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DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE: SPECIAL EDITION

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Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Bruce Willis, Jeremy Irons, Samuel L. Jackson, Graham Greene, Colleen Camp
Director: John McTiernan
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1 Surround, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 131 Minutes
Release Date: July 10, 2001

“The best way south is not through 9th Avenue, it’s through the park.”
“But Park Drive is always jammed!”
“I didn’t say Park Drive. I said through the Park.”

Film ****

It is always very rare to find a sequel that matches the predecessor, but is ever certain that a third installment could top both of the previous movies in a movie trilogy or series? For me, Die Hard With a Vengeance favors that possibility, as I find this to be without a doubt the best entry in the series, an opinion that I’m sure is bound to create controversy. I should actually state that I love all three of the Die Hard movies, as I truly think each installment set a standard for the action genre. What I appreciate most about Die Hard With a Vengeance is the notion that at the time of its release, it seemed that formula created by the first Die Hard was wearing itself thin, and that there wouldn’t be a unique setting or specific area for a third movie to take action in. Boy, was I proved sorely wrong, as the third installment uses New York City as the setting, an idea that even I wouldn’t have thought of. John Mctiernan, director of the first Die Hard, and an intense screenplay by Jonathan Hensleigh, crafted together an action injected ride of a movie that’s not just a rollercoaster ride, but it could very much serve as the entire amusement park.

The movie opens with a bang, as fashion store in downtown Manhattan is blown to bits in broad daylight. Minutes later, the police force gets a call from a sinister madman named Simon (Jeremy Irons), specifically demanding the presence of John McClane (Bruce Willis). McClane is now once again a NYC cop, separated once again from his wife, and on the verge of becoming an alcoholic. McClane is ordered by Simon to parade around in Harlem wearing a sandwich board bearing a racial slur, or else another bomb will be detonated. After being nearly jumped by a gang, he is then saved by Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson), a civilian and local storeowner. Following this rescue, Simon phones in the police once again, this informing Zeus to stay with McClane and jump through his insane hoops he has set up for him.

Thus begins our rollercoaster ride, please make sure your lever bar is pulled down for your protection…

The action scenes in Die Hard With a Vengeance are of such sheer audacity and mind blowing, adrenaline pumping execution, that you wonder how the actors and crew made it out of the production alive and well. Take one key sequence, for example, where McClane purses a subway where Simon has indeed planted a bomb. He finds it, orders the passengers to move to front end of the train, and he toss the bomb out the back end. The bomb then detonates in mid air, just as it is stopping to pick up more passengers, causing the rear portion of the train to slide off track, and careen into the station area sideways. Its perhaps one of the more frighteningly real action moments you’ll ever come across, as the extras in this scene really had to run for their lives or suffer a serious injury, or death for that matter.

Other such jaw-dropping moments in Die Hard With a Vengeance include McClane eluding a wall of water in an aqueduct by exiting through a pipeline, a shootout in an elevator, a rip-roaring, bullet whizzing car chase through heavy traffic, McClane and Zeus sliding down a cable to get from a bridge to a ship, and a thoroughly tension filled moment where a downtown public school is under siege, as one of Simon’s bombs is on the verge of detonation.

Willis is back as John McClane in terrific form, even though the character is in a downtrodden state, which is why his pairing with Zeus is totally necessary. Samuel L. Jackson makes for a terrific, street-smart counterpart. The two don’t get along at first, as is the custom, but as they become more involved in Simon’s deadly game, their rivalry turns into stellar teamwork, as both McClane and Zeus’ part in Simon’s game becomes a bit more personal along the way. Jeremy Irons is a perfect choice to play Simon, who’s as sneaky and devilishly deadly and diabolical as movie villains can get. He has the slimy maneuvers of a Hans Gruber, but with a bit more insanity to spare.

Die Hard With a Vengeance is a masterful adrenaline rush of moviemaking. Combining outrageous stunts and special effects with a suspenseful, twist-filled story, it is a rare movie sequel that can really hold its own ground with the previous two Die Hard movies, with a format that successfully breaks the rules. Directed with utter sharpness and executed with pure brilliance, Die Hard With a Vengeance is a terrific close to a great movie trilogy.

Video ****

Of all of the three Die Hard discs, this is the one I couldn’t wait to look at, since I felt that Die Hard With a Vengeance received the poorest video transfer of the three movies when it was first released to DVD. Now, with this glorious special edition, DH3 is presented in a perfected anamorphic presentation. The picture is completely opposite of the original disc, which was non-anamorphic and consistently grainy and not up to DVD quality standards. The transfer on this disc will make you forget about the previous release, as the picture quality is clear and sharp to utter perfection, without a hint of any type of image flaw. Perhaps the best reissuing of any DVD release I’ve ever since. Way to go, Fox!

Audio ****

Fox also shines in the audio field as well. Actually, this area didn’t need any help from the first DVD release. The 5.1 Dolby Digital presentation, which is also THX Certified (I keep forgetting to mention this noteworthy element in my reviews), is the perfect illustration of how movies on DVD should sound, particularly a loud and furious movie such as Die Hard With a Vengeance. Of the three discs, this once definitely contains the best audio transfer.

Features ****

Once again, we have another superbly loaded-to-the-max disc from the folks at Fox. Included on disc 1 is a fact filled commentary with director John McTiernan and screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh, recorded separately.

Disc Two contains more explosive goodies, including three individual documentaries, including the HBO First Look Special on the making of the movie hosted by Reginald Veljohnson, a CBS special titled “A Night To Die For” hosted by Samuel L. Jackson, and the regular 5 minute press kit which was featured on the original DH3 disc. Also included are interviews with Bruce Willis and Jeremy Irons, an interesting alternate ending, storyboard sequences, visual effects breakdowns, and trailers and TV spots for the movie.

Summary:

A brilliant closing to a brilliant movie trilogy, Die Hard With a Vengeance throws in everything but the kitchen sink for entertainment value. It’s a memorable ride that should be enjoyed over and over again!