Hard-hitting Die Hard sequel fails to surpass original
Die Hard with a Vengeance
Directed by John McTiernan.
Written by Jonathan Hensleigh.
Starring Bruce Willis, Jeremy Irons, Samuel L. Jackson.
7 and 10 p.m., 26-100.
By David V. Rodriguez
Nobody would say that the two Die Hard sequels were original, but this was never a serious complaint. The sequels were not meant to be original, they were meant to be fun, and as long as enough things were broken in the process, they were.
This is a problem for makers of Die Hard with a Vengeance: The only way the movie could have be better was to be bigger, and this was exactly what they tried. But, by focusing solely on the action they lost much of what made the original Die Hard a success. This is surprising because the director is John McTiernan, who also directed the original Die Hard. The villain in this story is Simon Gruber (Jeremy Irons), brother of Hans Gruber, the terrorist that John McClane (Bruce Willis) dropped from the 32nd floor window in the original Die Hard.
Simon's plan is to steal $140 billion in gold from the Federal Reserve, and give McClane a really bad day. For the first part, he must distract the police -- and distract them enough so they won't notice they have left only five rent-a-cops guarding billions. Simon gets their attention by blowing up a department store in downtown Manhattan, and threatens to blow up more buildings, including schools, if McClane doesn't agree to play a game of "Simon Says." McClane has no choice but to accept, and while he is running around the city trying to solve Simon's riddles, and while the police are spread out searching for bombs, Simon is quietly sneaking away with the gold.
McClane soon learns that he is being had, and with the help of Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson), he tries to stop Simon. John McClane is the same likeable character from the first two, but the movie runs into a common problem for sequels: the character has been developed so thoroughly in the first two Die Hard films that there is little more to be done.
In order to retain the same wise-cracking style from the first two while not repeating the same gags, they give McClane a companion, Zeus. It is not a bad strategy, but it doesn't work well. While completing the first part of "Simon Says," McClane meets Zeus, and they are somehow forced to spend the rest of the movie together even though they do not like each other. This does little to spice up the movie because Zeus is a remarkably boring character, and the only thing saving the two from periods of awkward silence is that Zeus is a white-hater. But even this isn't enough to create any chemistry between them because McClane is not racist, which gives them nothing to fight about. Worse yet, the audience knows that McClane is not a racist, and therefore knows that these scenes are going nowhere.
Despite the bad characters and dialogue, Die Hard with a Vengeance is an action movie. As long as the action is good, the other problems are easily forgiven -- but, unfortunately, the action isn't very good either. It is obvious that they wanted this Die Hard to be the biggest and most exciting of the series, and this is where it went wrong. There is so much action that it begins to look like a caricature of a better action movie. In the first Die Hard, action and violence was used very effectively. It was exciting because each action scene had a purpose; either it moved the story along or it raised the stakes. But in Die Hard with a Vengeance, it is obvious that action is its own end. And even though the filmmakers crash or blow up nearly everything in sight, they still do not satisfy.