Die Hard With a Vengeance Review

by Eric Grossman (grossy AT netcom DOT com)
May 22nd, 1995

    A film review by Eric Grossman
    Copyright 1995 Los Angeles Independent

    Back in 1988, I remember sitting in a darkened theater watching the preview for a new action movie called "Die Hard." It starred Bruce Willis as a New York cop named John McClane who gets stuck in a skyscraper filled with terrorists. At the time, Willis was known mostly from the hit show "Moonlighting" and less known for his unsuccessful feature outings in "Blind Date" and "Sunset." The audience booed and hissed at the screen and I shared their skepticism. Well, as the say, the rest is history. "Die Hard" turned out to be a seminal action film that made gobs of money and spawned a sequel which made even more. Countless imitators sprang including: "Speed" (Die Hard on a Bus), "Passenger 57" (Die Hard on an Airplane), and "Under Siege" (Die Hard on a Battleship). The latter, beat the third "Die Hard" to the punch since it was supposed to take place on a cruise ship. The filmmakers were left with a dilemma. First off, all of the good Die Hard concepts had now been taken. Second, how do you justify the same character falling into another incredible situation.

    The answer that director John McTiernan (who directed the original "Die Hard" as well as films like "Predator" and "The Last Action Hero") and screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh come up with is a disappointment. It was a good move to bring McClane back to the big apple to fight bad guys. In this case, it is Jeremy Irons playing a sly, mad bomber named Simon, who likes to blow up department stores and subways. But it was a horrible move to turn it into a buddy picture. Samuel L. Jackson plays Zeus, a shopkeeper who McClane meets in a contrived scene in Harlem. The Zeus/McClane relationship is a rehash of all the "Lethal Weapon," "48hrs" movies. Not that Jackson isn't good, he's always good, but his character is unnecessary and cliche-ridden.

    Although weak, "Die Hard With A Vengeance" is not without its few eye-popping moments. There are some amazing stunts and an edge-of-your-seat scene where McClane is trapped in a tunnel with a wall of water screaming towards him. The audience cheered when McClane killed a bunch of baddies in an elevator but the climax, involving a helicopter, fell remarkably flat.

    The biggest problem is that the film is so over done with explosions, stunts, and sound effects that Willis becomes lost in the chaos. He is not given enough snappy dialogue (no yippee-kai-yea line either) and his character appears less intelligent than he was in the other films. Most important of all, he doesn't get to kick enough butt!
    Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this film is that when the painful comparison is made to the first film, we can really see just how things have changed in seven years. Pop culture is one the best mirrors our society has. In the first film, McClane bonds over the radio with a black cop named Powell. There was not one word mentioned about race between them. In this film, it predominates McClane's and Zeus' dialogue. "You think all black people can shoot" shouts Zeus. McClane has accompanying dialogue about how Zeus hates him just because he's white. The 90's are too preoccupied with things that have no place in a film like this. I'm beginning to think that there won't be a truly good action film until the next decade.

    A few months ago, when I saw the preview for "Die Hard With A Vengeance," everybody cheered in anticipation. We all got it backwards. The stunts are great, but ultimately, just like its explosions, this movie blows.

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