Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)

2018 #63
John McTiernan | 128 mins | Blu-ray | 2.35:1 | USA / English & German | 15 / R

Die Hard with a Vengeance

Making a sequel to what’s regarded as one of, if not the, greatest action (and Christmas) movies of all time is basically a hiding to nothing — however good your work, if it’s not a stone-cold classic too then it’s a relative failure. Nonetheless, there are those who’d argue this second sequel to Die Hard is practically as good as the first one, and they’d practically be right.

After having to defend a skyscraper in the first film and an airport in the second, this time it’s an entire city that’s relying on John McClane (Bruce Willis): a terrorist known only as ‘Simon’ (Jeremy Irons) insists McClane engage in a series of outlandish games in a twisted version of Simon Says, with each successfully completed task preventing the detonation of bombs around New York City. But ‘Simon’ actually has a whole other plan, and there’s a reason he sought out the involvement of McClane…

I’m being coy about Simon’s true identity because the film plays it as a big reveal. I don’t know if it was a surprise twist back in ’95 — it’s not given away in the trailers, but I don’t know about other pre-release material. If it ever was a secret, well, I don’t think it is anymore. I’ve certainly known it almost as long as I can remember. It’s a shame, really, because while it doesn’t exactly ruin the film, it does somewhat undermine the first 45-or-so minutes where it’s played as a mystery.

Dirty cop

That’s doubly disappointing because the the first half-or-so of the film is absolutely excellent: fast-paced (it hits the ground running and doesn’t let up), exciting, engaging. Willis is teamed up with Samuel L. Jackson, which makes for a fun double act. Jeremy Irons is reliably excellent as the villain. Okay, it’s not as classic a role as Alan Rickman in the first one, but then what is? But once Simon’s identity and plan are revealed, the pace and ingenuity begin to flag a little. It doesn’t get bad by any means, but it fails to maintain that early momentum throughout. It’s at least one action sequence too long — literally, because the finale is, pace-wise, an unnecessary addendum. Maybe something could’ve gone earlier to keep it tight, too.

Really, these are niggles; stuff that holds it back from absolute perfection. The inadequacy is only apparent becomes it comes after the first half, which is fantastic. Nonetheless, they niggled me enough to hold me back from giving With a Vengeance a full 5 stars, sadly. (However, I hasten to add that, although this is the same mark I gave Die Hard 2, With a Vengeance is a lot better — in retrospect, I’d probably give the first sequel a 3.)

But my biggest regret is that my insistence on watching film series in order, and my general tardiness about actually doing that watching (it feels like With a Vengeance has been on BBC One all the damn time throughout my life — I coulda watched it decades ago — but it took me a good few years to see Die Hard, and I didn’t watch Die Harder ’til after I started this blog), means I haven’t got round to seeing this until now. I mean, I should be on my third or fourth viewing already! Damn.

4 out of 5

7 thoughts on “Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)

  1. Whenever I went over to England to visit my grandparents I would watch this one ad infinitum, without ever seeing what came before! haha. This was one of like three or four VHS cassettes they had on their shelves, and between it, the Jungle Book and The Full Monty (decidedly age-restricted to me at that point) and I always looked forward to watching it again. Had the damn script practically memorized lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, the carefree days of youth! I’m sure I’d’ve done exactly the same when I was a kid, but nowadays I’m not sure I could even force myself to watch a series for the first time out of order.


  2. I must be getting old- I saw this at the cinema; it was a date movie, even, back when my wife-to-be was getting dragged to the cinema by me every week. I remember it seemed a great spin on the old ‘Die Hard’ chestnut, being a great action thriller but also getting the hero out into the big outside world, and making it a buddy-caper too. Actually, this may well have been the first film I ever saw Nick Fury (sorry, Samuel Jackson) in. Anyway, while its still a Die Hard movie, it still seemed to offer something new along with the action/one-liners/charisma of the original. A trick they seemed to later forget.

    One of those films I can always watch whenever it drops on television. Yet I seldom rewatch the blu-ray, go figure…

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s remarkable, in a way, how prepared they were to move away from the formula of “man defends a building” (they left all that “Die Hard in an X” to the rip-offs, I guess), but it’s all the better for it.


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