Director: John McTiernan
Cast: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Irons, Sam Phillips, Nick Wyman
Plot: A bomber leaves cryptic clues and threats for the police, demanding that John McClane (Willis) follow out a sadistic game of Simon Says.
In the rule of the Die Hard forums, there is a common opinion that the second film was a pale imitation of the incredible action debut from John McClane and it wasn’t until McTiernan returned to the franchise and made this, the third Die Hard movie, did the series return to its original glory. However, my personal opinion is the exact opposite. While the second Die Hard film was hardly in the same league as the original, it did the job well enough. It followed the rules, keeping the hero trapped in a strange setting with vastly superior terrorist enemies, forced to pick them off one by one, wise-cracking all the way. Die Hard with a Vengeance seems to totally break from the formula. Yes, McClane is still hopelessly outmatched by the East German mercenaries, but the ‘one-man-army’ charm is lost in a busy city with a packed cast of allies to our hero. While it is hardly a bad movie, the third Die Hard movie is far from the success a lot of people seem to think it is.
For one, the revenge angle sucks a lot of the intelligence out of the plot. The villain in this one has a personal vendetta against McClane, so rather than Bruce Willis ending up in a situation by accident, an unexpected fly in the bad guy’s plot, he is purposefully made the centre of the explosive scheme to terrorise New York. It means that the plot moves along at a strangely formulaic pace. The Simon Says angle is actually quite fun, pipping the Saw movies to the post, a decade early, however, it does feel like it doesn’t belong in this franchise. McClane being trapped in the situation isn’t quite as literal as the other two films and at times, it does feel like a totally separate action movie, where Willis is playing a copycat McClane, rather than McClane himself. The villains have great potential, but don’t really go anywhere. Jeremy Irons has great fun, injecting that slice of personality, missing from William Sadler’s antagonist in Die Hard 2. There is also good support from a muscle-bound henchman and a knife-wielding lady assassin. However, while the build-up was good, I have always felt that McTiernan messes up the ending, breaking the finale into two separate set-pieces. We end up robbed of a worthy showdown between McClane and both Irons and Sam Phillips. It brings the whole movie down on a flat note, wrapping the film up in a sense that the Die Hard writers are merely going through the motions. Even the cheeky references to the original, such as bringing up Holly Gennero and using that immortal line: Yippie Ki Yay, feel slightly old, as though the writers were struggling to squeeze them into the plot. Mind you, it’s hardly a dud film. In fact, the movie has a stroke of genius in pairing McClane with Samuel L. Jackson’s Zeus. Jackson and Willis are on terrific form, the heart of Die Hard beating in their chests. The witty banter between the two heroes fuel the middle section of the action, coming across a lot stronger than the action. There are also flashes of ingenuity in some of the set-pieces, where that old Die Hard charm peeks out at us from behind the tired structure it appears to have become. No, it is hardly a Good Day to Die Hard level of disappointment, but it does continue the trend of a dwindling action series that it took the fourth film to snap McClane out of.
Final Verdict: While a solid action, the third Die Hard has a sense of McClane’s outings feeling stale and in need of returning to the original’s charm and structure.