Die Hard with a Vengeance (or DH3 as I will refer to it) is a strange Die Hard movie. It starts out as a cat and mouse game between Willis, along with Samuel L. Jackson, and Jeremy Irons, and ends in true Die Hard fashion. So what do I think of the movie? I like it, but with a few hesitations.
My first complaint is that the cat and mouse game is not in the tradition of Die Hard. Turning McClane into a pawn defeats the whole purpose of a Die Hard movie. McClane is supposed to be a cop out of his element, taking down bad guys in a single location. (And before you tell me that part 2 takes place in several locations I will counter with "not really, but nice try") Here McClane is running around New York trying to defuse bombs and answer riddles. This isn't the McClane that we know and love. He is just a pawn in an overall game. McClane is supposed to be taking out bad guys like a regular joe version of that guy from that Splinter Cell game. In fact McClane doesn't actually kill anybody until about an hour into the movie. I don't know about you, but I felt kind of cheated by this movie, at first.
The second problem I have with the movie is with the whole school situation. Jeremy Irons claims that he has hidden a huge bomb in a school and the police have until 3pm to find it. If the police try to evacuate the schools he will set off the bomb. We know that this is a ruse because you never blow up a school in a movie, but the movie expects us to go along with it. Alright, I go along with it, but the way that McClane and Zeus, the Jackson character, figure out which school the bomb is in is downright baffling. If McClane hadn't made a certain comment then they would have never figured out which school the bomb was in by the designated deadline.
The figuring out which school the bomb was in is baffling enough, but what is more baffling is how McClane figures out where Irons is hiding out at the end of the movie. I understand it, but it feels like a cheat. There is an alternate ending on the special edition dvd and blu-ray that, while it doesn't really feel like a Die Hard ending, actually fits the movie much better. I get that the filmmakers wanted a shootout at the end of the movie, but this is one movie where the end shootout doesn't fit the rest of the movie.
Luckily we have John McTiernan back as the director of DH3. I thought that Renny Harlin did a great job with part 2, but I feared that the producers would have brought in someone with an MTV-style of directing and as you know, Die Hard is an old fashioned kind of action movie. The stunts and set pieces get bigger and bigger with each movie, but the style of filmmaking remains firmly in the "classy" realm.
DH3 has some insane things happen, but you go along with it. There is a scene in a tunnel system that is filling with water. McClane actually surfs on top of the truck and then is blown up through a sewer. Snake Plissken, another badass character, tried surfing a year later to disastrous results. How can two badasses do pretty much the same thing and emerge with two totally different outcomes? The answer is very simple. We care about McClane and he cares about saving people. He will do whatever it takes to save people. So when he is surfing on top of the truck he is doing it so he can get to the bad guys and save the day. When Snake Plissken does it in Escape from New York it plays like something Carpenter and company thought would be funny. It doesn't serve the story at all. The thing is Snake doesn't have to surf, McClane does.
So DH3 begins as a movie you might see Denzel or a different Bruce Willis character in and ends like a good Die Hard movie should. I applaud the filmmakers for trying something different and the movie is pretty good, but as a Die Hard movie it comes up a little short. DH3 is a little too much for even McClane.