When John MacClane (Bruce Willis) battled the legendarily villainous and perfectly coiffured Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) in the original Die Hard, it was a battle between two of the most charismatic characters in action film history. Two sequels later and have defeated Gruber and his sub-par follow-up Col. Stuart (William Sadler) in Die Hard 2, MacClane is taken back to his roots as Gruber’s brother Simon (Jeremy Irons) attempts to succeed where his sibling did not. This is to be achieved by tricking and confusing MacClane and his new friend Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson) with a series of puzzles dotted around New York City. Failure to succeed would result in the deaths of hundreds of innocent people.
Die Hard: With a Vengeance follows on from the commercially successful, but critically hounded Die Hard 2. It goes back to the basic ideas that made the original Die Hard such an enduring classic. There’s ˜average Joe’ cop John MacClane going above and beyond his call of duty to save innocent lives and stop a mad German from killing, stealing and generally being a nuisance. It’s action film heaven and while it lacks the overwhelming charisma tornado that is Hans Gruber, Irons does a passable job as the less impressive younger sibling.
Where Die Hard: With a Vengeance is so powerful is it’s pace. A series of quick cuts taking our two heroes from New York City landmark to landmark, while an imaginary clock ticks down to destruction, is exactly the sort of edge-of-your-seat, adrenaline-pumping script that this third installment needed. Director John McTiernan masterfully handles each encounter and continues to amp up the tension and intrigue until he almost backs himself into a tough spot, which is highlighted in the final scenes where the story goes of the rails completely.
There is still a lot to love in Die Hard: With a Vengeance, most notably the exchanges between Willis’ gruff MacClane and series newcomer Jackson. Their bickering double-act is the perfect remedy to any plot inaccuracies and by the time the film has run out of steam, their still on hand to deliver a laugh or two. Like the ultimate mismatched partners film Lethal Weapon, Die Hard: With a Vengeance’s main duo riff on the straight man and goofball routine and it’s wonderful to see.
Die Hard: With a Vengeance is a step in the right direction after the crimes of Die Hard 2, but it still has a long way to go to match up to the original. Still the chemistry between Willis and Jackson carry the action, even with a limp villain and a sloppy final act.