STARRINGBruce Willis - Lt. John McClane
Jeremy Irons - Simon Gruber
Samuel L. Jackson - Zeus Carver
Year - 1995
Score - 3.5 Howls Outta 4
John McClane (Bruce Willis) is suspended from the NYPD [as he takes up smoking, drinking, and watching cartoons in his spare time] until a terrorist attack strikes the City of New York. Apparently, a man named Simon (Jeremy Irons) blames the attack on McClane, forcing him to do things if he wants to prevent more attacks from happening. One of these things is going in the middle of Harlem in his underwear, wearing a sign that discriminates against African-Americans. About to be attacked by a group of African-Americans who take offense to the sign, McClane is saved by Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson), who owns a shop. From here, Zeus is caught up in McClane's deal with Simon, becoming an unwilling partner as the two travel all over the city playing Simon's game and stopping more people from being killed. We eventually learn that Simon is none other than the brother of Hans Gruber, the villain in the original DIE HARD. Simon claims to want revenge on McClane for his brother's death, but he also has his own mission as well to steal all the gold from the Federal Reserve on Wall Street.
With a new environment, new supporting cast, and different time of the year [no Christmas this time], DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE rejuvenates the franchise. New York City in the summer is a great place to shoot an action film, as it gives the characters a bigger scale to conduct themselves [rather than being limited in a building or airport], but it also brings a sense of gritty reality to the film. The environment itself becomes a character, making WITH A VENGEANCE feel different from the previous DIE HARDs. John McTiernan [who also directed the original film] does another great job keeping up with the action and brings some needed suspense that was lacking in the previous sequel. We also get a lot of good character development, especially between Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, building their uneasy relationship to the point where we can identify with both characters and see how their differences at the beginning would create a friendship at the end. And while the film does lack in special effects, the stuff we do get is awesome. Especially the train sequence where it explodes inside the subway and creates a mess out of everything. As a New Yorker, I've had that fear plenty of times. And that German girl with the knives...damn. She sliced the shit out of that guy. Just great stuff production-wise. Can't complain.
The acting was real good as well. Bruce Willis owns John McClane. He's more serious this time around, not cracking as many jokes as before, but that's a good thing. Losing your wife and not being especially respected for your police work would turn anyone bitter and into a smartass, which is what McClane is here. But he's still a badass and he kicks ass as much as his ass gets kicked, although the villains didn't seem much of a threat the third time around. But Willis is a great action actor and he does more than fine here.
Samuel L. Jackson as Zeus Carver was a highlight. He played the angry black man to Willis' angry white man, which created an interesting dynamic for their relationship throughout the film. I also appreciated that the script allowed Jackson to play an intelligent and tough African-American, as the black allies in the previous films were used for comedic effect and nothing more. You take Zeus seriously the entire time and you understand that he doesn't want to play Simon's game when he had nothing to do with Simon's brother to begin with. Also with a dramatic actor like Jackson, dialogue referring to race relations become realistic and make you see that racism is still a big problem in our world today. Willis and Jackson were great together and really gave the film a kick in the ass drama-wise that the other films lacked. Two great heroes in my opinion.
Jeremy Irons did real well as Simon Gruber. I still think Alan Rickman's Hans is the best DIE HARD villain ever, but Irons is a close second. He was very charming, smooth, kinda creepy, intelligent as hell, and mentally toyed with McClane and Zeus the entire time. That's a great villain for ya. He could have been a one-note villain like Stuart in DIE HARDER, but we get a good sense as to why this man is messing with McClane and what his true purpose is. If someone killed your brother, wouldn't you want revenge too? While he does bad things, you can relate to the man a bit. Great characterization for a villain, which we don't really get in action films. Irons did a great job.
THE FINAL HOWL
DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE is a great action film. It doesn't really feel like the other DIE HARD films, but that's not really a bad thing. It still has great fight scenes, interesting characters, some neat explosions, and it was filmed in NYC [I'm biased, sue me]. Who wouldn't want to see Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson trade verbage and kick ass while they're at it? I know I would. You should too. If you're looking for a good 90s action flick, this one is it. Yippee-Ki-Yay, motherf**ker!