Die Hard: With a Vengeance ★★★½

Fun bit of trivia: both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are mentioned by name in this movie, and one of them is speculated to become a future president.

DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE is the true sequel to the first film, bringing back director John McTiernan. It does away with any rehashing and jettisons the characters of Holly and Thornburg, who I think definitely wore out their welcome in the second film. This time we get a new formula: John McClane (Bruce Willis) has to take down an apparent terrorist, solving riddles set across the whole of New York City. After two films of seeing McClane getting stuck on his own in an inconvenient location, it's nice to actually see him being a cop and functioning within the NYPD.

Furthermore, he's given a partner Zeus, played by Samuel L. Jackson, who's super-smart but full of racial tension. Willis and Jackson were both in PULP FICTION but had no scenes together, so it's nice to see them share the screen here. As many people know, this script started out as a LETHAL WEAPON sequel before being reworked into a DIE HARD sequel. I can easily see Mel Gibson and Danny Glover filling in these roles, but I'm glad they didn't. That franchise had clearly run out of gas by then and become a self-parody (as would be proven by LETHAL WEAPON 4 made only a few years later). Instead, Willis and Jackson bring much more grit to their uneasy partnership; both have a tough time trusting the other, and Jackson has always excelled at playing the angry black guy with a chip on his shoulder.

Jeremy Irons is also a great villain, right on par with Alan Rickman in the original film, even if his German accent phases in and out throughout the movie. Consider the fact that Simon is introduced as just a disembodied voice on the phone, giving our heroes cryptic riddles to solve. It's not until 47 minutes in that we finally see Simon in person. The script does a great job building mystery around the character, slowly revealing his backstory and plan, and eventually leading us into a heist. The film also features a nice assortment of character actors (Graham Greene, Colleen Camp, Larry Bryggman) and sharp cinematography by Peter Menzies Jr.

Finally, it's worth noting that the movie has an alternate ending, which has since been shown in some TV broadcasts and is available on YouTube. In it, McClane tracks Simon to a bar sometime later and has a contest of riddles before killing him, and we see a much darker side of McClane. I agree with the filmmakers that this ending doesn't quite fit the franchise; it would have worked well for a James Bond film (particularly a Timothy Dalton or Daniel Craig one), but doesn't quite fit the action spectacle this series is known for. The theatrical ending they chose is ultimately the better ending, providing more closure and resolution for all the characters. The only downside is, because it was a reshoot, you can slightly tell that it feels a bit rushed and edited quickly. I suspect that, had this been the script's original ending from the start, it would have been shot and edited in an even more climatic way.

DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE is a good, gritty action movie and serves as a fitting end to the series. Don't bother with any of the sequels beyond this point.

Gabe liked these reviews