Synopsis: In the third non-stop action adventure in the popular “Die Hard” series, New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) is targeted by the mysterious Simon (Jeremy Irons), a terrorist who vows to blow up the city if he doesn’t get what he wants. Accompanied by a reluctant civilian partner (Samuel L. Jackson), McClane careens wildly from one end of Manhattan to the other, trying to outwit the psychopathic genius at his own deadly game.
eyelights: Samuel L. Jackson.
eyesores: its generic action movie blandness. its frequent affronts to human intelligence. its ridiculous plot developments. its forced humour.
“What the hell’s all this got to do with killing McClane?”
Wait… what? Really…?
And that’s pretty much ‘Die Hard with a Vengeance’, the third entry in the never-ending ‘Die Hard’ series, and a middle-of-the-road action film that happens to have John McClane as its protagonist but has absolutely nothing else in common with the originals. Remove Bruce Willis, put another actor in his stead and change the hero’s name, and you’d have the same movie.
Except that they might have just called it “With a Vengeance” instead.
There’s no Holly, no Al, no Richard Thornburg, and certainly not the feeling of claustrophobia that pervaded the first two films. Instead, McClane is incidental to the plot, having been sent around town on a wild goose chase while the villain is robbing the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It’s only once he figures out the bad guy’s ploy that he finally has a part to play.
Until then, he’s just fooling around, solving silly riddles and trying to reach predestined rendez-vous points.
At the villain’s behest, of course.
In all fairness, this movie was based on a script called “Simon Says”, which was originally intended for Brandon Lee and a female sidekick. And then it was adapted as a ‘Lethal Weapon’ screenplay – until it got into the hands of ‘Die Hard’s producers and they decided to make it their next film. So this picture is exactly what it was always meant to be: not a ‘Die Hard’ film.
In fact, it’s so much unlike a ‘Die Hard’, and so much like a ‘Lethal Weapon’, that the opening salvos of this and ‘Lethal Weapon 4’ (which, coincidentally, came soon after this) are unusually similar: they both find a white cop and his black sidekick facing danger, with one of them stripped down to his skivvies for laughs – forced hilarity that doesn’t really work, I might add.
Basically, ‘Die Hard with a Vengeance’ (or ‘Die Hard 3’) is a $#!t buddy cop movie, starring Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson: it finds them mismatched (white “racist” and a black “racist”), forced to work together and bickering their way through. Too familiar? Well, it’s also unrealistic, the action sequences are ridiculous and the comedy is strained and impotent.
Further to that, it insults the audience’s intelligence:
- After Simon, a terrorist, demands that McClane is reinstated, or else he’ll blow up more New York landmarks, our hero is picked up deeply hung over. In lieu of proper character development, on the way over to their destination, his Police Chief asks him about his spouse and kids. He doesn’t tell him why he was picked up. McClane isn’t briefed on the situation. No. It’s “Have you talked to Holly and/or the kids lately?”. Pooh. Yeah, that would happen. Talk about lazy writing.
- McClane is forced by the villain to stand in Harlem in his boxers with a sandwich board that says “I Hate N***ers”. Um… hardihar? Zeus (played by Jackson) is a shop owner with an intense dislike of the man. So, they’re off to a good start. Haha… not. But, seeing that he’s attracting attention from a gang of thugs, Zeus tells McClane to act crazy to get him off his case. Haha… um, no. Then they escape in a cab (because, yes, Zeus jumps in with him!).
Seriously? Like, what was the point? What did Simon expect from this scenario? And would he let McClane leave after only 4 minutes, after having threatened to blow something up if the guy didn’t follow through? It just seems like a lot of wasted time and effort to me, a purposeless gag that goes nowhere (aside from contriving a pairing up of our two leads – which, again, is super lazy writing).
- McClane and Zeus think that a bomb’s about to go off because they didn’t complete one of Simon’s riddles exactly as demanded – so they both duck for cover on the pedestrian-congested sidewalk, making fools of themselves. It’s stupid because the picture’s just started, so clearly nothing would happen to them. The gag falls flat, just like our heroes. Haha.
- To get to their destination in less than 30 minutes, McClane decides to take a shortcut by driving through Central Park. So, like, haha, he’s barreling through, scattering everybody like pigeons but he doesn’t hit or hurt anyone. He also doesn’t hit anything or have an accident. Um… likely. And it illustrates the logic of ‘Die Hard 3’, which is that wrecklessness and endangering lives = being clever. !@#$
- Zeus and McClane are split up. Zeus drives the cab to the pre-appointed destination, but ends up with some pompous @$$hat climbing into the car expecting a lift. It’s stupid to start with, but you at least expect some humour out of it. No. Next thing you know, Zeus arrives, gets out of the car running. Pan to the passenger cringing. That’s it? No racial tensions? No crazy ride? Just, “set-up gag, then not deliver”?
- McClane finds a bomb on the subway, and tosses it out of the window just as it explodes. Forget the fact that it wasn’t designed to explode if it was tampered with. Forget the fact that he even found it, in a crowded subway. He was actually able to get it out on time. When it explodes, the train slides off the tracks, crashes through everything but, lo and behold, all’s well and our heroes rise from the dust clouds. No one’s hurt, nothing! Jiminy crispy!
- Later, after inspecting a tunnel, McClane finds himself on the receiving end of a sabotaged dam. With his massive dump truck, he manages to outdrive the rushing water long enough to grab hold of a grate. Then he is violently shot out of a vent by the water spurt, and lands unharmed or spent – right where Zeus is passing by. WTF. WTF. WTF. Is this some kind of joke? Only the surfboard chase from ‘Escape from L.A.‘ can out-ridicule this one!
- Of all the school in all of New York , of course Zeus’ boys are at the one where the bomb has been planted. WTF.
- In a desperate attempt to catch up to Simon, McClane actually attached the truck’s winch to Simon’s boat as it passes by. The plan? He and Zeus are going to try to climb their way to the boat. They’re not tired. They’re not overexerted. They’re not injured. Even though Zeus is an intellectual, not an action man. And forget the fact that they’re something like 300 feet away and 300 feet up in the air. They do it anyway. ARGH. And when the truck is pulled along, they both fall from high up onto the boat’s deck… and are unharmed, though it would have crushed and killed most.
- Simon catches both and ties them to his bomb. Um… why? Just shoot them, goddammit! Just… shoot them! No? Too easy? Oh, okay… sigh. It made me think of Scott Evil’s speech of Dr. Evil in ‘Austin Powers‘.
- Though he’s about to blow up McClane, Symon indulges him when he asks for aspirin because of his day-long hangover. Not only does he have aspirin in his pocket, but he gives it to him – even though he’s about to kill him. Not only that, but the bottle hints at Simon’s destination, because it indicates where he got it – which is frustrating enough as it is, but is doubly infuriating when you consider that a pro would not go to and from New York by the same route anyway. !@#$
- McClane send the troops after Simon, but is allowed to join them on their chopper. As is Zeus. McClane is already a stretch, but both of them? Not that Zeus would want to go, anyway. And not that he serves any purpose in the ensuing action. Urgh.
- McClane has only two bullets. Since he’s shooting up at a chopper that’s carrying Simon and his ice queen, he stands no chance. So he shoots at some power cable near them, clips two of them, and they fall on the chopper and provoke an accident. It’s stupid. It’s BS. It’s brief. It’s anticlimactic. It’s a load of crap.
Seriously, right from the onset, one could -maybe even should- have supposed that ‘Die Hard 3’ was designed as a parody of the genre. After all, the opening title did this ridiculous smashing/exploding thing that looked like a joke, as though the producers were trying to outdo ‘Terminator 2‘. But. this is ‘Die Hard’, about a regular cop trying to extricate himself from chaos.
What were they thinking? I know I laughed, anyway…
I also laughed at Jeremy Irons’ unreal accent and lisp (as well as his ‘do) and laughed at the scale of the picture, which seemed to have the ambition of outdoing every other action classic ever made – including ‘Goldfinger‘. ‘Die Hard with a Vengeance’ could probably have been called ‘Die Hard: Super-Sized’ and it wouldn’t have been less absurd of a title. It’s just that dumb.
The 1st act is moronic but brisk.
The 2nd act is repetitious and dull.
The 3rd act is !@#$-ing preposterous.
Basically, ‘Die Hard 3’ is a crock of $#!t. It doesn’t feel like a ‘Die Hard’ movie, it has nearly none of the ingredients of a ‘Die Hard’ movie, and it carries the kind of stink that made ‘Die Hard’ a breath of fresh air only 7 years prior. I’m not even a major fan of the original but watching this turd makes me die a little bit inside. I can’t even imagine how the series will devolve from here.
Hopefully it’s all uphill from here.
Date of viewing: December 12, 2016