Fox // 1995 // 131 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Michael Rubino // October 17th, 2011
"Hot in here, or am I just scared to death?"
In Die Hard, New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis, The Sixth Sense), scrapes, claws, and shoots his way through an L.A. skyscraper. In the Xeroxed sequel, he does the same thing through the slightly larger Washington Dulles International Airport. So it makes sense, proportionally, that the third film in the series, Die Hard with a Vengeance, spans the entire island of Manhattan (and a little bit of Canada). This loud, frantic epitome of excessive mid-90s action films is now out on Blu-ray.
John McClane has one heck of a headache, hasn't talked to his wife Holly in over a year, and is a borderline alcoholic. So the last thing he needs is Hans Gruber's brother, Simon (Jeremy Irons, Kafka), calling him with riddles and bomb threats. McClane has no choice but to comply, and within the first fifteen minutes of the film, he's standing in Harlem with a sandwich board covered in an ethnic slur. It's this little stunt that introduces McClane to Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction), an angry man with more than a little disdain for "white cops." Together, these two guys run around the Big Apple, Odd Couple-style, trying to keep up with Simon's puzzles before half the town blows up. Based on an original screenplay (initially called "Simon Says," and in no way related to the Die Hard franchise), the film is markedly better than Die Hard 2; it feels less like a rehash of old themes and more like a familiar character thrown into a new situation.
If only the story was half as compelling as the first Die Hard. Vengeance begins abruptly: a hungover John McClane is called in to action after an explosion occurs in a department store. No subtle introductions of an old friend, just an initially random request and a seemingly self-aware chief of police who stops short of saying "Here we go again!" The point-of-view is far removed from the days when John was digging his toes into the carpet of Nakatomi Plaza. We're rarely allowed to get that close this time. Instead, the plot is a series of action set-pieces that McClane happens to be involved in. Director John McTiernan (who also helmed the original) is a pro at staging and filming explosive stunts, but the emotional glue that should stick them together isn't there.
Die Hard with a Vengeance is just another big-budget blockbuster stereotypical of the mid-90s: angry cops, clever villains of curious Eastern European origin, race relations, entire city blocks leveled by practical explosions, and someone surfing on something other than a surf board during a flood of sewer water. That's exactly what I expect of my Clinton-era action flicks.
While Die Hard with a Vengeance is everything you would expect cinematically, the Blu-ray release is more of a mixed bag. The film's transfer is wonderful: the level of detail is impressive and the colors are vibrant and realistic. The practical effects and occasional green screen work all hold up nicely, and there's a surprisingly minimal amount of grain. The DTS 5.1 Master lossless surround sound is a fun and well-balanced mix. The dialogue is front and center and the explosions, bullets, and car chase sound effects wiz around the room in immersive fashion. It's a loud, bombastic mix perfectly suited to the action on the screen. What's a shame, then, are all of the recycled special features. The Die Hard franchise has had its share of special editions, so I understand that they're running out of supplements and deleted materials, but any Blu-ray release for a historic action franchise such as this should have a little bit more than a fancy menu. If you don't have any previous release of this film, you'll get to enjoy a commentary track with John McTiernan and screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh, a weird alternate ending, featurettes, storyboard comparisons, interviews, and trailers. There are a lot of supplements here, but nothing especially fresh.
Die Hard with a Vengeance may not be the best in the franchise, but it's still a mindless, fun action film that will put your surround sound system to work.
Review content copyright © 2011 Michael Rubino; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 131 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Alternate Ending
* VFX Comparisons
* D-Box Enabled