Pros:Reunites director McTiernan with star Willis. Fine acting by Jackson and Irons.
Cons:No Bonnie Bedelia? Drat!
The Bottom Line: If you are a die-hard fan of the Die Hard series, this third installment is definitely worth watching!
Die Hard With a Vengeance reunites actor Bruce Willis and director John McTiernan for a second sequel to their 1988 mega-thriller Die Hard. Adapted from a non-Die Hard script titled Simon Says by screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh, this third chapter in the John McClane saga is more offbeat and just a bit darker than expected.
Recommend this product?
Although it still follows the Die Hard formula - and how could it not? - of McClane versus formidable obstacles, Die Hard 3 wisely avoids the Christmas Crises scenarios from the first two films. Gone also (although the movie never really explains why) is Bonnie Bedelia's Holly, although she is mentioned in several scenes. Apparently McClane never adjusted to life in Los Angeles and returned to his job in the New York Police Department.
So when a bomb goes off at a Bonwit Teller store in Manhattan, it is providential for the Big Apple that McClane is a lieutenant in New York's Finest, albeit a depressed and beer-swilling lieutenant. Providential because we know that when arch-villain "Simon" (Jeremy Irons) demands that McClane participate in a potentially deadly version of the game "Simon Says," our Everyman hero will rise to the occasion and thwart Simon's deadly scheme.
As in the first Die Hard film, McTiernan pairs McClane with an interesting partner. Where in the 1988 flick Willis was helped by Reginald Veljohnson (better known as Carl from Family Matters), in Die Hard with a Vengeance his charismatic and reluctant partner, Zeus Carver, is played by Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Star Wars Episodes I and II). Their "unlikely buddies" routine is energetic and witty, and Jackson plays his Harlem store owner character with a mixture of biting wit, bewilderment, and even dignity.
What I enjoy about Die Hard With a Vengeance is that while staying true to the McClane versus sophisticated bad guys formula established in 1988's Die Hard, Hensleigh's choice to adapt "Simon Says" to fit the genre and character was inspired. It not only opens up the story's environment, but the script really puts McClane and Carver through the wringer, so to speak.
Jeremy Irons fares particularly well in this film, breaking away from his brooding non-action movie leading man roles to play "Simon" with vim and vigor.
The score by the late Michael Kamen reprises its technique of adopting a particular composition (in this case, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home") and interpolating it into the action of the movie, as he did with Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 for the first film and Sibelius' Finlandia for the second. It's a touchstone of Kamen's that adds unity and coherence to the trilogy's scores.
McTiernan hasn't had a major hit since this 1995 production, but his future decline was nowhere in evidence in any frame of this entertaining action thriller.
The Special Edition 2-disc set, like the previous two in the series, contains the movie on Disc 1 with interactive menus, anamorphic Widescreen presentation, various audio and subtitle options, and commentary by director McTiernan and screenwriter Hensleigh. Disc 2, of course, has the usual theatrical trailer and TV spots, several TV "making of" specials, a special-effects breakdown, and an interview with Bruce Willis.