Sequels are the hardest movies to make. So when a really good one is made, it’s an impressive feat. While Die Hard 2 was a good flick, Die Hard with a Vengeance is a sequel truly worthy of the original. In fact, I go back and forth over whether I like 3 better than the first. It’s a really tough call.
What makes this movie an improvement on the second is the introduction of a great villain. Hans Gruber was such a big part of the success of the first film, so how do you top him? It’s not easy, but this movie almost succeeds with the introduction of Simon played by Jeremy Irons. Simon is a psychopath leading John McLane and the NYPD on a wild goose chase around the city, and is the perfect combination evilness and humor. He doesn’t quite reach the perfection of Alan Rickman, but he’s damn close.
Another great addition to Vengeance is McLane’s reluctant sidekick, Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson). This character isn’t that different from other roles Jackson has played– he’s a tough, no nonsense guy who doesn’t take shit from anyone. Basically Samuel L’s entire career, but still fun to watch. The chemistry between he and Bruce Willis is excellent, and the film leans hard into the witty banter and love/hate relationship between the two. For me, McLane and Carver racing around New York trying to solve Simon’s logic problems and riddles is so entertaining that I almost don’t care about the villain’s end goal.
(Oh yeah, they’re solving riddles. Riddles. This is both ridiculous and awesome and I love it.)
While the cast is a big improvement over Die Hard 2, the plot also takes the franchise into new and exciting territory. The first two installments feature McLane getting caught up in the action through chance and mostly confines the cast to relatively small areas. This time around, McLane is purposely placed in the center of the chaos by Simon’s request. He is then sent all over New York in an attempt to thwart Simon’s nefarious plans. It’s an interesting way to throw out the old formula, yet still retains the spirit of the first two films (a problem that successive installments where unable to solve).
I still don’t know if I like this movie or the original Die Hard better. The only fair thing to do is rate them the same.
This is the only film so far that you can even compare with the original Die Hard film. Willis returns as wiseguy cop John McLane, this time he is not in the wrong place at the wrong time. The villain, who refers to himself only as Simon (Jeremy Irons), seeks McLane out and puts him through a series of challenges in order to prevent Simon from blowing up buildings in New York. Along the way, McLane partners up with Zeus Carver (Samuel L Jackson), who inadvertently ends up entangled in Simon’s plan and must help McLane.
I really loved how this film changed things up so much. The second film, while it did change locations, seemed like a rehash of the original film. This third instalment feels like a completely different film, but still has Willis as the snarky leading man we all know and love. Seeing him complete a series of challenges in order to prevent bombs from exploding is really entertaining. McLane’s personal life has not been going well, he was suspended from the police force, and his wife has left him again. He is constantly hung-over and his brain is in no condition to be completing the puzzles Simon has set for him.
I really enjoyed the character of Simon. He is a great villain and I enjoyed the twist that throws back to the first movie. Samuel L Jackson is also a welcome addition to the cast. He and Willis have terrific chemistry. This was one of many films that Jackson and Willis have appeared in together and they work together really well. Their banter does not seem forced at all. You believe these two guys could really act this way if something like this ever happened. Their chemistry, along with the solid new villain, makes the film for me.
Willis is great again as McLane, this is the signature role of his career and he owns the character so well. I can’t imagine anybody else in the role of John McLane. The most recent McLane adventures have been substandard, but that should not detract from the first three films of this series, which are all great action films.