Die Hard: With a Vengeance

Directed By: John McTiernan

Starring: Bruce Willis, Jeremy Irons, Samuel L. Jackson, Larry Bryggman, Graham Greene, and Colleen Camp

The first two Die Hard movies were all about Bruce Willis going up against all odds to defeat formidable criminals reigning terror down on his wife and other innocent victims.  While the first Die Hard perfected this formula, I can't say the same for the second one.  When Die Hard: With a Vengeance was in the works, the life and times of John McClane were back in the hands of director John McTiernan, the guy who wrote the formula for the modern action thriller.  In his second outing with the iconic New York detective, McTiernan brings back the explosiveness of the Die Hard series with another intelligent thriller for the record books.  This time, it's all about a game of Simon Says.

A bomb goes off at a department store in New York City, and the cops begin scrambling to figure out what's happening.  An unknown man going by the name of "Simon" (Jeremy Irons) calls New York Police Inspector Walter Cobb (Larry Bryggman) and informs the inspector that another bomb will go off in the city very soon unless he puts suspended detective John McClane (Willis) back on active duty.  McClane is to go stand in Harlem sporting a sign that reads "I hate niggers".  Simon's task stands to significantly shorten McClane's life span until Harlem resident Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson) intervenes and saves McClane from a local gang.  Simon doesn't take too kindly to Zeus's bold intervention.  The way Simon sees it, he now has two pigeons to play his deadly games.

Die Hard: With a Vengeance is definitely one of the best action movies of the 90s.  Explosive from the start, it's a nonstop thrill ride that doesn't let up.  It's the sequel that comes closest to recreating the magic of the original film.  John McTiernan changes the formula by turning this Die Hard into something more akin to a buddy cop film, and this move pays big dividends.  With the dynamics between Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, there are plenty of laughs.  With Willis at the top of his game and kicking ass, there's plenty of action.  With an intelligent, diabolical villain from Jeremy Irons, there are plenty of thrills.  All in all, Die Hard: With a Vengeance is a lovable blockbuster for the record books.

Bruce Willis finally has a riding buddy in Samuel L. Jackson.  Casting Jackson in Die Hard: With a Vengeance was a stroke of genius.  Willis and Jackson both deliver very confrontational characters, which creates some hilarious, explosive dynamics on screen.  Willis's McClane is just one step shy of being a full-blown alcoholic.  That's certainly clear because he constantly complains of a headache and begs folks for aspirin.  If that's not a hangover, I don't know what is.  As such, not even God knows what this crazy cop is doing throughout the movie, but Jackson's Zeus calls him out on it.  Zeus is a black man who doesn't care about white men or their white problems.  Like the Olympian Zeus, this guy is ready to shove a lightning bolt up McClane's ass if the brash cop does or says the wrong thing.  The tense interaction between these two reluctant partners is comedic gold.  Willis and Jackson are one hilarious duo.

Though Willis and Jackson are a great comedic pair, let's not forget that this is a Die Hard movie.  With this in mind, there's plenty of great action, and Bruce Willis is at the center of it all.  This iconic action star is in his prime and at the top of his game.  He's kicking ass and talking lots of trash.  As the badass detective we know and love, Willis keeps the adrenaline pumping and drives this explosive thrill ride crafted by McTiernan.  Willis ultimately gives us an antihero that never disappoints.

Thanks to Jeremy Irons, Die Hard: With a Vengeance offers the most dangerous, thrilling game of Simon Says we've ever had the pleasure of witnessing.  There's a certain mystery to Irons's character.  He's a voice on the phone.  He's got a secret agenda.  He's got a vendetta against McClane for whatever reason.  Riddles about seven wives, jugs of water, and the name of the 21st president of the United States (Chester A. Arthur) are just the surface of this wily character' tricks.  When his full agenda is finally revealed, it's Christmas for him.  He could steal city hall if he wants to, and he does.  Irons ultimately offers us an intelligent villain that gives Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber a run for his money, and that's quite fitting.

I'm a sucker for the finer details of filmmaking.  When there's so much to love about this third Die Hard movie, one of the best parts of this film for me is that John McTiernan chooses to prominently use the "Johnny Comes Marching Home" theme throughout the film.  Whether this is an Easter egg celebrating his return to the Die Hard series in the director’s chair, we'll never know.  What we do know is that it adds a playful, bouncy energy to the film at times and serves as an interesting contrast to the bloodbath we witness on screen.  All in all, Die Hard: With a Vengeance gets a strong 0.03% rating.  Have a wine cooler with this classic blockbuster.