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   DIE HARD: WITH A VENGEANCE (1995) 

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CAST
Bruce Willis
Samuel L. Jackson
Jeremy Irons
Graham Greene
Collenn Camp
Larry Bryggman
Anthony Peck
Nicholas Wyman
Sam Phillips
Kevin Chamberlin
Sharon Washington

DIRECTED BY
John McTiernan

PURCHASE


DVD



DVD




Time: 131 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Action/Adventure


I wish to start by saying that the original DIE HARD is one of my all time favorite movies. One I would choose if I was stranded on a desert island. So it pains me greatly to deride this sequel, but I have no choice. I must be honest. After the over-the-top lunacy of DIE HARD 2 (such a shock coming from Renny Harlin), I have to admit I was hopeful in regards to the third installment because it has a great cast and the same director who brought us the first one. It seems, in looking at McTiernan's resume, that DIE HARD was his one stroke of genius from which he's never recovered. The third flick is an empty roller coaster ride of extraordinarily explosive set pieces that amount to nothing. It goes without saying that Willis and Jackson have great onscreen chemistry. They are two of the industry's biggest stars and they know how to grab an audience. The fact that they keep you even remotely interested in this overcooked turkey is attributable to their prodigious talent.

What kept the first one so intense is that you came to know and love the people who populated the film. Good or bad, they had personality. You could differentiate one character from another because they were well-written and unique. Here the only person who stands out is Jackson, for a very obvious reason. All of the bad guys are blond and bad-natured. Irons manages to distinguish himself from the rest by stuttering when he's upset, which doesn't exactly make him very scary. I guess they figured it would be easier to shock the audience into fearing him by blowing things up, rather than actually developing a decent character. Which isn't to say that the plot is bad. Completely ludicrous and unbelievable, but well-planned and intriguing. It's a film that could only take place in New York and they make the most of the city's unique locations and qualities. You're excited by Willis and Jackson racing across the city trying to stop this mad bomber. Unfortunately, since you know they're going to live, it doesn't really matter if random strangers get blown to bits. In fact, that's what you're hoping for.


"The only thing better than blowing up $100 billion worth of gold is making people think you did."

What starts out as a petty vendetta turns into a scam of incredible audacity. Simon, played by Irons, is out for McClane's blood and he invents some pretty painful ways of extracting it. It's amazing how much pain and suffering an individual can take in one day. Willis begins to figure out that there's something larger going on than they initially expected. The film tries to be clever and unexpected, but that's one of its major problems. It's clearly trying to hard. The one-liners just aren't as good and they play the race card far too often. I understand that it must be incredibly difficult to be a black man in New York, but watching someone bitch and complain about it every time he opens his mouth is not funny. Certainly, they could have come up with something else about Willis that Jackson could have picked on. This is an action movie, not a drama about race relations. The strange thing is, Jackson is the best part of this film. His surprise and indignation give the series a spark no one else brings to the table. Irons is lost behind the hard body and silly accent. How are we supposed to connect to a character we don't even see until 45 minutes into the film?

Somewhere along the way Willis lost the comic edge to John McClane, but clearly the paycheck was enough to make this sequel worth his time. He seems just annoyed and tired, merely going through the motions. Lucky for him, that's how his character was written, so it must have been real easy for him to give this performance. He again seems to be the only character able to uncover the bigger picture while the rest of the world runs around like chickens with their heads cut off. The story gives a pretty good reason for this, but I just didn't buy it this time. We are also faced with the perennial action movie question: Why don't the bad guys just kill the good guys when they have the opportunity? It makes no sense. If I was trying to perpetrate the biggest heist in the history of the world, I would immediately kill everyone and anyone who stood in my way. Since when is a bullet to the head just not good enough to take care of your adversaries? Do they really need to be drowned, beaten to a pulp and blown up for their death to make them happy? I know that if they killed them right away there would be no movie, but this was beyond acceptable.

We're supposed to believe they're being tortured as payback, but after the first few mind games, you'd think the bad guy would just want to get them out of the way, so he could concentrate on more important matters. Apparently not. It seems action heroes are just as indestructible as horror movie villains...always coming back for more. Clearly much thought and preparation went into this roller coaster ride, but much like the amusement park the exhilaration and excitement doesn't last very long. Sure, the action sequences are first-rate, but there's nothing to tie them together except a silly plot and uninspired acting. If you're a fan of the series and action movies in general, you'll probably get a kick out of this installment. It's not exceedingly memorable, but it's certainly entertaining in an over-the-top, in-your-face type of way.



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