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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Die Hard With A Vengeance: Special Edition
Die Hard With A Vengeance: Special Edition
Fox
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted July 3, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

The "Die Hard" series has kept "opening up" as the sequels progressed; the first film had John McClaine (Bruce Willis) running throughout a high-rise tower; the second film had the character running throughout an airport; the third has McClaine running across New York City. A fourth rumored film even had him in the jungle at one point, but I'm unsure what the status of that project is. The only problem is that the farther that McClaine runs, the less entertaining that the films seem to be.

This time, McClaine actually doesn't find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time like the previous pictures. This time, he's located by Simon (Jeremy Irons), a bomber who wants to play a little "game" with McClaine, but there's a link between the two that the story finally reveals about halfway through. This time around, McClaine is also nearly an alcoholic (he's "two steps away") and his wife Holly that he's been trying to rescue for two pictures now has left him, and apparently remains in L.A. This time, he's paired with a Harlem shop owner named Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson), who saves him from the first of Simon's games - after saving him though, he finds that he's now stuck with him as Simon's made him part of the game. If the two don't follow his orders and solve puzzles across the city, another target will be destroyed.

Original director John McTiernan returns for this outing, but isn't quite able to work the same sort of magic that he was able to work with the original picture. The pacing is rather up-and-down as the picture occasionally builds some nice tension, only to have it seep out again during a slow moment. At nearly two and a half hours, there could have been some editing done to keep things going a little quicker between the small, medium and large action sequences. Jackson and Willis do have pretty decent chemistry with one another, especially with a very amusing and entertaining sequence where the two take a shortcut through central park in a cab they've comandeered.

It's not quite as uniformly intense and tense as the first two pictures, but the third installment does provide a few solid thrills.


The DVD

VIDEO: Suprisingly, when "Die Hard 3" was originally released a couple of years ago, the latest of the films presented in non-anamorphic widescreen also was the worst looking. Littered with flaws including print flaws and edge enhancement, the picture was rough looking and unpleasant to watch. This new edition, presenting the movie in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, the image quality is noticably improved in this new edition, looking smoother, cleaner and much more well-defined. There are still some flaws, which I'll discuss, but it was a more pleasant viewing experience. Sharpness and detail are terrific and the picture has fine depth to the image.

A few flaws still popped up along the way. Edge enhancement is still unfortunately apparent in several scenes in the movie, but not to the extent that was visible in the first edition of the movie, where it was apparent to a very irritating amount at times. The first edition also had quite a few print flaws scattered throughout the movie and occasionally becoming distracting. That's not the case here, as the presentation seems clean and clear of such problems, with only a few exceptions as a stray mark or speckle occasionally pops up. The shimmering and other annoyances that also made the original edition suffer are either absent completely or extremely minimal. In other words, not without a flaw or two, but the picture quality is improved.

Colors looked terrific; the bright, exterior shots on the streets of NYC offered a wide variety of colors that looked terrific and well-saturated, with no instances of smearing. Black level was strong and flesh-tones looked accurate and natural. Again, I still didn't think this was the best of this new set, either, but it looked better than the original release.

SOUND: Like the rest of the new editions of the "Die Hard" series, "Die Hard 3" is presented in both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 presentations. The first of the "Die Hard" movies to be presented in the era of surround-sound as we know it, the audio presentation throughout the movie is often spectacular. The movie occasionally seems to be shot with a "you-are-there" feeling, but the audio consistently feels that way. The sound on the streets has a completely enveloping feel, with a terrific sense of dimension as cars pass by and other environment sounds play out in the surrounds. During the action sequences, surround use became more intense and immersive, with excellent and occasionally creative use of sound effects.

Audio quality was, not suprisingly, terrific. Dialogue sounded clear and crisp, with the exception of a couple of lines during the picture. Overall though, speech sounded suprisingly natural and smooth. Bass really delivered some powerful rumbles during several action scenes in the movie, as explosions shook the room quite nicely. Although I liked Michael Kamen's scores for the other two "Die Hard" pictures a little better, the music still sounded superb throughout the movie, with a rich, warm sound and a nice presence in the midst of all of the chaos and action involved. An extremely well-produced sound experience that offers the best sound of any of the three films, although my favorite "sound" moment still comes late in the first picture.

MENUS:: The main menu is basic and non-animated, but I liked the TV-themed background.

EXTRAS::

Commentary: This is a commentary from director John McTiernan, who is joined (not literally, since they aren't recorded together, but their comments are edited together well) by writer Jonathan Hensleigh and former Fox head of distribution Tom Sherak. McTiernan and Hensleigh are the two main speakers on the track, but Hensleigh remains the highlight, discussing in great detail how his original script called "Simon Says" was turned into the screenplay for "Die Hard: With A Vengeance". McTiernan is able to offer some interesting stories about the production and his experiences with returning to the series, but Hensleigh really remained the bright spot on the commentary, with his ability to recall both details about the making of the movie and the history of it with ease and energy. Sherak doesn't contribute very much, infrequently adding a couple of basic, although interesting, remarks about the film's release.

Behind-The-Scenes: There are three documentaries included in this section that take a look at the film's biggest action sequences. The promotional documentaries that always end up on these discs are basically interesting, but really don't offer that much information - that's why I'm always happy to see some more specific featurettes like these. These are really very nicely produced and in-depth featurettes that take the viewer step by step through how the action has to be planned out and safety measures that have to be taken. For the opening explosion, for example, there is a seven minute look at how the explosives had to be planned out so that it would have depth and not just look like smoke, as well as the very serious safety precautions that have to be taken with the stunt people so that they not only aren't hurt, but so the shot is right - you can't exactly do some of these moments more than once. Aside from the documentary about the opening sequence, there are also two more - one focusing on the subway derailment and the other looking at the cab ride through central park. Grouped in this section as well is a storyboard-to-film comparison for the flood in the tunnel sequence.

Alternate Ending: This nearly 6 minute sequence was planned to be the original ending for the picture - it's certainly a darker way to end the picture and doesn't really provide the thrills that this kind of action picture usually reaches for for the big climatic sequence. It's an interesting piece though, and it's offered with optional commentary from writer writer Jonathan Hensleigh, who discusses his feelings about the ending (he seems to prefer it to the one in the film) and what's it's like seeing this version cut together after six years. It's an interesting bit to see, but personally, I think the one in the film fits better with the rest of the movie. This alternate ending seems more like something out of that Willis/Gere movie "The Jackal".

Visual Effects Breakdowns: This section offers a comparison of the visual effects involved in several of the film's action sequences with the final film version in a split-screen look, similar to how the last three were presented on the "Die Hard 2" DVD. The sequences shown here are The Great Jump, Shimmying Down Cable, Jackson Plummets, Grabbing Onto Crane, Fall In Front Of Taxi, Water Gushing Through Tunnel and Willis Shot Out Of Tunnel.

Trailer/TV Spots: 2 Trailers (unfortunately, like all Fox titles, trailers are still only in 2.0 audio) and 10 TV Spots.

Documentaries/Featurette: This section provides two of the usual, promotional documentaries and one short featurette that was done for the press kit. The two main documentaries are a "Making Of" that was originally produced for HBO and "A Night To Die For", which was originally done for Fox Television. Both of the main documentaries last a little under 22 minutes and go over much of the same ground, mostly providing story details and interviews with the cast and crew, but occasionally offering some additional detail by looking at the making of some of the bigger action moments. There's even a few lighter moments, especially in the HBO special where there's a fun little montage of Willis joking around on set. Reginald VelJohnson hosts the HBO special and Samuel L. Jackson hosts the teleivison special. Both of the documentaries are worth a few, but I doubt they're going to be good for too many repeat viewings. The featurette is essentially an extended trailer.

Interview/Profile: There's a short, promotional featurette with Willis and McTiernan as well as a short villian profile similar to the one that was included on the second film's disc. Of greater interest than these two bits though, is a hidden clip of outtakes from the movie that are really, really funny. This is a fairly lengthy clip and well-worth clicking around to find. Just keep moving around on the menu for this section and you'll find it - this isn't one of the tougher hidden easter eggs to find on DVD.

Final Thoughts: I've warmed up to this third installment of the series since originally viewing it in the theater, but I still don't find it nearly as entertaining as the first two. Fox has improved the substandard video quality that was included on the first disc, and offered the choice of DTS audio as well. To top it all off nicely, there's a solid set of extras included on this two-disc edition. Recommended.

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