Ossus Library Index Action Movie Index

DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE

Directed by John McTiernan (1995, 20th Century Fox)
Starring Bruce Willis, Jeremy Irons, and Samuel L. Jackson

In order to prevent multiple bombings of the New York streets, Lt. McClane is forced to run across town on dangerous missions.

View Count: Twice

 

 

4 stars

March 5th, 2002 on TV

 
    This was a blast!  It had so much going for it, with the games, the explosions, and the cunning of the bad guys, but the real gem of this movie was the interaction between the two good guys.

Is this where they got the inspiration for Rush Hour?  What started out pretty serious became very quickly very comedic, thanks to the pairing of Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson.  Actually, I think it was the latter who stole the show.  They had real chemistry together on screen, that every cutting comment, every racial slur, and every personal shock was absolutely hilarious to watch.

The show started off with a bang, and didn't let up until the very last moment.  I, for one, love cat-and-mouse games.  McClane didn't have time to think about what he was doing, never mind trying to figure out a way to stop the terrorist.  It seems that this guy is toying with McClane, because his brother was the one thrown from the rooftop in Die Hard.  So he sends the police officer to Harlem in his underwear wearing a sign that says what he thinks of black people.  (For some reason, because it was on TV, I suppose, in my version the sign said "I hate everybody", instead of using the racial slur.  Ah, censorship...  they didn't edit out the explosions in New York, though...)  That gets Zeus involved, because he is a nice guy.  He doesn't want to see any trouble in his neighborhood, though he has no love for white people.

His generosity lands him in trouble, too, for the terrorist had planned to get McClane killed then and there.  But now he threatens to blow up a subway train, then a park, then a school, if McClane and Zeus don't do what he wants them to do.  It is so much fun watching as they bicker, take turns being the hero, and decide what they must do in order to prevent the explosions.  Watching them try and figure out how to get four litres of water from three and five litre jugs was hilarious. 

Though Simon says he wants nothing to do with money, it is very much money that he wants.  The bomb in the subway train goes off anyway, and blows in a sufficiently large area near the federal reserve, which harbors a third of the world's gold, or something like that.  While the police and national guard are out searching schools for the bomb, there are no police in the area of the federal reserve.  It is easy to load a dozen dump trucks full of gold through the demolished subway station, and back out again.  However, it takes a kid who is stealing from a convenience store to make McClane realize that. 

Once he does, the game turns from cat-and-mouse to mouse-and-cat.  McClane gets to do the hunting.  The first half was better, because we got to watch them match wits with Simon, who was infinitely more prepared.  In the second half, it is more of a chase, though Simon does trick them a couple more times.

Because of all the hints, McClane and the police figure out which school the bomb is hidden in, and it happens to be the one that Zeus' kids attend, of course.  The bomb expert described the bomb in detail near the beginning of the movie, explaining that each liquid by itself was harmless, but when the mixed, anything could set it off.  I kept wondering why they couldn't puncture one of the cylinders and let the fluid drain out.  Presumably there would have been something that set the bomb off prematurely in that event, but it is never mentioned.  And at the end, McClane does puncture a cylinder, for another purpose, and the explosion only happens much later.

I don't know what the story between Simon and the other terrorist leader was (wasn't he the butler in Titanic?), because there was no real back-story or interaction between them, until he feels betrayed and has to be killed.  It doesn't seem to serve a purpose.  I thought that the infighting might be what brings them to ruin. 

But no, McClane and Zeus make their way onto the ship, where Simon plans to blow up the gold as a symbolic victory of the Middle-East.  But the trick, and the reason the other terrorist feels betrayed, is that the gold was transferred somewhere along the line, and is not on the boat!  McClane and Zeus are tied to the bomb, but between Zeus' lock-picking skills and McClane puncturing the bomb to use some of the explosive liquid to blow up the handcuffs (pretty cool!), they manage to escape barely in time. 

They are rescued from the marina, and it is only chance that McClane notices a coin from a Quebec trucking line, and he knows instantly that Simon went there.  It is confusing as to where they are next.  Yes, it is a Quebec trucking company, but surely they have a warehouse area in New York, too?  It makes more sense that they would still be in New York, as they would have had to cross the Canadian border, and Montreal/ Quebec City is the round-about way to get to Nova Scotia.  I still don't know how they planned to get across the border with so many trucks carrying gold.  And I don't know what they hoped to do by driving off when they police had the warehouse surrounded.  But that's beside the point.  With McClane in a helicopter, Simon goes after revenge, and ends up electrocuting himself.  It was an anticlimactic ending, considering how good the first three quarters of the movie was.

Still, the interaction between McClane and Zeus never stopped.  Even when they were separated, they bantered at their invisible partner!  I think my favorite moment is when they steal a Mercedes and Zeus is reminded that he left a bar of gold in the car that they abandoned, adequate compensation for the car, perhaps?  Or, maybe even better, when Zeus suddenly stops the taxi he is driving to avoid a collision, and a man gets in and expects to be driven to Wall Street -and that's where Zeus was going, after all, so why not!  Sure it gets a little absurd, especially near the end, as when McClane gets shot up a spout in the aqueduct when it is flooded, and then Zeus happens to drive by!  But is fun absurdity, and it went along with the theme of the movie.

I remember seeing this for the first time.  I didn't think it was as good as either of the first two movies.  I also seem to remember thinking that Die Hard 2 was better than Die Hard.  But I was wrong on all counts.  This one is even better than both of them!  Maybe my tastes have just changed.  In any case, this movie was a blast.  After the tragedy with the World Trade Centers, however, I don't think we'll be seeing another sequel for a very long time, especially not set in New York. 

I think what I liked about this movie was that it was mostly mind games.  There were only a few explosions, and the gunshots were minimal.  McClane was being teased, toyed with.  Even when he got the upper hand, he used one or two bullets (except in extreme circumstances) to take out his enemies.  He was pretty amazing in the elevator.  But he was at his best when paired with Zeus.  If there is a sequel in the future, I hope Zeus comes along for the ride, again.

 
   

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