For an action franchise to succeed, the series must continually up the ante, throwing characters in even more unbelievable situations. "Die hard: With a Vengeance" does just that. It's fast, it's funny, and light years ahead of the disappointing "Die hard 2."
Once again, John McClane (Bruce Willis) finds himself on the wrong end of a bad day. A terrorist bomber named Simon (Jeremy Irons) is holding the entire city of New York hostage, requesting only McClane perform a wild series of tasks. Caught up in the mix is Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson), forced to tag along after inadvertently getting involved. With the police caught up in the situation, the terrorist group begins their plan of robbing the Federal Reserve Bank of $140 billion worth of gold.
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. But, that's why it works.
Once again the entire movie is taken from Bruce Willis, this time carried by Samuel L. Jackson. Originally written as a sequel to "Lethal Weapon," his character is obviously supposed to be Danny Glover. The difference being that Jackson is more talented, spouting off priceless lines, 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 upon itself. A few of these are eerily reminiscent of the 9-11 attacks so viewers who are sensitive to the subject should likely stay away. The only real complaints to the overall production are the awful special effects (particularly the sewer flooding) that are archaic for a film made in 1995.
What makes this third installment succeed is that it doesn't try to equal the original, something that plagued the first sequel. 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. (**** out of *****)
Like the both of the films before it, Fox presents the movie in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. At first glance, this transfer is absolutely immaculate. Beautiful color, no compression problems, and a fine attention to detail give this the illusion of perfection. Looking closer reveals aggravating, irritating, and downright frustrating edge enhancement. Every single scene makes it look like the actors have some sort of "halo" around their bodies, ruining what is otherwise a fine transfer. The print also features some disturbing damage for a film less than ten years old. You'll see a lot of scratches and specks pop up at various moments. (***)
Saving the presentation is a pounding DTS track and it's slightly lesser brother, 5.1 surround. Numerous moments of the film are a perfect showcase for a new sound system; the subway destruction in particular showcases superior separation in all five speakers and that doesn't even include the incredible amount of bass coming from the LFE channel. The film was made using the DTS format, so it only makes sense for it to be the best sounding film in the trilogy. (*****)
Staying on par with the rest of the series, this disc includes a commentary from director John McTiernan on disc 1. Disc 2 houses everything else including two separate 21-minute documentaries. Both were promotional, one airing on HBO, the other on Fox during the TV premiere of "Die Hard 2." Another short 4-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 films more spectacular scenes were completed. A storyboard sequence is also included.
An interview with Bruce Willis is included along with a short profile on the films main antagonist. The disc also offers up a look at seven different special effect laden scenes in various forms of completion. Finally, a massive 10 TV spots and two theatrical trailers finish off the disc. (****)
How anyone can sit through a film like this and not enjoy himself (or herself) is far beyond my level of thought. This is a thrilling actioner, one of the best of its kind. The created tension is the best of the series and the entire story is written with enough logic to keep it interesting. One can only hope the fourth film coming in 2005 can keep it up.