Die Hard With A Vengeance appears in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not flawless, the transfer usually satisfied.
For the most part, sharpness was pleasing. A few wider shots demonstrated some tentative delineation, but those never became major issues. Instead, the movie usually offered good clarity and definition. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering appeared, but some light edge enhancement cropped up during the flick. Source flaws were minor; I noticed a few small specks but nothing more.
Colors worked well. I thought the hues looked nicely warm and natural, and the movie displayed a bright and vivid palette throughout the film. When confronted with colored lighting, the image remained stable and showed no signs of bleeding or noise. Black levels appeared deep and rich, and shadow detail was appropriately heavy but not excessively thick. All of this was good enough for a “B”.
In regard to the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Die Hard With A Vengeance, it offered a consistently fine auditory presentation. The soundfield was very well-defined and engaging. Throughout the movie, all five speakers received a nice workout. The forward spectrum provided clean and well-delineated sound that spread clearly and accurately across the front speakers. Music showed positive stereo separation, and effects were placed appropriately within the spectrum. Elements also blended together well, and they panned neatly from side to side.
Surround usage seemed to be excellent, as the rear speakers often added some serious punch to the package. During quieter scenes, the surrounds stayed with general ambience, but the louder sequences strongly ratcheted up the auditory action. Those parts of the film made the rear channels active partners in the mix and they created a very encompassing and aggressive setting. When appropriate, the soundfield became quite involving and powerful. To see what I mean, check out the subway train sequence, or the climactic helicopter bit.
Audio quality also seemed to be quite good. At times, some dialogue sounded slightly rough and unnatural, but as a whole, speech was fairly warm and concise. Some slight edginess interfered on a few occasions, but those were rare, and I experienced no problems related to intelligibility.
Music appeared robust and bright, and it held its own among the mix of competing elements. During DH2, I thought the score got buried beneath the effects, but the mix for Vengeance maintained a better balance, and I enjoyed the clear and vivid tones of the music. Effects were positively terrific, as they showed fine clarity and excellent dynamics. When the mix got loud, the effects appeared powerful and accurate. Low-end seemed to be very strong, as explosions and other deep elements sounded rich and vibrant. Ultimately, Vengeance offered a very fine auditory experience.
When I compared this Blu-ray to the 2001 and 2007 DVDs, I found them to provide similar audio. The lossless DTS-HD track had a little more bang, but don’t expect anything very different.
On the other hand, the Blu-ray offered significant improvements in terms of visuals. All prior Vengeance DVDs looked awful, as copious edge haloes made them messy and ugly. While some edge enhancement still appeared here, it’s been toned down to a substantial degree, so the film was substantially tighter and better defined. This wasn’t a great image, but it sure looked a lot better than its predecessors.
The Blu-ray’s extras copied those from the 2001 SE DVD. First we find an audio commentary from director John McTiernan, screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh, and former 20th Century Fox President of Marketing and Distribution Tom Sherak. The three men were recorded separately and the results were edited together for this screen-specific track.
Overall, I thought this was a rather entertaining piece, mainly due to the presence of Hensleigh. The film originated as his script called Simon Says, a project that was modified into Vengeance. He provides a good discussion of changes made between the script and the film and he goes into a lot of details about the project. Hensleigh proves to be a very engaging and lively participant and he seems honest and compelling.
McTiernan also adds some solid contributions, though Hensleigh dominates the piece. The director relates some modestly revealing notes, such as the mild competition between Willis and Jackson, and he also mentions some ways in which Willis matured between the first Die Hard and the third one. He even indicates that he remembers the movie as a weak piece when he states that it’s “not as bad as I remembered”.
Sherak barely registers during the commentary. He doesn’t even appear until the 35-minute mark and he only pops up on a few brief occasions. Sherak notes a couple of financial concerns related to the film, but that was about it. Nonetheless, the commentary works very well due to the combination of Hensleigh and McTiernan, both of whom are nicely frank about the piece, which they feel free to criticize when appropriate. Many commentaries degenerate into excessive praise mode, but that’s not a problem here, as the two say what they think. I felt it was the most compelling track found on any of the first three Die Hard movies.
HBO First Look offers a 21-minute and 45-second special used to tout the film during its theatrical release. Hosted by Reginald VelJohnson – Sergeant Al Powell of the first two Die Hard flicks – this show provided the usual fluffy and promotional experience. It combined soundbites from Vengeance cast and crew plus some statements from actors who worked on the older movies; we heard from William Atherton and DH2’s William Sadler, both of whom appeared in archival clips. Otherwise, the show featured a lot of film snippets plus some behind the scenes material from the set. The latter aspects were fairly interesting and they made the program watchable, but make no mistake; this remained a promotional piece that lacked much depth.
Despite that superficial nature, “The Making of Vengance” was much stronger than the second TV special. Called A Night to Die For/McClane Is Back, this CBS program accompanied an airing of DH2. Hosted by Samuel L. Jackson, this 21-minute and 35-second piece provided a few good behind the scenes shots – especially when it looked at the subway explosion scene – but for the most part, it provided nothing more than an exceedingly silly promotional piece.
In addition to movie clips, the show included some of the usual hyperbolic soundbites from cast and crew current and past – you’ll see some material that will look familiar to owners of the Blu-ray releases of Die Hard and DH2 - plus there are a slew of cutesy snippets from folks not associated with the franchise. We get a Top Ten list from David Letterman that was lifted directly from his show. It never specifically discussed the Die Hardseries, but it was still entertaining.
As for the soundbites themselves, these included sports figures like Steve Young, Wayne Gretsky, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Mike Ditka, entertainer Wayne Newton, actresses Melanie Griffith and Mara Wilson, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, rapper Ice-T, comedian Bill Maher, and the members of the McLaughlin Group. All of them relate their thoughts about John McClane and/or the Die Hard series, which leads to the pathetic moment during which the McLaughlin crew discusses what kind of president McClane would make.
However, as embarrassing as those moments were, I wasn’t prepared for the nadir when I saw fake screentests for the role of McClane. A number of the already-mentioned interview participants took part, and we also found other folks such as B.B. King, Dr. Joyce Brothers, and Kato Kaelin! Despite some decent material from the set, the lame comedic aspects of this program make it a documentary that I will refuse to ever watch again. In fact, I may seek surgery in an attempt to purge all memory of this junk from my brain. I mean, Kato Kaelin, for God’s sake!
As for the Featurette, this four-minute and 19-second program offered a very short and fluffy look at the film, but it wasn’t bad for this kind of piece. If nothing else, it included a fun look at the problems encountered when making a film in New York. Note that this “Featurette” offers a longer version of the one found on the original 1999 Vengeance DVD; that piece edited the program down to a slightly-shorter three minutes.
Next we move to the Alternate Ending. This six-minute and two-second clip can be viewed with or without commentary from screenwriter Hensleigh. Essentially this sequence would have followed the destruction of the boat and this segment would have replaced all of the Canadian material. While it was an interesting piece, I think it would have seemed out of place in this kind of film. It’s a dark ending and it lacks the visceral release we want from a Die Hard climax.
Hensleigh seems to feel otherwise, and he discusses his opinions during his commentary. We learn the main reasons why this ending wasn’t used, and he relates why he still likes it. The commentary added a little understanding to the segment.
Under Visual Effects Breakdowns, a few clips appear. We get “Terror In the Subway”, an eight-minute and 52-second piece that focuses on the subway car crash. “Prepping the Park” takes 10 minutes and 24 seconds to look at the car chase in midtown Manhattan, while “Blowing Up Bonwit” uses seven minutes and 52 seconds to examine the movie’s opening stunt. All use the same format in that they show the stunt choreography of the scenes, with a focus on personnel such as stunt coordinator Terry Leonard. Some interview material appears, but the emphasis sticks with raw footage from the set, which allows us to see cool shots like the low-tech Matchbox car planning for the “Prepping the Park” segment. These are fun and interesting additions to the set.
Storyboard Sequence offers a two-minute and nine-second mix of filmed drawings and final film footage of the tunnel flood sequence. These are accompanied by music from the movie. I’ve never been a huge fan of storyboards, but fans of them may enjoy this brief piece.
A Bruce Willis Interview lasts for six minutes and 21 seconds and it includes many participants in addition to the star. Yes, we hear some soundbites from Willis, but we also get short interview clips from Samuel L. Jackson, John McTiernan, Graham Greene, and Terry Leonard. The piece showed some shots from the set as well, and it was a generally entertaining and fun program, though it didn’t provide much depth.
Villains With a Vengenace focused on Jeremy Irons’ Simon, but it also branched into coverage of Sam Phillips’ Katya. At four minutes and 24 seconds, it also doesn’t go too deep, but it was a moderately interesting discussion of the movie’s baddies. We see the normal mix of movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews snippets. The latter featured Irons, Phillips, Willis, Jackson, Greene, and McTiernan.
Next we find some Side by Side Comparisons. There are six of these in all, and they run between 34 seconds and 51 seconds for a total of three minutes, 57 seconds of footage. Each shows “a cross section of visual effects and stunt sequences”. That means we see intermixed shots of behind the scenes material and the final product. Ultimately, these were modest fun but they didn’t do a ton for me, though I did think it was entertaining to watch the actors perform without realistic backgrounds.
Lastly, Trailer and TV Spots contains two trailers and a whopping 10 television ads. Not surprisingly, these are the usual promos, and many of them barely differ from others. Still, I won’t complain about them. More is always better; I may not get much from a certain piece, but that doesn’t mean someone else won’t enjoy it. Fox on Blu-ray also provides ads for the other three Die Hard flicks and Alien Vs. Predator.
Look for at least one Easter Egg as well. From the “Special Features” menu, highlight “D-Box” and click down. Press “enter” to find a three-minute and 47-second blooper reel.
To be certain, I continue to really like Die Hard With A Vengeance. Actually, after some initial dissatisfaction with the movie, I’ve come to think it’s a fine piece of work; my enjoyment of it seems to increase with every addition screening. The Blu-ray presents inconsistent but usually solid picture as well as very good audio and some nice extras. After a series of ugly DVDs, this Blu-ray finally gives us a satisfying home video release of Vengeance.
To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE