Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) The Perfect “Die Hard” Film

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     The first “Die Hard” film is a tough film to beat in the action film genre. It has a complicated villain, great action, characters get great exploration and the stakes continue to rise throughout the film…which when combined with great cinematography and music lead to the creation of an unforgettable classic. “Die Hard with a Vengeance” does all that better and manages to add even more to create the perfect action film concoction.

     The film was directed by John McTiernan, who was also one of the producers and the guy who had directed the first “Die Hard” film, written by Jonathan Hensleigh, produced by Michael Tadross and based off the story “Simon Says” by Jonathan Hensleigh.

     The story involves John McClane (Bruce Willis) who has been suspended from the NYPD but is called back into it when a mysterious terrorist called “Simon” (Jeremy Irons) who is placing bombs around NYC and only McClane doing what he says can prevent them from being set off. After Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson) says John in Harlem, he finds himself pulled into the mysterious Simon’s plot as well.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise is pretty great! John McClane’s life has fallen apart and someone who is causing chaos and death in NYC has a personal issue with him and wants to make his life and even greater living hell. The whole idea of “Simon Says” is clever too as well as the riddles on where the bombs are placed.

The Ticking Bomb – The ticking bomb is something present throughout the film. Simon has bombs everywhere and it raises the stakes on what our heroes (Zues, John and the NYPD) have to do in order to save lives. The twist with this too is sometimes there are riddles within riddles and some bombs might be fakes. It is brilliant and reminds me of the Joker before the Joker in “The Dark Knight.”

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful and does a great job of creating tension and making open spaces around NYC feel threatening. Peter Menzies Jr. really does a  fantastic job!

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack like the cinematography is great at raising the tension and has  a great placement of “The Ants Going Marching” while Simon is robbing the New York Federal Reserve of all the money. Michael Kamen really did a good job creating an unforgettable score for the film.

The Action – The action is the best it has ever been. We have a ticking bomb in a school and on a ship that need to get  disarmed at different points, we have a car chase and a huge battle in a truck yard and countless other great action scenes.

The NYPD – The NYPD is more than just caricatures and are actually good at their job. There is Detective Joe Lambert who helps keep the school kids calm when and prepares them to get out, Connie who is the connection between events going through the city and the Police Chief Walter who works with John even though he’s a mess and is on top of every problem as it is happening and does a good job making sure Zeus and John meet what Simon says while and the NYPD work on preventing other problems Simon might be calling. Weiss, the bomb defuser also has his own arc too as we see him face his fears (this being his first time doing this with this high of stakes) in order to save the kids in the school.

Simon’s Crew – Simon’s crew is just as memorable as Hans’s crew. Both of them are a team of mercenaries who are almost like family as they are risking it all for the job and are highly professional. In the case of Simon he also has a relationship his “Dragon” and muscle Katya who kills his handler the Iranians sent to take the money and keeps the NYPD at bay. They are really awesome and it is super cool when it looks like they have won and Simon promises them buying their own nation since they’ve stolen all the world’s money that was in the New York Federal Reserve.

Zeus / The Samaritan – Samuel L. Jackson does a fantastic job as Zeus…a shop owner who saves John McClane in Harlem and finds himself in over his head. He rises to the challenge though and we see that he is a man who deals with his problems, unlike McClane and is actually able to help McClane grow and they even develop a friendship too as Zeus works through his own prejudices in it all. He really is a fantastic character and was much more compelling than McClane at the end of the day. He’s dubbed “The Samaritan” by Simon for saving John in Harlem when Simon’s trap doesn’t work.

John McClane – McClane begins the process of growing up finally! In this film he starts out a mess and is alone and isolated until Zeus helps him deal with his issues and the fact that he doesn’t communicate with people. In this he starts too and actually works with the NYPD rather than against them which ends up saving the day in the end. He learns this from Zeus who is also a bit standoffish and learns a variation on it too. The film ends with him calling his wife who he is separated from and actually talking to her as what lead to them being separated in the first place was his refusal to call her back and deal with his crap.

John and Zeus and an Ensemble Show – Together these two made a buddy cop film which was fantastic as the “Die Hard” Franchise has almost always been about just McClane and his lone wolf cowboy way of getting things done, which just makes those around him look stupid even though plotwise they shouldn’t be. Making this film a buddy cop and him working with Zeus to start with was powerful as we saw John is human and not a cartoon character who does need help. This is completed with the NYC doing their job too and showing they are competent as it takes John, Zeus and the NYPD to save the day in the end.

Simon Peter Gruber – Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber is one of the best villains in cinema. He presents himself as an idealistic terrorist who is just a thief, but does care about people as his crew is one he he is close too. Simon like Hans is a thief but he also has a huge ego and has to play mind games (like the Riddler) but also has a much bigger army who is loyal to him (like Bane) and is willing to do anything to win even if it is killing the men who claims to be close to (like the Joker and Bane) as we see him pause when saluting “Dead friends,” showing those deaths meant nothing to him. Where Hans was just greedy, Simon is a psychopath who also loves as the assassin Katya is his lover and his ambitions are greater than Hans’s too as he wants International Sovereignty through the cash, where with Hans we never found out what he wanted to use the money for beyond getting rich. After everything he puts John and Zeus through it is rewarding to see him defeated, though I was hoping he’d escape. He’s one of the greatest movie villains of all time and Jeremy Irons played him so well that to me, he is the best villain in the Franchise.

    This was the perfect action and was even better than the first “Die Hard” film. The reasons for this were the Ensemble cast who all worked to save the day in the case of the heroes or to complete the mission in the case of Simon and his men, this movie was about more than McClane and was stronger because of it as it made the film more real and made the stakes all the more powerful as John couldn’t just shoot his way out of every situation like he could in the first 2 films. “Die Hard with a Vengeance” is easily one of the best action films ever made and is one of my favorite films of all time. I seriously recommend this film to any fan of this Franchise and action films as a whole.

Final Score: 10 / 10.  The perfect action film.

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Die Hard (1988): An Amazing and Classic Christmas Action Film

Die Hard

    I had never watched “Die Hard” until a few days ago. I’m glad I did. This is the movie that hits all the right notes for a great action film and a great film overall. It isn’t complicated but it doesn’t have to be, the characters…largely the main stars of the the hero and villain carry the film as we see them use different strategies to defeat one another. There stakes are always high and it never lets up.

     The film was directed by John McTiernan and written by Steven E. de Souza and produced by Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver. The screenplay was based off the story “Nothing Lasts Forever” by Roderick Thorp.

     The story involves New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) being trapped in a building where his ex-wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) is when 12 terrorists lead by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) hold the place hostage. It is up to McClane and the LAPD to defeat him.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise is fantastic! The stakes are always high and both Gruber and McClane are racing against time. McClane to get outside help to even the odds and to stop the terrorists, and Gruber to access the cash and hack the system. For this reason the stakes are always high as both are hero and villain have limits and time working against them.

The Action – The action is amazing! From every gunfight with one of Gruber’s minions, to the final battle up on top of the roof and Gruber blowing up the roof and the final scene with our heroes and villain hanging off an edge. It pulls you in and doesn’t let go.

The Soundtrack – Michael Kamen did a great job on this soundtrack. It’s visceral and captures the tension of the different situations John is in really well.

The Minions – The minions are a lot of fun. The ones who stood out the most were the blond German brothers and the tech Theo all who were clearly loving their roles. I actually cared about what happened to them as the team of terrorists were a close knit group and had more distinct personalities than most of the business people in the building they were holding hostage.

Sgt. Al Powell – Reginald VelJohnson does good work as the cop with a history who made the worst mistake one can make (mistook a toy for an actual gun) and is living with the regret. He is the heart and soul of the film who keeps John grounded.

Hans Gruber – Alan Rickman plays one of the best villains in action film. He manipulates everyone perfectly and it is only the x factor of John that makes throws off his plan. Even than he manages to hurt our hero pretty bad and I really liked how much humanity Rickman gives the character, especially when he goes undercover as a hostage to learn about John’s motivations for being there. When he is beaten it is earned and that is what makes him so fantastic outside of his fantastic mind.

John McClane – John is the everyman who adapts to a new dangerous situation and rises to the challenge, managing to eventually get outside help and defeat Gruber. He is a loner and we see a man who is lost and living in the past (his wife has moved on). It is in his conversations with Al his humanity is revealed and we see getting back to his kids is his primary motivation for all he does. We also see his kindness when Gruber goes undercover to set a trap for him and he treats Gruber with kindness when he thinks he’s a hostage. There is a humor to him too and he is like a cowboy.

Okay: Takagi – Owns the business being hostage and is killed by Gruber. He has courage though and we see him stand up to Gruber on multiple occasions and we see his compassion in how he treats McClane and his employees. I wanted to know more about what motivated him though, which is why he isn’t a pro and is just okay.

Holly – She is a damsel a bit too often once Gruber learns that she is John’s ex-wife. She could have been more of a damsel to the writer’s credit so I’m not putting her as a con, she just doesn’t have as distinct of motivations as some of our other characters though.

The Cons: The Business People – Whether it is Holly’s new relationship or the guy working with the terrorists, they were just sleazeballs and were weak as characters.

   Merry Christmas all! This is easily one of the best Christmas films I’ve seen (it all takes place over a Christmas party) and the dynamic between Gruber and McClane creates a visceral and fun action film that I cannot wait to watch again. I understand completely why this film spawned a franchise, it truly is that good of story. Nearly all the characters are in their A Game and the sleazeball business men aren’t enough to bring it down.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10