5.02.2008

Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995)

DIRECTED BY
John McTiernan


STARRING
Bruce Willis - Lt. John McClane
Jeremy Irons - Simon Gruber
Samuel L. Jackson - Zeus Carver

Year - 1995

Score - 3.5 Howls Outta 4


In the early 90s, the action genre was in a decline. Arnold Schwarzenegger & Sylvester Stallone weren't the draws they used to be [applies more to Stallone]. Comedies, cartoons, and science fiction films were becoming more profitable. New wave of directors like Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez were bringing their own take on action to the table with good results. And a guy with a surfer accent named Keanu Reeves became the IT action star by stopping a bus from going over 55 mph in SPEED. But even with this change in the genre, the fans never forgot about Bruce Willis and his character John McClane, wanting more DIE HARD. So after 5 years, the third DIE HARD was filmed and released. After the disappointment of the second one creatively, would the third one make up for it by bringing something new to the franchise? Or would the curse of the number three strike McClane as well?

PLOT
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.

REVIEW
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 alot 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 [although it got kinda irritating towards the end] to Willis' angry white man, which created an interesting dynamic for their relationship throughout the film. I also appreciated that the cript 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.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED FROM WATCHING THIS FILM

1) Black children go to school in order to help themselves so white people don't get the chance to. If Michael Jackson had learned that from the start, maybe his white lawyers wouldn't have made the man bankrupt. Or a pedophile. Or more plastic than Barbie. Remember...for black people, white is not alright.

2) If you're hungover and you have a sudden need to stop racial strife, don't carry a sign that reads "I Hate N*****s" in the middle of Harlem. While the experience of getting beat to death will sober you up, I doubt it's worth making new friends that way.

3) I doubt the 12-step program for sobriety includes being ridiculed at the workplace. I think Lindsay Lohan would also toast a drink to that!

4) Playing phone tage with a German madman is the bomb! God, I love puns...

5) Bruce Willis is a terrible driver. Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Nicole Richie are obviously huge fans of this film.

6) If you murder a villain in the first part of a movie franchise, expect a family member to extract revenge in one of the sequels. See also: SCREAM & FRIDAY THE 13TH.

7) German people are crazy. Any country that would worship the music of David Hasselhoff definitely needs psychological evaluation.

8) The 21st President of the United States was "Go Fuck Yourself". Okay that's not true, but he would have been a more interesting one than Chester A. Arthur [who??].

9) McClane must have a great health plan. And a very common blood type.

10) Don't ever let your best friend hang around you when you're with your girlfriend. Your girlfriend will just end up killing you to be with him. They don't call him "best" friend for nothing.

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, motherfucker!

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