Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)

Time has worked in favor of DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE, the first gas-
guzzling action sequel of the summer.  We've had over five years to
forget the formulas of both DIE HARD (1988) and DIE HARDER (1990), so we
don't really notice that the new film isn't set at Christmastime, and
that it doesn't involve the character of McClane's wife.  We've also
forgotten the *follies* of the first films-- such as continuity errors
and tone problems.  (Remember the Pacific Bell telephones in DIE HARD
2?) So, even with the original DIE HARD director John McTiernan back at
the helm, the new DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE feels different-- like a
second-cousin to the source material.  And it feels fresh, thanks to a
strong cast, a great plot, and the best location for filming on the face
of the earth.

Bruce Willis is back as John McClane, the New York cop known for ending
up in the wrong place at the wrong time.  These days he's not doing too
well-- he's on suspension, estranged from his wife, and suffering from a
hangover that lasts the entire film.  His salvation from self-destruct-
ion is a Harlem repair-shop owner (Samuel L.  Jackson), who becomes
McClane's reluctant partner in a battle of wits against a riddle-toting
bomber (Jeremy Irons).  Jackson's character seems to be written as
McClane's "human side," but their relationship is never adequately
fleshed-out.  They don't bond.  The casting of aristocratic actor Jeremy
Irons as the villain is a nice touch, though.  He has a grand old time
hacking his way through a bad German accent, even if he isn't terribly,
ahem, animated.

The plot of DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE plays more like a caper-film than
anything else.  The superbly staged action sequences are little more
than bookends to a marvelously intricate heist that recalls a certain
1964 James Bond film.  The car chases and subway explosions are a gas,
to be sure, but what's really neat is watching the bad guys march right
through Wall Street in an audacious daylight robbery.  (The rest of the
plot has Willis et al tracking down chemical bombs.  Its an amusing

Not surprisingly, DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE runs low on steam at the
end.  When the caper concludes, all that's left is for the bad guys to
get theirs.  Unfortunately, the last two sequences, involving a ship and
a helicopter, are rushed and they don't deliver the expected emotional
payoff.  Instead of flash, its a fizzle.  The movie just ends.  There
are other examples of bad editing, such as the many small plot details
that need more explanation.  For example, just how *does* McClane manage
to muster cross-jurisdictional support at the very end of the story?  A
tighter film (ala SPEED) wouldn't care, but DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE is
too big for that sort of nonsense. Blame the rushed production schedule.

The most enjoyable aspect of DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE is, of course,
New York City.  The villains blow up Wall Street, the heroes careen
through Central Park, and everyone keeps asking about last night's
lotto.  There's flourish after flourish, from spectators gawking at fire
engines to dump-truck drivers who know obscure presidential trivia.  For
a good ninety minutes, Bruce, Sam, and Jeremy play opposite the film's
most colorful character, the City.  Who can say what's more exciting,
subway trains exploding, or *New York* subway trains exploding?

BOTTOM LINE:  Badly edited, but still the best New York movie in a 
              while. One question, wheres Andrew Guiliani?

Grade: B+

Copyright 1995 by Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies

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