Die Hard With a Vengeance

Directed by John McTiernan. Starring Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Irons, Graham Greene, Colleen Camp. (1995, R, 128 min.)

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., May 19, 1995

Continuing the unlikely adventures of beleaguered NYPD cop John McClane (Willis), this third installment unfortunately forsakes much of the occasionally clever, somewhat wry dialogue and situations of its predecessors in favor of a more generic action-adventure approach that piles on stunt after stunt, explosion atop explosion, and leaves you with nothing so much as a headache and the notion that the Die Hard franchise is indeed dead. Returning to his old stomping grounds in the Big Apple, a now-suspended, separated, and nearly alcoholic McClane is called back into active duty by his superiors when a mysterious mad bomber, who goes by the name of Simon (Irons), begins targeting a decidedly hungover McClane with threats of vaporization and lesser forms of torment. Simon's first move leaves the blurry-eyed, recently awakened cop wandering around central Harlem wearing a sandwich board emblazoned with a racist slogan guaranteed to render him deceased within in a matter of minutes. To his aid comes shop owner and reluctant sidekick-to-be Zeus Carver (Jackson), who saves McClane's life not because he's a good Samaritan, but because “one dead white cop in Harlem suddenly means hundreds more with itchy trigger fingers.” While the two run around the city on various wild goose chases designed to get them killed, the FBI and Company gamely try to figure out who's behind all this McClane-directed violence that's making New York even more hazardous than usual (which should be fairly obvious from the film's title). McTiernan is an old hand at actioners and, like the pro he is, keeps the film rushing along from fiery stunt to stunt. But after an hour or so you find yourself wishing for fewer big bangs and more pithy extemporizing from Willis, one of the few humanistic -- albeit contrived -- aspects from the series' previous outings. Thankfully, Irons (looking decidedly buff these days and not at all like Claus von Bulow) keeps the film from sinking too far into dismal self-mockery with a bravura, nicely twisted performance as the grandstanding, megalomaniacal Simon. Being the riotously loud, bombastic summer movie that it is, you don't go to see a Die Hard film expecting subtly nuanced characterizations and crisp, airtight story lines -- you go to see poor John McClane get the stuffing knocked out of him half-a-dozen times before emerging victorious once again. Which is just what you get this time out. Big surprise, that.

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