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116 out of 134 people found the following review useful:

McTiernan strikes gold (again)

Author: Brandt Sponseller from New York City
19 May 2005

Series note: Although the Die Hard films obviously follow one another chronologically in the film's universe, they are not really constructed as chapters in a novel. You could watch them in any order, but to give the characters more depth, and make better sense of a couple minor references, I would still recommend watching them in order.

In my Die Hard 2 (1990) review, I complained (although apologetically) a bit about the lapses in internal logic. It ended up being somewhat excusable, because I read Die Hard 2 as a satire of the genre as much as a serious action film. With Die Hard 3, John McTiernan is back at the helm, as he was for Die Hard (1988), and the result is once again a more serious action film (containing some comic relief, of course) with very taut internal logic. In fact, Die Hard: With a Vengeance is so well constructed, so well acted and so well directed that I like it just as much, if not better, than Die Hard.

John McClane (Bruce Willis) is once again separated from his wife, and he's once again living and working as a cop in New York City. As the film begins, he is on a temporary suspension for some never-specified infraction (it works better that it isn't specified, as it enables us to imagine all kinds of crazy things that this gruff character might have done). After a bomb explodes at the Bonwit Teller department store, a mysterious person calling himself "Simon" calls the police taking credit and asking to speak with McClane--or he'll detonate further bombs in crowded areas. They rouse McClane from the aftermath of a drunken stupor. He shows up at the police station with a hangover, looking haggard. "Simon" is fond of riddles and makes McClane engage in a bizarre game of "Simon Says". The first task is for McClane to head up to Harlem and stand on a street corner in his skivvies wearing a sandwich board that says only, "I Hate Blacks" (using a more inflammatory epithet than "blacks"). Of course, he almost gets killed, but at the last minute, a reluctant savior in the form of a local shopkeeper, Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson), helps save his butt. Unwittingly, Carver ends up embroiled in the Simon Says games with McClane, with increasingly serious stakes. Just who is Simon? Why is he toying with McClane?

I should note that I was predisposed to like this film. I like Bruce Willis a lot, but I especially love Samuel L. Jackson. The combination of the two here is simply magical. They have remarkable chemistry and the characters that scriptwriter Jonathan Hensleigh has drawn enable both deep tension and hilarious comic moments between the two.

But the film succeeds on more than the charisma of its two principal actors. Die Hard: With a Vengeance has a fantastic, intelligent plot. Hensleigh ties his villain to the story of the first film in a semi-satirical way that gives the motivation for the "Simon Says" games great depth. The Simon Says games manage to be silly, smart, humorous and great catalysts for dramatic tension at the same time. There are subtle jokes about New York City, New York City cops, "reverse racism", European opinions of American intelligence, and so on. And of course, there are many edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting action sequences involving a wide variety of environments in the New York City area. The wide variety of environments was a nice change over the more limited settings of the previous two films, and gives Die Hard: With a Vengeance a feel almost like an adventure film.

It's remarkable that Hensleigh and McTiernan were able to sustain such a high level of excellence throughout. If you look at Die Hard: With a Vengeance from a broader perspective, the whole is constructed something like one of Simon's puzzles. Every scene leads inevitably, logically to the next scene, even though the film takes many "left turns", and the solution of one dilemma to the next often involves split-second timing.

It's often said that McTiernan and Hensleigh simply ignored Die Hard 2, and in terms of direct plot and dialogue references, this may be true, but they still give Die Hard 2 a nod by having an attendant humor--often almost "goofy" humor--in many action scenes. One of the most direct nods occurs with McClane "riding" something of an explosion (of water this time). This is one of the more hilarious scenes of the film.

As for subtexts, they are similar to those of the first Die Hard, with some interesting additions. There is an intriguing parallel between McClane's disheveled state, the typical New York City chaos, and the attempts to further undermine stability from the villain. Focusing on this aspect, Carver provides more of a dependable, even-keeled balance.

There are also direct references to very contemporary political subtexts--with foreigners having in mind that the U.S. has socio-economic power disproportionately in its favor. They claim to want to redress the imbalance, although in this film, at least, the claim may end up being a false representation--there appears to be corruption undermining it. However, it's interesting that there is yet another "twist" towards the end that shows the claim may not have been as corrupt as we initially believed, even if it still seems a bit mad and/or megalomaniacal. It's also interesting that the resolution is reached on foreign ground.

But the subtexts in Die Hard: With a Vengeance may be even more minor focuses than in the previous two films. Instead the focus is on the spectacle of a tightly told, thrilling action/adventure story. That's all the film needs to succeed as well as it does.

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97 out of 112 people found the following review useful:

The buddy action film has never been better.

Author: Li-1
16 April 2003

*** 1/2 out of ****

When one thinks of buddy action pictures, Lethal Weapon is immediately the first film to pop into your mind, since it virtually birthed the genre. Another choice would probably be Midnight Run or Rush Hour, the latter of which somehow took pop culture by storm (I recall my friends going around, shouting "My daddy once caught a bullet..."). So often left in the dust, probably because it was the third film of a trilogy and strayed quite a bit from its predecessors, is none other than Die Hard: With a Vengeance which, off the top of my head, is the best buddy action film I've ever seen.

How can this be? Better than Lethal Weapon 1 and 2? Better than Rush Hour? Hell, I'll even say it's better than Die Hard and Die Harder. Here is a film that wisely knows, as a second sequel, not to simply repeat the same material over again. This has partially to do with the numerous Die Hard rip-offs (namely Under Siege and Speed), so those hooks were gone, and I absolutely thank God John Mctiernan and company didn't suddenly decide "we'll do Die Hard on a plane!," which would eventually be done three times (Executive Decision, Air Force One, and Con Air). But what the filmmakers have done here is ingenious, they've widened the setting to include all of New York City.

They do this and still manage to retain the intense claustrophobia that permeated the previous entries, doing so by displaying just how frantic morning traffic is and just how BIG New York is. As nonsensical as that last statement may sound, imagine trying to get from point A to point B in the middle of a traffic jam. Mctiernan really knows how to let the tension ratchet up from just the sound of honking horns.

Then there's the case of John McClane himself. This time around, he's at the whim of a madman named Simon who requires him to perform certain tasks or New York buildings will be demolished by explosives. In the first two films, McClane was an everyman, which added much appeal, but he also acted a bit too much like a superhero to work consistently as an everyman, so what the filmmakers have done here is turn him into a jaded cop. He's seen this stuff before, so he's not as scared as he was before. Willis is great at this role, too, seeing as he's done it before in The Last Boy Scout, but takes it to perfection here.

Rather, who we now have as the everyman is Samuel L. Jackson as Zeus, and he's a brilliant addition. Not only is Jackson simply awesome in his role, he's likeable, tough, and hilarious, but he's also easy to sympathize with because he's not an action hero. He doesn't know how to use a gun, he has no combat training, and he's never had to take on terrorists before. What makes him so effective is his street-wise nature, and this quality of his works perfectly with McClane's own street smarts AND action heroics, which they combine in their day-long adventure. These two have a chemistry that at least equals Riggs and Murtaugh and if there's a Die Hard sequel, Jackson needs to come back.

Too many action movies give us poor villains who aren't menacing, vile, or charismatic enough to make for effective antagonists. Jeremy Irons' Simon Gruber is an exception. He is the best Die Hard villain, oozing charm and snaky intelligence. This was one of the last few roles of Irons' career I could take seriously. He's done what since then, Dungeons and Dragons? Pity how his career has taken such a downward spiral.

And last, there's the story and action. The plot's a lot of fun, with McClane and Zeus having to use both their brains and brawn to save the day. The contrivances in the finale (the scene with the handcuffs, the aspirin bottle) aren't enough to bring the climax down, though it's true the conclusion isn't as exciting as the rest of the film. That's understandable though, since the rest of the action is magnificent, particularly a car "chase" through the streets of New York which is as unstaged as a car chase can possibly look. The film moves at a lightning pace that grips you from the opening scene to the very last. Die Hard: With a Vengeance is an action flick that has it all.

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85 out of 99 people found the following review useful:

Not your average action movie

Author: srobi280 from Hungary
10 April 2006

This movie gets right to the point and starts off with an explosion. I love that. A crazy guy named Simon (played very well by Jeremy Irons) blows up a store, and asks to speak to John McClane, who is on suspension. The cops grab McClane, who is by now a heavy drinker, and put him on the phone with Simon. Simon makes him walk through Harlem with a very offensive sign. Just when he is about to get beat down, he is rescued by the racist Samuel L. Jackson, who plays Zeus. It seems as though Simon wants revenge on McClane for something, but nobody knows why. Now, Zeus and McClane are at the mercy of Simon, who meanwhile is committing a massive robbery.

This movie is considerably different from the other two, which is probably a good thing. Who wants the same thing three times in a row? The plot has as many twists and turns as a snake, and the movie keeps the viewer involved. Watching Zeus and McClane bicker is amusing as well. Samuel L. Jackson pulls off the role of the "racist black man" very well. I would highly recommend this movie.

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72 out of 80 people found the following review useful:

This Die Hard is the fastest moving of the trilogy.

Author: Aaron1375
8 July 2005

I like this one about as much as I like the first one. The first one had a better plot and was more tense, but this one moves at a very fast rate and it seems like it is over before it begins. A vast improvement over part two, this movie once again finds McClane in the middle of an emergency situation. This time, unlike part two, though it is very reasonable that he is involved as Irons character is the brother of the lead villain of the first Die Hard. Throw in a very funny Samuel L Jacksoncharacter and you have the makings of a great film action wise andcomedy wise too. This one centers around a mad bomber, threatening to blow up several places including a school if officer McClane does not play the game. McClane must do whatever the bomber says and boy does the bomber do a lot to get our hero down. Great action is a given as our hero desperately must try to find the bombs. Multiple car scenes a cool scene on a boat, and loads and loads of gold thrown in for an exciting ride. Irons is great as the villain, as was Rickman in the first one. Truly this is one fast moving ride that will keep you well entertained throughout.

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79 out of 111 people found the following review useful:

The best of the three!

Author: Chris Brown ( from Fresno, CA USA
21 May 2002

Die Hard With A Vengence is a near-perfect summer movie. This franchise effort is a gleeful no-brainer with nonstop action. It gives some additional perverse pleasure, as we get to watch smartypants Bruce Willis get smacked around for 112 minutes. In this third outing with John McClane, we are faced with yet another mad bomber on the loose. Jeremy Irons plays Simon, a nasty piece of Eurotrash who has a score to settle with Detective McClane. Simon's bombing game comes complete with crafty riddles, which must be solved in a specified time or everything goes boom. McClane has no choice but to play. Along the way, he picks up an unlikely accomplice named Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson), a Harlem shopkeeper. Together they tear all over New York trying to head off disaster. Sure, it's all perfectly preposterous, but DIE HARD 3 has been directed with breathless intensity by John McTiernan, who certainly has a way with wrecking things. Was he very destructive as a child? Loved the spectacular subway crash, John. That hair-raising taxi ride through Central Park wasn't bad, either. Don't forget to fasten your seat belts for this ride.

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42 out of 49 people found the following review useful:

Fast-paced and action-packed

Author: Derek237 from Canada
23 March 2003

This is definitely the grittiest of all the 3 Die Hard films. John Mclane is now a drunk, he's separated from his family, living in New York, and to make matters worse a terrorist calling himself "Simon" is out for revenge on Mclane. Mclane, and everyone else, has absolutely no idea why.

The first 2 films are superior to this one since this has a lot of changes from the mood that made the others so great. First off, it's not set on Christmas. No biggie though. Secondly, there are too many complications and twists to the plot. You almost have to take notes. And thirdly, the biggest change is that it's now turned into a buddy movie to the style of Lethal Weapon, since Samuel L. Jackson as Zeus unwillingly teams up with John Mclane. They're complete opposites, they argue, and they become friends. That sort of stuff.

Die Hard: With A Vengeance still stays true to it's amazing action scenes, though. There's plenty of explosions, there's floods, and overall general destruction. It's a different kind of movie, yes. But it's a good different kind of movie.

My rating: 9/10

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71 out of 111 people found the following review useful:

The Best Installment In The Die Hard Trilogy

Author: Big Movie Fan from England
8 January 2003

Die Hard:With A Vengeance deserves to be ranked in a top ten list of action movies. The first two Die Hard movies were brilliant but this installment just blows the first two out of the water.

Bruce Willis is back as police officer Lt. John McClane and in this movie he teams with Samuel L. Jackson as Zeus Carver to stop the wicked Jeremy Irons who is planning to cause mayhem and destruction around New York.

If you're a fan of non-stop action movies like Speed, then this is the movie with you. It doesn't let up for a second; it's one of those movies where your heart beats as fast as the characters and by the end of the movie, you'll be feeling like you ran round New York chasing a bomber. That is how all good action movies should be.

I don't think it is any exaggeration to say that Die Hard:With A Vengeance deserves to be rated one of the top action movies of the 1990's. All that has to be done now is to make Die Hard 4 which I hope would top this movie...although that would be quite a feat.

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48 out of 66 people found the following review useful:


Author: Alex Brown ( from Woking, England
18 July 2001

Regardless of what you might think of Bruce Willis, he really does excel in this series of films and John McClane, the all action policeman is the perfect role for him.

This time his sidekick is the guru of the action film, Samuel L. Jackson, the owner of an electrical store, as he goes up against the ever excellent Jeremy irons, who can play a bad guy like few others.

Irons is executing the greatest heist ever, and the shots throughout the film are spectacular. The lack of any half decent script is completely masked by explosions, but what else would you expect?

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34 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

John McClane is back and NYC is blowing up!

Author: Jeff ( from L.A. CA
9 July 2000

Someone's got a thing for John McClane. Bombs are going off around New York and if McClane doesn't do what Simon says, more things will go boom. Along for the ride with the always watchable Bruce Willis is Samuel L. Jackson, a electronics store owner who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. These two are off all over Manhattan figuring out Simon's little riddles. Jeremy Irons is perfectly cast as the intelligent Simon. He's shrewd, charming and knows how to get a job done. Back in the director's chair is John McTiernan, overseeing the mayhem. The action sequences are bigger, louder and wilder than before. Car chases, shoot outs, and a really neat sequence involving a ship, a bridge and a truck highlight this action lovers delight. So, buckle up, turn up the sound and get ready for a hell of a ride. New York is about to go boom!

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40 out of 54 people found the following review useful:

Great entry into a great series

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
28 November 2001

Someone calling himself Simon detonates several bombs in the centre of New York City. He then sets a series of dangerous tasks for Officer John McClane to achieve or he will detonate more. McClane sets out to meet the demands of the terrorists with bystander Zeus Carver in tow.

This is the third in the Die Hard series and it makes an immediate improvement on the second by bringing back the original director John McTiernan. Here the film doesn't try to repeat the formula of the first film (terrorists/wife/rescue) but instead takes on a whole new plot while still tying it into the first film. The second movie tried to repeat the first film's plot but set in an airport, here the different angle makes this feel a lot fresher and feel like a movie in itself. The tie-in to the first film is clever and not too much of a stretch of the imagination - happily this is not the reason for the action itself - instead the terrorist's main aim is the gold held in vaults in the Federal Reserve on Wall Street, but the game with McClane is a special treat.

McTiernan was great in the first film, making everything feel tense and claustrophobic. Here he has the whole of NYC to run across and the camera shows this new found freedom. In action scenes the camera swings wildly round and zooms into focus on the action. During scenes set in offices etc containing a lot of dialogue the camera slowly prowls round like it's dieing to rush off to the next action scene. It's the opposite to the style in the first film and again makes this feels different enough to be a film in it's own right.

Usually film series can get a lot of baggage (watch Lethal Weapon 4 for proof), but here all the repeat characters are dropped, even McClane's wife only features as a voice on the phone. And that works well here and the only characters that are brought back here are McClane (of course) and Hans Gruber (in a flashback). This frees the film up to basically go where it wants without having to squeeze in old characters the way the second film did. However it links the films by having Simon Gruber taking supposed revenge for the death of his brother. The fresh active feel to this movie really gives it life and lifts the series out of the hole that the second film had threatened to put it.

The chemistry between Willis and Jackson is great and lends a lot of comedy to the film, there's lot of racial humour between the two and Jackson is more than the "black sidekick" that exists in many films. Irons continues the fine tradition of English actors playing Hollywood villains and is good for the most. His ticks and stutters stop him being anywhere near as good as Rickman was in the original role but he's still good. Willis gets good support from the likes of Graham Greene, Larry Bryggman and Colleen Camp as fellow cops but really him and Jackson carry the show.

Some of the scenes are a little forced and the plot doesn't always join together easily (a scene where Willis is fired out of a water pipe just as Jackson happens to drive by is a little too convenient) but many iffy bits can be overlooked if you focus on the action. The most effective thing that returns from the first film is the musical score. In the first film the score used variations on Christmas music to dramatic effect, here the score uses music well to add tension and comedy in a different way. It's difficult to put into words but this effect was missing from the second film.

The film has a hatful of nice twists towards the end and the only problem is that the conclusion in Canada doesn't feel like it fits in (the original ending was changed following the Okalahoma bombing) but this is a minor problem in a film that is a great addition to the action packed Die Hard series.

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