Sunday, July 12, 2009

DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE - Blu-Ray (20th Century Fox 1995) Fox Home Video

Owing to tepid response to their 1990 sequel, 2oth Century-Fox held off on attempting another installment to their lucrative franchise until Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995). By then, director John McTiernan’s schedule had freed up to return to the fold, along with star Bruce Willis. Employing an original screenplay by Jonathan Hensleigh, with support from original screenwriter Roderick Thorp for certain characters and situations, this third installment comes full circle.

Jettison from this narrative is Bonnie Bedelia’s damsel in distress in favor of a dangerous game of cat and mouse between John McClane (Bruce Willis) and terrorist, Simon Gruber (Jeremy Irons) – Hans Gruber’s brother. After a bomb is detonated inside a popular New York department store, Simon Gruber contacts John to set his plot in motion; a taut game of punishment loosely based on the children’s ‘Simon Says’ where Gruber manipulates John’s every move.

After John is forced by Simon to sport a billboard in the middle of Harlem with an incendiary racial slur scribbled across it, he inadvertently is rescued from certain death at the hands of an all black gang by Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson) – a local shop keeper. Incurring Simon’s wrath, Zeus and John are forced to join together on their search for the bombs that Simon assures them have already been planted around town and in local public schools with a countdown to total destruction.

What John and Zeus fail to realize is that Simon is not really interested in blowing up buildings, but rather in raiding New York’s gold depository for some quick cash. Simon also happens to be out for revenge on John for having killed his brother in the original Die Hard. Eventually Simon’s rouse is discovered but not before John and Zeus nearly tear one another apart.

Of all the Die Hard movies, this one is perhaps the most satisfying. The chemistry and male bonding between Jackson and Willis seems convincing and genuine; allowing the audience to grow into their relationship as their characters reluctantly do the same. Jonathan Hensleigh’s screenplay combines high octane thrills with great moments of intensely enjoyable comedy – something Part 2 regrettably lacked – thereby allowing the audience its break from Simon’s severity that threatens to bring New York to its knees.

*Aside: in the years since 911, scenes of New Yorkers fleeing explosive destruction has taken on an ominous precursor to real life events – disturbing and perhaps foreshadowing things to come. Nevertheless, as a time capsule in the days before such homeland violence was a consideration, this third installment to the franchise is engaging and exhilarating - jam packed with harrowing stunts and great excitement and thrills.

Fox Home Video’s Blu-Ray easily bests its previously issued SE DVD. The Blu-Ray’s picture quality is superb. On the whole, colors are deep, rich and solid, though there continues to be a fine patina of grain present in this third movie that neither of the first two films visually had. Flesh tones are very nicely realized. Fine details are visible and much sharper than ever seen before. The audio is HD lossless 5.1, delivering an earth shattering experience to the sonic field during the action sequences.

Extras include a making of documentary, audio commentaries, trivia tracks and theatrical trailer: all imports from the standard DVD release. Recommended!

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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