For an action franchise to succeed, the series must continually up the ante, throwing characters in increasingly unbelievable situations (without going too far). Die Hard – With a Vengeance does just that. It’s fast, it’s funny, and light years ahead of the disappointing Die Hard 2.
Yes, this third edition of the box-office favorite doesn’t try to be intelligent. The plot is straightforward, tosses out a few nice twists, and moves on to more action scenes. These are unrelenting, stretching believability in new directions, yet they’re still more plausible than the latest sequel, Live Free or Die Hard.
As with the original where Alan Rickman’s personality stole the show, Die Hard 3 is taken from Bruce Willis, this time by Samuel L. Jackson. Originally written as a sequel to Lethal Weapon, his character is obviously supposed to be Danny Glover’s Murtaugh. The difference between them as actors is that Jackson is more talented, spouting off priceless one-liners, many of which were likely ad-libbed. Jeremy Irons does a fine job as the typical terrorist, his mind games creating a deep level of tension.
Of course, the action is where the movie leaves its mark on fans. Filmed almost entirely in New York, stunts range from a taxi tearing through Central Park to an entire subway station collapsing. The only real complaints to be made about the overall production are the awful special effects that are archaic for a film made in 1995. The sewer-surfing routine, easily one of the most logically stretched moments in the franchise, is particularly notable for its flaws.
What makes this third installment succeed is that it doesn’t try to equal or outclass the original, something that plagued Die Hard 2. It settles for the usual rushes of adrenalin, keeping audiences glued to their seats for the entire running time. Die Hard 3 is just flat-out fun to watch with a flawless combination of wild action, comedy, and stunt work. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Movie]
Out of the original three movies, this is where hi-def truly comes into play. While lacking the extra pop in the details that puts modern movies into the realm of perfection, the clarity and sharpness afforded by Blu-ray are evident in every frame. The thin layer of grain is perfect to give the movie a natural look. Mercifully, the awful edge enhancement problems that plagued the DVD are removed. Detail is high with explosions and sparks bursting off the screen. Rich, deep black levels create wonderful contrast. The print is perfect. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]
DTS HD is the audio fans should be looking for to enjoy this brilliant audio presentation. Every action scene loads the speakers with something to use to immerse the viewer. From the subtle screaming and debris shifting during the cab ride to the unbelievable bass from the subway explosion, not a moment passes where something isn’t worth talking about. This is a demo disc, pure and simple. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Audio]
Staying on par with Die Hard 2 Blu-ray, this disc includes a commentary from director John McTiernan. Two separate 21-minute documentaries are included and are promotional, one airing on HBO, the other on Fox during the TV premiere of Die Hard 2. Another short four-minute featurette comes from the press kit and is presented in the same style as the others.
A six-minute alternate ending is included along with a commentary from the writer. The scene changes the entire film, actually letting the terrorists escape with the gold bounty and McClane manages to track them down. The ending in the film was the right choice. Three behind-the-scenes features look at how some of the film’s more spectacular scenes were completed. A storyboard sequence is also included.
An interview with Bruce Willis is included along with a short profile of the film’s main antagonist. The disc also offers up a look at seven different special effects-laden scenes in various forms of completion. Finally, a massive ten TV spots and two theatrical trailers finish off the disc. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Extras]