Die Hard: with a Vengeance

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.


19 thoughts on “Die Hard: with a Vengeance

  1. was also disappointed with this. but i probably would have rated it a C+. I found most of the film satisfying, but was really let down by the climax, it was so unthrilling. Mclaine just shot down their helicopter with a rifle. There was no exclamation point, like in the first die hard where he had his pistol taped to his bareback and drew it faster than the other two guys. or in Die Harder, where he fought the terrorists on the wing of a plane.

    • I was pretty disappointed by Die Harder, as well, but hey, that’s what happens when you expect a sequel to a groundbreaking legend to be anything close. DHWAV, on the other hand, was just a severe waste of time. Had they put “No Brains Cells Were Harmed in the Making of This Film” into the credits, I would have sued. I believe since that movie, I have grown a bit stupider; it massacred my mind. On another note, a bought Live Free or Die Hard last weekend. So I’m excited to see if I wasted my money. 🙂

  2. I just have to straight-up disagree with everything you said here. I love this film. I saw it when it first released; I was 15 years old and for me it’s stuck forever in that nostalgic bubble. The titles are meant to be corny, that’s part of the charm of the series. I think your comment about sequels needing to be the same as the original is misguided. The best and most successful franchises are when each sequel changes and expands on what went before, instead of just repeating it. Look at the Alien/Aliens series, or The Godfather, or Star Wars (the original trilogy). Otherwise that’s when the Law of Diminishing Returns kicks in, with the sole exception of the James Bond series.

    • Nostalgia often does the trick, and sometimes so does seeing it when it first comes out, especially if you love the series. I can’t speak for the last two Aliens or the last Godfather yet, but I can agree with your assessment that the directions of Star Wars, Alien, and The Godfather were quick to change. They just didn’t go as far off as Die Hard did. I don’t remember seeing McClane drinking heavily at all in the first two. Maybe he took one or two drinks, but surely not enough to get suspended from the NYPD and undergo a massive character change. I’ll respect your opinion, but I just had so many problems with this film.

  3. A pretty harsh review. I would say its more of a B myself.

    Did you know the next one is supposed to take Bruce to Russia? That’s what I read. It’s probably changed by now.

    • I know, my review was scathing. I was surprised I didn’t consider smacking it with an F. But a B?! Sorry, I can’t come to understand that. I’m someone who likes a series to be set up one way and stay that way. The Die Hard saga booted up with a solophobic (I think that’s a word), gritty mood. Here, it’s just a silly buddy film.

      I’m not surprised if they take Bruce to Russia, actually. They’ll probably take him anywhere as long as terrorism can be justified. But I probably shouldn’t be saying it like that, since the series still has a chance. I’m going to hope for enjoyment in Live Free or Die Hard (some know it as Die Hard 4.0, which is a much more sophisticated title).

      • My two favorites are actually the first one and the fourth one even though that fourth one was tainted with PG-13. The PG-13 actually plays better than the unrated one.

          • It depends. The language is back, but you can tell a few times it is probably done in post production. The blood is also CGI and not blood packets.

            The better one liners are also in the PG-13 version.

  4. It’s a really stupid sequel (capped off with one of the worst titles I have ever heard of), and I completely agree with your review. I felt bored and couldn’t wait for the movie to end.

    • How much more can I agree with what you said? At least it didn’t go as bad as Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, haha. By the scene when Willis and Jackson were trying to figure out how to get four gallons of water into a five gallon jug using a filled three gallon jug, I had decided I’d rather have had Alan Rickman’s character (from film number one) be proved alive after all and become the villain once again.

      About the title, none of them in the series are good. “Die Hard 2: Die Harder” is redundant, “Die Hard: with a Vengeance” sounds so much more corny than thrilling, “Live Free or Die Hard” sounds like an excuse to come up with a title, and “A Good Day to Die Hard” sounds…just plain weird.

    • Thanks. I often thought, “What on Earth am I watching?!” So many of my friends on Flixster gave this four stars plus, which I simply cannot understand. This was a cheap imitation of a ripoff of a timeless classic, and it doesn’t deserve to have “die hard” in the title. Yippee-ki-nay. I’m probably going to watch Live Free or Die Hard at some point, though. I’m interested to see how such a definitively graphic, hard-R series can do in a PG-13 zone. Even more interested after seeing reviews that come quite close to those of the original. Then I’ll decide whether or not I should see A Good Day to Die Hard, which comes out next year for the 25th anniversary of Die Hard.

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