John McClane and a store owner must play a bomber's deadly game as they race around New York while trying to stop him.
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John McTiernan returns to direct Die Hard With A Vengeance (he directed Die Hard 1, but not Die Hard 2), and he sets the tone early. We open with a bang; less than one minute into the movie we have our first explosion.
The budget was obviously much bigger for this movie than it was the first two. There were exploding cars, trains, helicopters and an extravagant car chase through Central Park. Not to mention that filming in New York City is not cheap. But being released in 1995, five years after Die Hard 2, the expectations were tremendous, especially with the return of McTiernan at the helm. It turned out to be the highest grossing film of the year (domestic and international).
In Vengeance, the gore is a lot more visceral than the first two installments. The fake red blood is dark and almost black to give it a much dirtier and realistic feel. In addition, the blood is chunky, which implies that more than just blood has been shed. Though the first two Die Hards were certainly R-rated movies, Vengeance makes sure of it with a combination of violence, gore and an abundance of profanity.
McClane is his usual self: a burnt out cop having marital problems with full-blown alcoholism around the corner. But he retains his cat-like ability to burn through lives. I think he uses 8 by the end.
In Vengeance, McClane is a suspended New York City lieutenant. No explanation is given as to how he is a New York City policeman (since he was an LA policeman in Die Hard 2). But the idea was for this film to be a sequel to the first, and let the second be a stand-alone.
To keep it simple, John McClane is still the same John McClane that we have come to know and love.
The villain, Simon Gruber, played by Jeremy Irons, is the brother of Hans Gruber. If you have seen the first Die Hard, you may recognize Hans as the criminal mastermind that McClane threw out the building. As any brother would be, Simon wasn’t happy about what McClane did to Hans. So he decides, with a vengeance of course, to play a series of deadly games with McClane.
Samuel L. Jackson plays McClane’s unwilling partner, Zeus. He is a very racially conscious electrician from Harlem. His good deed of the day lands him in the passenger seat of McClane’s wild ride to find Simon.
Jonathan Hensleigh (whose following three films were Jumanji, The Saint and Armageddon), did an excellent job with the script. McClane’s humorous nature stays intact as he delivers a slue of one-liners throughout the film. Additionally, the characters behaviors followed a very consistent pattern. However I felt the racial jokes and commentaries became quite hackneyed by the end of the film. Zeus constantly yells at John for being a racist anytime a slightly off-color term is thrown about. If Hensleigh was trying to make a social commentary, he kept hitting us in the head with it. A little subtlety goes a long way. But I don’t believe he was trying to be so profound; I believe he realized it was the third Die Hard movie and people didn’t come to see it for values they could take home with them. They came to be excited and on the edge of their seats for two hours. And that’s exactly what they got. The reference to racism was no more than a running joke in my opinion, but it got a little old by the end.
The plot is pretty straightforward. McClane has pissed off the wrong guy. We soon come to find out it is the brother of Hans Gruber from the first Die Hard. While this man sends McClane and Zeus on scavenger hunts around New York City, we find his ulterior motive. He is going to rob billions of dollars in gold bullion from the federal reserve hidden in secret vaults under Wall Street. McClane has to find him and stop him before he escapes.
It is a common plot for an action movie, but has a unique spin. It’s Die Hard meets the Riddler from Batman. Each location for the scavenger hunt is deciphered when the riddle is completed. For example, the numerical answer to one riddle was the phone number McClane was to call back for further instruction. I enjoyed the riddles. I can guarantee that everyone who has seen this movie, including myself, was trying to figure out the riddles in real-time, like McClane had to. It was fun and it was unique. But, each riddle was preceded with “Simon Says”, because the villain’s name is Simon. I mean c’mon. Simon Says? With a movie so violent and gritty, we know that 95% of the population will be males, aged 18-34. So skip the Simon Says, it’s a little hacky.
Again, if you’re here by now, I assume you want my take. Well here it is: This is a great action movie. But take it for what it is. It is an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that keeps you guessing from the start, but not much more. I think it’s the second best of the four Die Hards. Not only is it a great action movie, but it has a lot of fun elements in it as well.
The cast was great. Coming off of Pulp Fiction, Willis and Jackson had immediate on-screen chemistry. It felt very real. In addition, Irons played a villain that very literally, could have been Hans’ brother. The screen presence of all of the main actors was spot on which made the movie believable (from a character standpoint. By now we know that the laws of physics are often suspended for these films).
If you are thinking about renting only one Die Hard, make it the first one. But if you’ve seen that and want more, make sure this is the next one you see.