Movie Review : Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)
There are two eras in the Die Hard movie franchise: the classic era (Die Hard and Die Hard 2) and the shameless resurrection, engineered by Fox executives looking to squeeze that sweet Die Hard money out of us. In between stands 1995's Die Hard with a Vengeance (also known as Die Hard 3), which doesn't belong to any era in particular. It clearly doesn't have the appeal of the first two, but it's not a bad movie at all in its own right. How should we remember Die Hard with a Vengeance? I've rewatched it and tried to answer this question.
Die Hard with a Vengeance picks up in New York city, where John McClane (Bruce Willis) seemingly washed up after another rift with his wife Holly. While he's on suspension from the police force, a bomb explodes in New York, paralyzing half of the city with fear. The person responsible calls the police station and asks for McClane to be reinstated and to go into Harlem with a sign saying... well, "I hate... black people" around his neck. He miraculously survives that ordeal because of a kind-hearted shopkeeper (Samuel L. Jackson), but he's not done. Observed by an all-seeing villain, McClane and his new friend will have to run around down and solve a series of puzzles to prevent further bombs to go off.
This is the first original screenplay in the franchise and it shows. It recycles a ridiculous amount of the original movie's tropes: German protagonist, heist disguised as a terrorist attempt, law enforcement incompetence, black sidekick, etc. It reeked of a strategic decision by Fox: people who were already fans would enjoy the callback and people who weren't would get similar thrills and would maybe check out the first two. Seriously, Die Hard with a Vengeance borderlines soft reboot territory, save for the fact that it sprawls over an entire city instead of taking place in building on lockdown, which.... undercuts some of its charm. Let's be honest about that.
There's obvious opportunism here. Some of the interesting political symbolism was also shaved off in favor of blowing the movie's scope out of proportion. Die Hard with a Vengeance is often too busy trying to wow you with firefights and explosions to be clever, but there's no real harm in that. It wasn't the first, nor the last disguised World War II movie where an American cowboy/private stand-in fends off a conspiracy from evil Germans. We collectively love this kind of movie and it's exactly what Die Hard with a Vengeance delivers. It's just a more predictable spin off its predecessors.
The pre-9/11 years were rather quiet on the international front, for the U.S. The cold war was finally over, Saddam Hussein seemed to have learned his lesson about invading neighboring countries, so there wasn't anyone to be afraid of. So, the idea of making another Die Hard movie in that particular period was a little suspicious, given that the franchise is inherently political. That's why Die Hard with a Vengeance is not the worst, but it is the least memorable movie in the franchise. It's competent, enjoyable, but it feels a little hollow. All the firefights and explosions in the world cannot cover up if you don't understand what it is that makes your movies special.