—traffic sounds, pedestrian chatter, wind and birds—but when the action heats up, so does this track. Gunfire pings and rips through the soundstage, explosions send disintegrated sheets of glass shattering across the pavement, tires squeal and engines throttle, and water roars through an enormous aqueduct. The effects are more transparent this time around, the .1 LFE channel gets more than a few chances to rumble and shake, and Michael Kamen's score pounds with authority. Through it all, McClane's one-liners and Zeus' angry rants are easily understood. This mix may not be as intense and modern as the brilliant track from Live Free or Die Hard, but it's certainly better than average for a mid-1990s action flick.
Die Hard with a Vengeance Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Commentary by Director John McTiernan, Writer Jonathan Hensleigh, and Film Executive Tom Sherak
For some reason, I can never get into these kinds of tracks, where the participants are all recorded separately and then spliced together. There's some good stuff within, especially about how the screenplay was originally a completely separate project called Simple Simon, but the track is much too reserved for my tastes.
Alternate Ending (SD, 6:03)
With optional commentary by writer Jonathan Hensleigh.
A cornball Reginald Vel Johnson hosts HBO First Look (21:46), a vintage behind-the- scenes documentary that includes loads of interviews and on-set footage. CBS: A Night to Die For (21:36) is a TV special worth watching if only for the incongruous interviews with Wayne Newton, Wayne Gretzky, Kareem Abdul Jabar, Rudolph Giuliani, Mike Ditka, and Ice-T. The redundant Featurette (4:20) is a condensed, recycled version of the HBO special. Bruce Willis Interview (6:22) is more of a dissection of the John McClane character than a straight interview. Villains with a Vengeance (4:25) is a brief look at the baddies. And Storyboard Sequence (2:20) takes us through drawings of one of the key action scenes. After that, we get three visual effects breakdowns, Blowing Up Bonwit (7:52), Prepping the Park (10:25), and Terror in the Subway (8:53), followed by six side-by-side comparisons, Great Jump (00:35), Shimmy Down Cable (00:52), Jackson Plummets (00:38), Grabbing Crane (00:38), Four in Front of Taxi (00:41), and McClane Shoots out of Tunnel (00:39).
Trailers and TV Spots (SD)
Includes two trailers (3:45) and ten TV spots (5:22).
Fox on Blu-ray (1080p, 6:25)
Includes trailers for Die Hard, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Live Free or Die Hard, and Alien vs. Predator.
Die Hard with a Vengeance Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Die Hard With a Vengeance is an absurd title for a film—seriously, try to explain it to someone learning English as a second language—but it's one of those fairly rare mid-1990s action movies that holds up surprisingly well today. Of the "vintage" Die Hard films, it's also the best in terms of audio and video quality on Blu-ray, and while fans will already be familiar with the disc's recycled supplementary materials, the shiny new high definition visuals should be enough to entice most into an upgrade. Before buying, though, do consider The Complete Die Hard Collection, which gathers all four films together at a reduced price.
Die Hard with a Vengeance: Other Editions
Blu-ray bundles with Die Hard with a Vengeance (2 bundles)
Die Hard with a Vengeance Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Amazon Gold Box Deal of the Day: Die Hard (Expired) - February 14, 2013
Amazon's Blu-ray Gold Box Deal of the Day affects the Die Hard: 25th Anniversary Collection. Twentieth Century Fox's popular action franchise centers on the increasingly catastrophic adventures of John McClane (Bruce Willis, Looper), a cynical policeman who finds ...
• Amazon Blu-ray Deal of the Week: The Die Hard Collection (Expired) - July 22, 2012
Amazon's Blu-ray Deal of the Week affects The Die Hard Collection. The set bundles together all four films in Twentieth Century Fox's popular action franchise, which centers on the increasingly catastrophic adventures of John McClane (Bruce Willis, Pulp Fiction), ...
• Deal Alert: Die Hard Collection Blu-ray $32.99 - September 5, 2010
Amazon's current Blu-ray Boxed Set of the Week is for The Die Hard Collection (comprised of Die Hard, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Die Hard with a Vengeance and Live Free or Die Hard) for only $32.99 (59% off MSRP, or just over $8 per movie). The price tracker shows ...
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