Die Hard with a Vengeance (LBX,DD,THX)

Studio: 20th Century Fox
Catalog Number: 8858-85
Date Released: January 17, 1996
Suggested Retail Price: $49.98
out of five stars

Die Hard with a Vengeance surprisingly breaks from the Die Hard tradition.  Unlike the first two movies, John McClane (Bruce Willis) is not trapped in a small, claustrophobic area like a building (Die Hard) or an airport (Die Hard 2: Die Harder).  Instead, McClane has to run around the whole city of New York doing the bidding of evil Eurotrash terrorist Simon (Jeremy Irons)  In addition, Holly McClane (Bonnie Bedelia) is not in the movie. However, this does not mean this movie is inferior to the other Die Hards. In fact, Die Hard with a Vengeance is a great action movie that could have been as good as the first if it wasn't hobbled by a relatively weak ending.

The plot is simple but effective. The movie literally starts with a bang. Simon (Jeremy Irons) blows up the Bonwit Teller department store. He demands that NYPD detective John McClane follow his bizarre instructions or else he will blow up more buildings. A depressed (he recently separated from his wife and moved back to New York) McClane is forced to walk down a street in Harlem, in his underwear, holding a sign with a racist message printed on it.  Luckily, McClane is saved from angry gang members by Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson). An irate Simon sends both of them on more missions. Of course, Simon's plan is more devious than simply killing McClane - he plans to rob billions of dollars worth of gold from the federal reserve while the police worry about the bomb he placed in a school. The plot, of course, is simply a ploy to move the action between set pieces like a subway station (a fake one built in South Carolina) to the federal reserve bank (an empty Wall Street bank). However, director John McTiernan keeps the action exciting and flowing quickly. In addition, the movie builds enough tension and suspense as McClane and Zeus figure out Simon's true plan.

In addition, the cast is terrific. Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson have great chemistry and while Jeremy Irons is not as good as Alan Rickman in Die Hard, he is better than any villain in Die Hard 2.

Unfortunately, the ending is rather weak as John McClane confronts Simon in . . . Canada?! The ending is strangely rushed and feels tacked on (the original script actually had Simon escaping).

Note: There is also a DTS version of the film that utilizes the same picture transfer.
out of five stars

The biggest disappointment with this laserdisc (other than the steep price) is the picture quality.  While the THX approved Laserdiscs of the first two Die Hard movies are excellent (perhaps even reference quality), this one is a big letdown. While the colors are accurate and relatively noise free, the picture suffers from excess edge enhancement. Imagine cranking the sharpness control of your TV all the way up. Now multiply that by ten and you have what this laserdisc looks like. Almost all the horizontal lines in this movie are jagged and shimmer like crazy. In addition, the picture is slightly grainy. It is hard to believe that this disc is THX approved. Amazingly, this transfer is used again in the DVD release.

Image Copyright © 1996 Fox Home Video
Yikes, look at those jagged lines!!!

The movie is spread over three sides. Side three is in CAV while the other two sides are in CLV. My copy was pressed at Pioneer Japan although some copies were pressed at Pioneer USA as well. Interestingly, the dead side (side 4) was pressed by Pioneer USA. The pressing quality is merely OK with a few speckles and a weird line that looks like a scratch defect (except there is no scratch) that lasts three seconds on side 3 marring the picture.
out of five stars

Left Channel Right Channel
Digital Tracks Dolby Surround Soundtrack Dolby Surround Soundtrack
Analog Tracks Mono Soundtrack  Dolby Digital Soundtrack 

While the picture quality of this movie is a letdown, the sound is not. Die Hard with a Vengeance has the best sound mix of any Die Hard movie. Die Hard's sound was a little harsh and Die Hard 2's suffered from some bad ADR. The Dolby Surround soundtrack on this Laserdisc is quite dynamic with deep bass (listen to the dump trucks) yet clear (the sound effects don't override the dialog). The Dolby Digital soundtrack was not reviewed because I don't have a Dolby Digital receiver (yet).
out of five stars

Die Hard with a Vengeance comes in an attractive gatefold cover.  The back contains the standard description of the movie. However, the inside contains some interesting tidbits on the production of the movie as well as the chapter listings.  We learn that most of the movie was filmed in New York although some of the action scenes (like when Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson jump onto the freighter) were filmed in South Carolina (which helps explain why the weather in the movie alternates from bright and sunny to rainy and stormy). Even though my copy of Die Hard with a Vengeance was pressed by Pioneer Japan, the Laserdiscs came in the superior paper inner sleeve.

In addition to the movie, Die Hard with a Vengeance includes the trailers to all three Die Hard movies (in CAV no less).
Final Verdict
out of five stars

This Laserdisc is a letdown considering the picture quality of the first two movies. In addition, while it includes some nice features like a nice gatefold cover and trailers, it is rather expensive for what it is. In the end, it is a merely mediocre Laserdisc of a good movie.

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