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For me, the absence of actress Bonnie Bedelia from DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE lessened the impact of this third film in the series. Now, I don't want to give the impression that I didn’t find DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE entertaining. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE is almost as entertaining as the original film. However, Bonnie Bedelia was the emotional center of the first two DIE HARD films; it was her presence that helped elevate them above stereotypical action movies. Should their be a forth DIE HARD movie, I certainly hope that it includes the participation of Ms. Bedelia.

At the end of DIE HARD 2, John McClane (Bruce Willis) was a happy man; he had transferred to the L.A.P.D. and had reconciled with his wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia). As DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE opens, we find that McClane and his wife have split up once again, and that John is now back in New York City and on suspension from the police force. It would seem that without Holly, John McClane is an incomplete man, spending the last year drowning in alcohol. Even though McClane is on suspension, the NYC police department is forced to return the hung over detective to active duty after a terrorist blows up a department store in the city, then specifically demands the presence of suspended officer. It seems that the terrorist bomber, who identifies himself only as Simon, wants to play a deadly little game of Simon Says with John McClane. Should the police or McClane himself not accede to Simon's demands, Simon says that he will blow up some other heavily trafficked spot in the city. Although he is in the worst shape of his career, McClane jumps through Simon's hoops, buying time until he figures out just exactly what Simon really wants.

DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE also stars Samuel L. Jackson as Zeus Carver, a good Samaritan who rescues McClane from a Harlem street gang that intend to do him serious bodily harm. For his trouble, Simon demands that Zeus play Simon Says along with McClane. As quick as you can say "Buddy Movie", this unlikely duo find themselves taking on Simon, plus his entire team of international terrorists. Really good action movies always have memorable villains; DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE is no exception. Oscar winner Jeremy Irons gives an intricate (and fun) performance as Simon, the sophisticated terrorist leader who is not above taking a bit of revenge against McClane, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of his brilliant master plan. Like the original film, DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE mixes a well conceived story with solid characterization and non-stop action. Original director John McTiernan steps behind the camera once again, making DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE a wild ride that is never allowed to crash out of control. In addition to Willis, Irons and Jackson the cast also includes Graham Greene, Colleen Camp, Larry Bryggman, Anthony Peck and Nicholas Wyman.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE available on DVD in a Letterboxed presentation that restores the film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio, but omits the 16:9 anamorphic enhancement for wide screen televisions. While the transfer isn’t bad, DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE isn’t the best looking DVD I’ve ever seen. Where the first two DIE HARD films had smooth, well defined transfers, this DVD is a bit harsh and grainy looking, taking on an overly contrasty appearance in places. Sure, the detail is there, but something makes this transfer seem a little cold to me. Color reproduction offered fairly natural flesh tones, however saturation varied with the cinematography. There were no problems with chroma noise on the DVD. Competent DVD authoring and dual layered technology disguised all traces of compression artifacts. The layer change induced a slight, albeit noticeable pause on my player.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack rocks, with excellent channel separation and full, deep bass, certain to kick you into next week. Dialogue is clean and focused in the center channel, while the surround channels are aggressively deployed for the films action sequences. Matrixed English and French Dolby Surround soundtracks have also been encoded into the DVD, as have English and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus have been enhanced with animation and sound. Through the menus one has access to the standard scene and language selection features, plus trailers for all three of the DIE HARD movie, a short production featurette, a slide show and cast biographies/filmographies. DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE is available on DVD individually for $29.98, or as part of DIE HARD TRILOGY box set for $79.98.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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