Die Hard: With a Vengeance

Die Hard: With a Vengeance ★★★★

So a good 7 years after directing the original John McTiernan finally returned (with a vengeance, you could say) to direct the third film in the series. Here, he goes directly against rehashing the formula of the original (ala Die Hard 2) and providing a different take on the formula while keeping the spirit and relentlessness intact.

Several years after the events of the last film, Detective John McClane is at his lowest point yet. He's estranged from Holly, has been suspended from the NYPD for being an alcoholic, and is now a target of a new terrorist known as Simon, who forces him to run around the city solving puzzles, in which case he'll continue to detonate bombs around the city of New York. Not only that, he's been joined by Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson), a Harlem shore owner who get sucked into Simon's games. Soon, it a personal connection between McClane and Simon becomes more evident, as a plan to rob the Federal Reserve Bank is underway.

Personally, I feel that this entry features Willis at some of his very best as McClane. His use of cynical, wise-cracking sarcasm has never been better in my view, which is made even more hilarious by the tedious yet increasingly dangerous episodes he's put through, all while he's suffering from a shitty hangover. This is only elevated further by the partnership he shares with Zeus, who is just as frustrated if not more so for being a unwilling participant in Simon's games (or as he calls it, "white man problems").

Just like a great Die Hard movie should be however, it's McClane's adversary who is just as memorable, in this case being Simon. The only thing more inspired than making him Hans Gruber's brother, was casting Jeremy Irons, who portrays him as a maniacal, yet smart master manipulator who is seemingly one step ahead against McClane. His motive (which is as ridiculous and convoluted as it is brilliant) is less about extracting revenge and more about using him as a pawn, and giving him some actual humanity ("I'm a soldier, not a monster") helps as well.

But bringing McTiernan back has paid off greatly in other aspects, who gives the New York setting as much character as he did with Nakatomi Plaza. With a much bigger playground at his disposal, you can fully expect McClane to be on the move constantly, who spends much of his time driving, shooting, climbing and fighting his way through the diverse set of locations on display (bustling city streets, parks, subways, sewer tunnels, highways, container ships e.g). McTiernan's direction is as slick as ever and does a great job of making the action hard-hitting and bombastic, which in turn is driven by Michael Kamen's still top-notch scoring efforts.

I don't feel as it's without flaws however. The pacing gets derailed a bit with the drawn-out heist sequence, and the decision to set the climax outside of NYC has always been a poor one in my eyes. Also, it's lacking severely in Christmas spirit (aside from a quip McClane makes about Santa)! Other than that, With a Vengeance is a tightly-crafted sequel that lives up to its title, with it's combination of high-octane thrills, dynamic cast and humor.

While this has more or less always tied with the second film for me, I can definitely see why it's considered the best of the sequels.


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