By Jon Roig
Arizona Summer Wildcat
You've gotta love a movie that gets right into the action. No credits at the beginning, just the title of movie and then BOOM, a department store blows up in huge explosion. This is the way summer blockbusters are meant to be Ä non-stop action thrillers where the good guys are invincible and the bad guys always die at the end. It's been seven years since the first "Die Hard" set the standard for all major action movies to come and while movies like "Speed," "Under Siege," and "Passenger 57" took the same kind of claustrophobic tension and channeled it into other environments such as subways, boats, and busses, the "Die Hard" people stayed quiet, not wanting to make a total turkey out of the third installment of the action series.
But now Bruce Willis is back as John McClane, the "working class James Bond" (as another critic put it), who bad things just keep happening to. Also back for "Die Hard With a Vengeance" is director John McTiernan, whose work includes the first "Die Hard," "The Hunt for Red October," and "Predator." The wait was worth it. These guys are professionals.
Refusing to capitalize on the past success of the other "Die Hard" films, the new movie creates a whole new premise for the film to revolve around. Gone is the estranged wife, Holly McClane. While she maintains an off-screen presence in the abstract (John is having a lot of problems dealing with their separation), the creators of "Die Hard With a Vengeance" rightly assume that we don't want to see her get into trouble just so her super cop husband can save her again. The new cast and set of characters are really what carry the film.
In his first time out as an action villain, Academy Award-winner Jeremy Irons, the only man creepy enough to play Claus Von Bulow in "Reversal of Fortune," is the fiendish Simon Gruber Ä a super-intelligent madman bent on holding the city of New York hostage and extracting revenge for the death of his brother in the first "Die Hard" film. After getting his
arch rival's attention with the aforementioned very large explosion, Simon says, in his own unique rhyming way, that John McClane must go up to Harlem and wear a sign that says, "Niggers suck." By saving him from certain death at the hands of a street gang, Zeus Carver (Samuel Jackson), becomes his unwilling partner... and the game begins from there.
New York City may be the most dangerous and exciting city in the word and perhaps it is the star of the film. While the previous "Die Hard" films took place in the relatively contained environments of a skyscraper in Los Angeles and Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., with the whole city acting as the backdrop for the action, anything can happen. The city's personality plays a major role: the traffic situation on the streets, the subway system, the schools, the people, the bridges, the parks. It's street smarts, not just bullets and brawn, that McClane and Carver use to battle the forces of evil. And, because of that, the story is intensely more compelling.
Of course the film is violent Ä you expect that from a "Die Hard" film. But, surprisingly, the gore is kept to a minimum. In one scene Bruce Willis has a piece of glass in his foot. Although the audience sees only about a second of the actual blood and guts, long enough to have an impact, the rest of the time is spent knowing how much it must hurt and watching our hero deal with the agony. People are shot, throats are cut, one man is even cut in half by a cable, and all these episodes are handled in the same cut-away manner. Because of this, the light hearted tone of the film can be maintained without turning into a total gross out.
"Die Hard With a Vengeance" may be the perfect summer movie and although the "roller coaster" cliche has been played out in other reviews of other movies, I think it applies most appropriately here. The movie is all about action and doesn't really try to be anything more. If you're looking for a heartwarming story about good family values, go rent "Forrest Gump" or something. I don't know. Personally, I just want an escape and I can't imagine a better way to beat the heat and forget about the problems of the world then to go see the new Die Hard movie and get entranced.
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