Die Hard: With a Vengeance is directed by John McTiernan and written by Jonathan Hensleigh. It stars Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Irons, Graham Greene, Nick Wyman, Larry Bryggman and Colleen Camp. Music is scored by Michael Kamen and cinematography by Peter Menzies Jr.
Detective John McClane (Willis) is on suspension and drinking a lot, but when a bomb goes off on the streets of New York, a man named Simon (Irons) calls the police demanding that McClane joins in a game of Simon Says otherwise more bombs will go off.
Although Renny Harlin was unlucky to have the unenviable task of trying to helm a sequel to arguably the greatest action film in the modern era, there is no denying that Die Hard 2 was a considerable drop in quality. We can also say with honesty that to try and come up with a villain half as brilliant as Alan Rickman's Uber Gruber was a thankless task, but that's the primary problem with Die Hard 2, William Sadler's villain is just not interesting, charming or witty enough. So for part three the makers made three crucial decisions, they brought back John McTiernan, they brought in Jeremy irons for villain duties and they gave McClane a side-kick of considerable worth. Back comes high end action, back comes searing violence and back comes the humour.
Die Hard 3 nabs the great ingredients from the first film but still plays out as its own animal, the decision to take McClane out of a confined space set-up and let him loose out in the expansive areas of NYC works really well, as does having him partnered by Samuel L. Jackson's (on fine form) Zeus, a smart mouthed, angry, wise, borderline racist shop owner who winds up as the perfect foil for McClane's machismo and witticisms. If this sounds like a Lethal Weapon type set-up then that's probably because the bulk of the script was actually considered to be one of the Lethal Weapon sequels. But to have it play out as a Die Hard formula brings rich rewards as the plotting has much suspense by way of Simon's death trap riddles and the race against time plot turn that dominates a good portion of the movie. While the dialogue sparkles, allowing the lead actors room to really impress themselves on the story.
It's also great to find that McTiernan and co don't take the easy option of just filling the movie out with high octane action and stunts. There's plenty of that stuff about, with punch-ups, car chases, explosions and outrageous high wire heroics; McTiernan is after all a master director of action scenes, but there's a good twisty plot at the core as well. With grey area motives, deception and mystery elements pulsing away in the narrative. Add in McClane's woes; hangovers and marital strife, Zeus' severe mistrust of the white man, and you find a lot of story that the impressive action is wrapped around. Irons is ace, not in Rickman's villain league (who is), but he gives Simon charm in abundance, a dastard sense of humour and Irons has buffed up for vest wearing duties and gone Aryan blonde into the bargain as well. Yep, this is a cool villain and the film benefits greatly from Irons' turn.
Faults? The roll call of baddies assembled around Simon are standard stereotypes being performed by one note actors. The absence of Bonnie Bedelia as McClane's wife is felt at times, and some of the effects work is shoddy. But this is a treat for Die Hard fans and action movie fans in general. Exciting, thrilling, funny, interesting and featuring characters you enjoy being in the company of. Yippee-ki-yay. 8/10