Although it was easy to see that the film makers decided to take the easy route with "Die Hard 2" by making it a copy of the first film, its "Die Hard With A Vengeance" that truly hits on what made the original "Die Hard" such a great fucking watch. It does so in two ways: going back to the foundations and then building in new elements to make it its own film. It succeeds at both.
John McClane (Willis) is called out of his drunken stupor and suspension when a maniacal terrorist threatens to bomb public places in New York if McClane doesn't do what he asks. When our favorite asshole detective finds himself with an electrician Zeus (Jackson) helping him out in a fucked up game of Simon Says, he begins to wonder why go to all this trouble. What they discover seems to have significant connection to his past and may be a blind fold on everyone for a larger crime on hand.
Here's why "Die Hard With A Vengeance" works:
The Roots: This third entry goes back to what worked in the original "Die Hard". Our hero is back to being the ass of everyone's jokes and a flawed human being. He's hungover half the film and his life is falling apart. This makes him human and makes us sympathize. The film also blends the humor and the action better. McTiernan (who was brought back to direct this one since he did the first) seems to know how this works and none of it feels forced. Humor happens. It feels like it here. The action is top notch (although perhaps a bit TOO over the top even though seeing McClane shot out of a geyser is funny; its a bit out there) and the adrenaline kicking pacing as we watch our heroes try to make sense out of a bad situation is addicting.
The Twists: The film also adds in new elements that seamlessly blend with the roots so well that it seems like how it was supposed to be. We have the new 'partner' in the film. Jackson and Willis spark with insane chemistry on screen. Their banter and the general forced buddy cop element works to add new ways for our hero to struggle with the situation. Jackson gives substance to a rather thin role and makes their screen time a riot to watch. This film also takes the plot in more epic directions. Instead of just amping the action (which they did), they also amped the tension and urgency of their predicament. Making it a city wide threat (not just a building threat) and giving the villain (Jeremy Irons) a great foundation to build for his almost Bond like character.
Now "Die Hard With A Vengeance" isn't perfect. It's still almost too over the top with its action and the ending seems to be a little rushed, but overall this is the sequel they should have made with the second film. It strikes the foundations it should have and builds them in new ways. One of the best action films out there as far as I'm concerned and one that I find myself watching over and over again. Modern classic.
Written By Matt Reifschneider