Die Hard with a Vengeance: Special Edition
In Die Hard with a Vengeance, New York police Lt. John McClane must feel a bit like Al Pacino in The Godfather Part III: "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!" Although McClane attempts to keep a low profile, he can't seem to avoid being a magnet for the attentions of international terrorists. This third installment of the Die Hard series opens with a spectacularly rendered, earth-shattering explosion in downtown Manhattan igniting a heart-pounding pace that runs the length of the film. The explosion is the handiwork of German-accented Simon Peter (Jeremy Irons, apparently dressed for a GQ photo shoot), a stuttering terrorist with a bad attitude. Simon threatens to blow up more public buildings unless McClane (and only McClane) partakes in a series of games Simon has devised. McClane (Bruce Willis), on the outs with the police, is eventually found hung over and in serious need of some R&R. (Thankfully, screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh abandons the wife-in-peril plot line that was stretched to the point of complete incredulity in the first two films). Fortunately for the free world, McClane is always willing to go after the bad guys and he readily embarks on Simon's first challenge a death-defying stunt in Harlem. Here spunky shop owner Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson), who becomes McClane's sidekick and verbal sparring partner, saves him. As with the first two Die Hard movies, all hope of applying any reasoning or rational thought to the plot must be abandoned in order to enjoy the film. As McClane and Zeus chase subways, drive at high speeds through Central Park, and repeatedly perform stunts that would kill anyone not in a movie, the cuts are so quick that the viewer is hurled from one scene to the next with barely a moment to think. John McTiernan, who helmed the first Die Hard, is back in the director's chair and seems determined to outdo the already over-the-top action sequences in the first two pictures. The faster the plot unravels and the action set pieces pile up, the faster the pace of the film (and a couple of scenes are so overtly preposterous that the filmmakers don't even try to string them together to make sense out of the action.) Stealing from many previous action films, and perhaps most blatantly from Speed (which was released the prior year), Die Hard with a Vengeance shouldn't be as much fun as it is. Jackson's character is so unbelievable that he just kicks back and goes along for the ride, while Irons, playing against his usual type, seems to be up for anything, no matter how ridiculous. Ultimately, however, as in the previous two Die Hard films, it is Willis's complete comfort with the reluctant-hero McClane that saves the film and makes it so entertaining. Willis has done this all before, and he seems more than willing to go along with just about any hair-brained plot twist or stunt as McClane says, "Relax, I know what I'm doing." Fox's two-disc Die Hard with a Vengeance: Special Edition, which replaces their previous one-disc edition, offers a good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) and audio in DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby 2.0 Surround all the action looks and sounds exceptional. Also included on Disc One is a commentary from director McTiernan, which is not very in-depth (and the seriousness with which he discusses the McClane character is a bit eccentric.) Like the DVD for Die Hard 2, a good chunk of the extras have been recycled from the marketing department. The two TV specials (21 min. each), a "making-of" featurette (4 min.), and an interview with Willis are mostly clips interspersed with sound bites. Also included are a brief "Villain's Profile" (with more clips), a look at the visual effects behind seven scenes, behind-the-scenes shorts on three action sequences, storyboards, two theatrical trailers, and (count 'em) ten TV spots. The most intriguing tidbit is an alternate ending (with a commentary by scenarist Hensleigh) that is much more interesting than the ending demanded by the studio. Dual-DVD keep-case.
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