Bottom Line: Bruce Willis (and everyone else associated), what have you done!?
Directed by: John McTiernan
Starring: Anthony Peck, Bruce Willis, Colleen Camp, Graham Greene, Jeremy Irons, Larry Bryggman, Nick Wyman, Sam Phillips, Samuel L. Jackson
It was in 1988 that director John McTiernan released his DIE HARD. This was THE film that brought THE action genre to life, mind you; I usually try to avoid using the word “awesome”, but there’s just no other word to employ for that classic. Two years later, a director by the name of Renny Harlin decided to follow-up the original with DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER, a cheating excuse for a sequel that changes infinitesimal details from the first film, such as characters’ names and the setting. Now let’s go to 1995. We have DIE HARD: WITH A VENGEANCE. The return of director McTiernan could lead you to hope for a film that gives the series legs, but if anything, this third entry takes the series’ arms off as well.
If anything, DIE HARD: WITH A VENGEANCE makes its predecessor look memorable, by comparative standards. This loud action film (did they mean to make it a comedy, as well?) pits classic action hero John McClane (Bruce Willis) against a group of German terrorists–again!–led by Simon Gruber (Jeremy Irons), a close relative to the first film’s antagonist. Oh, but there ARE a few greatly notable discrepancies*** between this film and the previous entry. By his side is an adventurous man named Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson), and he has now been suspended from his job at the New York Police Department. It’s ironic that the one and only DIE HARD film that doesn’t see McClane as a cop at the NYPD is also the one and only entry in the series that takes place in none other than the Big Apple itself. It’s also quite sad. To anyone who loves a good action movie–one that isn’t just an insipid excuse like “explosions = plot points” and “extensive chase scene = plot”–John McClane, though he may be a character, cannot be defined as merely a marvel. To see him on the street telling his city of residence that he hates humanity (I’m not kidding!) is a blasphemy. Moreover, Samuel L. Jackson’s character shouldn’t have even been written into this film in the first place. That’s precisely similar to giving James Bond a partner. Actually, in CASINO ROYALE, Bond was given a partner, but he learned never to trust anyone after less than three minutes; it worked flawlessly for that series. So what am I saying about Samuel L. not being written in? Had screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh given Samuel L. a much lesser role, he would have worked out fine here.
It’s rare for me to be bored during an action movie, especially if it has the words “die hard” in the title. I wasn’t even bored with DIE HARDER, but rather annoyed that it was overly similar to the first film. This was much different. The famous John McClane catchphrase (“Yippee-ki-yay, motherf—er”) is also misplaced in this entry. The context in which it was placed was ingenious in the first film and rather fine in the first sequel, but by now, it seems to be a cliché. Nonetheless, this film, by now, seems to be a mere celebration of the “hard-R” rating that makes the original DIE HARD what it is. We care about a good plot, you know. Throwing in profanity after profanity, complementing that with graphic violence, THEN working on figuring out what the plot will be, doesn’t make a film. It makes obnoxiousness. I never would have thought Bruce Willis would be the irritating one. Or the stupid one. Kudos to the villains who made his character look like his IQ dropped within the time between the productions of this film and its predecessor.
***Let’s try to disregard the fact that for the first time, it’s not set around Christmas.