Die Hard with a Vengeance


The premise and screenplay for Die Hard With a Vengeance are no less idiotic than the franchise’s subsequent sequels, but this third outing for John McClane is perfect popcorn while the more recent films are unwatchable drivel. Credit is due to unheralded director John McTiernan, a filmmaker of narrow brilliance who returned to the series after helming the first film in 1988 and sitting out the second, Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1992). His camera angles and movements are uniformly sure-footed, propelling the films forward visually despite ludicrous plot devices. Director of 11 films, he has but one Great Film to his name (see below) but even his worst efforts (Rollerball [2002] and Last Action Hero [1993]) make for fantastic entertainment on Saturday afternoons. He knows where to point a camera, he knows when to move it and he knows what to put in front of it. He may lack the essential auteurist credential of a thematic signature, but his work bolts forward with uncommon grace.

All due respect to The Road Warrior, the original Die Hard is the greatest pure action film ever made. The iron law of sequels demands ever greater scope, depriving With a Vengeance of the opportunity to recreate the lean efficacy that sanctified part one. In the third entry Bruce Willis returns as John McClane, battling through a hangover to complete a series of inane brain teasers across New York City in a game of “Simon Says” arranged by an East German terrorist. But that plot really doesn’t matter and thankfully doesn’t intrude. As with the first film, McTiernan’s orchestration of action set-pieces redeems the material. He knows what he’s doing.

Past Screenings