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Review: Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995)

Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995)
Feb. 13, 2013by:
8 10
NOTE: With A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD opening on Thursday, we thought this would be a great time to revisit the older films from the franchise, so expect a review/day until my review of the latest one is posted on Friday.

PLOT: Detective John McClane returns to work after a suspension when a mad bomber requests the officer to play a game of Simon Says. He soon finds that he must team up with a store owner from Harlem who is inadvertently thrown into the action.

REVIEW: In DIE HARD: WITH A VENGEANCE, Bruce Willis returns as Lieutenant Detective John McClane who is now an alcoholic dealing with his broken family ties and suspension from his job. The job pulls him out of his situation however when a mysterious caller named Simon phones the police with a strange request he wants McClane to be dropped off in the middle of Harlem dressed only in his boxers and a racially offensive sandwich board. Since a bomb has already gone off in the first few minutes of the film, the officials take this threat serious and do as their told convincing the off balance McClane to go through with it. When a Good Samaritan named Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson) saves the day, the two men are forced into a deadly game connecting to the original DIE HARD.

With the return of director John McTiernan to this series the third installment takes a more serious approach. While the humor is still intact, the plot deals with a few very frightening situations including the threat of blowing up a school if the officers do not do what they are told. Much like the original film, McTiernan with a screenplay written by Jonathan Hensleigh which was re-conceived from his original spec script Simon Says offers a little more insight into the villain. The fantastic Jeremy Irons portrays Simon Gruber, brother to one Hans who has a pretty good reason to have an issue with McClane. While this outing certainly feels a little grittier than the last, the action is certainly bigger than the first continuing the trend of making McClane larger than life.

One of the most interesting changes in this chapter is the idea of having McClane have a full on partner in crime. Sure he has always had one character watching his back, but they were never at the same level of danger. This was a new beginning for the franchise to introduce an actual sidekick a trend the films continue to have. Thankfully, you cant do much better than Mr. Samuel L. Jackson who had worked previously with Willis in PULP FICTION and would work with him again in UNBREAKABLE (Willis was also featured in a cameo for LOADED WEAPON 1 starring Jackson and Emilio Estevez). The two actors work especially well together and make for a terrific F-bomb dropping team.

With a great on-screen duo, VENGEANCE spends a whole lot of time setting up the character of Simon and his motivations. It works, just not quite as well as it did the first time around. As McClane and Zeus continually find themselves figuring out Simons riddles while the NYPD attempt to locate what buildings are being targeted for destruction, it becomes a tad bit tedious. It is obvious what they are building up to and while it works, it didnt generate as much tension as it should have. Even still this is a well-executed flick that offers up a number of exciting moments, and every step of the way I was rooting the good guys to come out on top. It is also nice to see a little bit of that realism that McTiernan brought to the classic original.

For me, one of the most impressive scenes in the film is the alternate ending which is available on the Blu-Ray. According to Hensleigh and his commentary, there were several discussions with the studio and the filmmakers suggesting that this particular moment made McClane seem too much like Gruber himself. It also lacks the explosive action that audiences are accustomed to in a DIE HARD flick. Even still it might have been interesting to see how fans would have reacted to this particular ending. Either way, it is a great scene to contrast and compare with what made it into the finished film.

This is a solid sequel that offers much of the class that McTiernan brought to the first film. The inclusion of a sidekick worked here quite well thanks to smart casting. How nice it would have been to see Jackson return in the next installment. He gives a terrific performance as does Willis who continues to bring life to this much put upon detective. DIE HARD: WITH A VENGEANCE is a very satisfying experience with some truly imaginative action-set-pieces which continue to make this a thrilling franchise. DIE HARD was back with a vengeance Indeed!

Extra Tidbit: Should Samuel L. Jackson have been in the next installment or was it better as a one time deal?
Source: JoBlo.com

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2:33PM on 02/13/2013

My favorite DIE HARD film

i don't know what it is. Maybe because it's set in NY and it's got that perfect NY tone. it opens with "Hot time, summer in the city and then BOOM! Then we're in harlem and Sam J. shows up. It's fucking awesome. And as much as I love Rickman as the Villain in the first. Irons kills it as the Villian in VENGEANCE. He reminds me of the RIDDLER from the BATMAN DETECTIVE COMICS where he had Batman and Robin running around Gotham chasing their own tail trying to save lives while he was plotting
i don't know what it is. Maybe because it's set in NY and it's got that perfect NY tone. it opens with "Hot time, summer in the city and then BOOM! Then we're in harlem and Sam J. shows up. It's fucking awesome. And as much as I love Rickman as the Villain in the first. Irons kills it as the Villian in VENGEANCE. He reminds me of the RIDDLER from the BATMAN DETECTIVE COMICS where he had Batman and Robin running around Gotham chasing their own tail trying to save lives while he was plotting something bigger. Just my thoughts.
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11:20AM on 02/13/2013
Not a bad one, bit it always feels a bit OFF to me. Never liked adding Jackson's sidekick being added. He was so EVERYWHERE back then after Pulp Fiction & I just felt a little tired of him. It would have been classic if the sidekick was Al from the first one....
Not a bad one, bit it always feels a bit OFF to me. Never liked adding Jackson's sidekick being added. He was so EVERYWHERE back then after Pulp Fiction & I just felt a little tired of him. It would have been classic if the sidekick was Al from the first one....
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10:50AM on 02/13/2013

@Mickloud

Of course you can, he's an electrician. :)
Of course you can, he's an electrician. :)
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10:07AM on 02/13/2013
Still my favorite one. Could watch it over and over and over again. Never gets old.
Still my favorite one. Could watch it over and over and over again. Never gets old.
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8:47AM on 02/13/2013

Also....

It would have been stupid if they kept Sam Jackson around. How would you involve a shop keeper in Harlem into the plot for Live Free or Good Day?
It would have been stupid if they kept Sam Jackson around. How would you involve a shop keeper in Harlem into the plot for Live Free or Good Day?
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8:46AM on 02/13/2013

Loved it!

I love all the Die Hard movies, even Live Free. Sure it was a little too over the top and a little too watered down with a PG-13 rating, but having a clean mouthed John McClane is better than having no John McClane at all IMO. As for Vengeance, I always thought this was a great movie, but kind of the weakest in the first 3. I find this is the only movie so far that has John McClane brought into the action purposefully rather than the typical "wrong place, wrong time" routine they usually do,
I love all the Die Hard movies, even Live Free. Sure it was a little too over the top and a little too watered down with a PG-13 rating, but having a clean mouthed John McClane is better than having no John McClane at all IMO. As for Vengeance, I always thought this was a great movie, but kind of the weakest in the first 3. I find this is the only movie so far that has John McClane brought into the action purposefully rather than the typical "wrong place, wrong time" routine they usually do, that's really my only gripe about it. Other than that, action scenes were awesome, I thought the plot was strung together nicely, the villain was great, and loved the way they managed to tie it back to the first movie. Zeus made for a great sidekick as well, moreso because the sidekick was Sam Jackson. It's interesting that they kept that trend going into future movies and I guess it's the basis for the movie in Live Free and Good Day, but I'd like to see them get rid of this in future flicks.
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-7
6:20AM on 02/13/2013
The cast was great and the action scenes were well done. However the whole plot was pretty damn stupid (was there not an easier way to rob the bank and to occupy the cops than those silly games?). And the big reveal that Irons villain was the brother of Rickmanns character form part one led to ...nothing. They could have made 2 seperate movies with all these unnecessary twists and turns. Besides those faults, pretty great movie.
The cast was great and the action scenes were well done. However the whole plot was pretty damn stupid (was there not an easier way to rob the bank and to occupy the cops than those silly games?). And the big reveal that Irons villain was the brother of Rickmanns character form part one led to ...nothing. They could have made 2 seperate movies with all these unnecessary twists and turns. Besides those faults, pretty great movie.
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5:46AM on 02/13/2013

The last one that felt like Die Hard...

It managed to be bigger and still feel like Die Hard. Now it is just CG Bruce Willis running around different cities with his kids pretending to be John McClane, when back in the 80s and 90s he WAS John McClane.
It managed to be bigger and still feel like Die Hard. Now it is just CG Bruce Willis running around different cities with his kids pretending to be John McClane, when back in the 80s and 90s he WAS John McClane.
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5:27AM on 02/13/2013
I love this movie and I love the fact that John McTiernan returned to direct this movie. The final climax scene was exciting. I love the ending, particularly because McClane called his wife. It reminds me of the ending of Die Hard 1 where he was with his wife. So it's kinda like McTiernan's homage to his own movie.
I love this movie and I love the fact that John McTiernan returned to direct this movie. The final climax scene was exciting. I love the ending, particularly because McClane called his wife. It reminds me of the ending of Die Hard 1 where he was with his wife. So it's kinda like McTiernan's homage to his own movie.
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3:49AM on 02/13/2013
How would bringing Jackson back make any sense?

Love this film though.
How would bringing Jackson back make any sense?

Love this film though.
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+0
3:23AM on 02/13/2013
I agree with the review. Another good Die Hard, but I think having them spend most of the time running around NY solving riddles was a bit of a stretch. There wasn't much in the way of fighting the bad guys, which really only came at the very end. I also got tired of the dynamic between John and Zeus. They spend practically the entire time bickering and it never really feels like they connect. In fact, we learn pretty much nothing about Zeus besides the fact that he's smart. In fact, I think
I agree with the review. Another good Die Hard, but I think having them spend most of the time running around NY solving riddles was a bit of a stretch. There wasn't much in the way of fighting the bad guys, which really only came at the very end. I also got tired of the dynamic between John and Zeus. They spend practically the entire time bickering and it never really feels like they connect. In fact, we learn pretty much nothing about Zeus besides the fact that he's smart. In fact, I think this films biggest hit is that it's very impersonal. In the first two, we got to know McClane. Even the Die Hard 2 gave us a peak at McClanes current life. Vengeance felt very impersonal as we're first introduced to McClane after the main problem's arisen. Sure, we learn he's an alcoholic, but it never really seems to play a part in what's going on. I'd even go so far as to say that Live Free does a better job at being more personal than this film. None the less, it does craft some great action moments, great acting jobs out of Willis and Jackson, and does a better job with it's central story and villain the Die Hard 2. It's probably my second favorite in the series behind the original.
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3:20AM on 02/13/2013
This is actually my favorite of all the movies, of course it doesn't top the original. Like the tidbit mentions I am surprised they haven't brought back the Zeus character, it felt fresh at the time. I have heard people say they were trying to make this look like Lethal Weapon & make McClane & Zeus another Riggs & Murtaugh. I honestly disagree since Zeus is just an everyday JOE. Many also didn't like Simon as the villain, but I thought he was even more ruthless than Rickman's Gruber. I think
This is actually my favorite of all the movies, of course it doesn't top the original. Like the tidbit mentions I am surprised they haven't brought back the Zeus character, it felt fresh at the time. I have heard people say they were trying to make this look like Lethal Weapon & make McClane & Zeus another Riggs & Murtaugh. I honestly disagree since Zeus is just an everyday JOE. Many also didn't like Simon as the villain, but I thought he was even more ruthless than Rickman's Gruber. I think the fact they revealed him as his brother & plotting his revenge for many years is what turned people off. Not to sound redundant but I do feel if they make a 6th Die Hard they need bring Jackson back & keep it in NY, there is no need to keep putting McClane in other areas like DC or now Russia. It's the only way the series can gain back it's integrity as one of the best action franchises in movie history.
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2:49AM on 02/13/2013

Extra Tidbit

maybe he could've gotten a spin-off but i think once is enough. They give Willis a side-kick because the studio thinks that he's getting too old to lead an action movie on his own. Even none Die Hard Films he gets a side-kick or lead co-star (Looper, Red, Cop Out) and i can see their point. While i would love to see Willis go solo in one of these films again, because of his age it has to be done right. Its a riskier move that will most likely not pay off for anyone, studio or audience. We need
maybe he could've gotten a spin-off but i think once is enough. They give Willis a side-kick because the studio thinks that he's getting too old to lead an action movie on his own. Even none Die Hard Films he gets a side-kick or lead co-star (Looper, Red, Cop Out) and i can see their point. While i would love to see Willis go solo in one of these films again, because of his age it has to be done right. Its a riskier move that will most likely not pay off for anyone, studio or audience. We need to take a page out of the Book of Bond. If we are gonna have an American Franchise to compete with Bond, this is it (also Indiana Jones). Reboot the series, take a step back and place him in a confined setting again (Tower, Airport, etc), and really get a good team to make it. There are elements in these movies that make him as timeless as Bond, but the studio keeps trying to one-up themselves with action instead of story. They are good action movies, but not as great or as iconic as the original, and thats what people want.
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