Directed by: John McTiernan
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Written by Nick McCann
“Die Hard: With a Vengeance” starts off hot and doesn’t let up. John McClane has all of New York City to run around as he attempts to stop a mad bomber. What the film lacks in the traditional tight confines from the first two entries, is made up for by the small clock our characters are on which evokes a similar panicked sense of claustrophobia. Everyone’s thinking quicker, more efficiently, finding shortcuts, all while under the pressure of a wrong move meaning lost time and many dead. It’s fast-paced, darkly raw at times and the type of thrill ride you don’t find much anymore. Not to mention the way it connects back to the first movie raises the stakes even further. The catch though is that the ending feels too convenient and tacked on. But that’s something easy to put up with considering the large amount of enjoyment to be had at the rest of the story.
Once again, Bruce Willis dawns the tank top and sports the Beretta handgun as McClane. He’s much more down on his luck here, as a borderline alcoholic that’s exhausted and ready to say “screw it” to his life. Yet there’s still an endearingly stubborn nature that wants to keep people out of harm’s way. Willis has this performance down to a tee. Alongside him is Samuel L. Jackson who makes for a great partner in Zeus, equally high-strung but with the intelligence that McClane needs in this situation. Jeremy Irons is a brilliant villain, coming the closest to evoking the sophisticated vileness of Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber. The rest of the supporting cast is arguably the best of the series, and the new cooperation angle among the ensemble adds much-needed relief after the smack McClane took head on in the last two movies.
Also returning is John McTiernan in the director’s chair. His eye for action is still among some of the best ever. Suspense drives these scenes over outright spectacle. But when it is time to go loud, the build-up feels worth it as set pieces hit with a realness you hardly see anymore. This is further emphasized by the great practical effects and stunt work, giving us big explosions, taxi cab off-roading through Central Park, or the occasional close-quarters engagement. The camera work is slick and Michael Kamen’s score propels with high energy. The one technical hang-up is the visual effects are more obvious than before. Not terrible but a step down from ILM’s work on the first two.
McClane may not be stuck inside a building but this feels like the most worthy “Die Hard” sequel. It’s easily the darkest of the “Die Hard” series and not just because a dude gets cut in half. With constant forward momentum, great performances, and visceral action, you’ll be hard-pressed to pause for anything once you start watching. A ride like this totally outweighs whatever problems come it’s way.
“Die Hard: With a Vengeance” Trailer