Plot: John McClane (Bruce Willis) must have the worst luck of anyone on the planet. On suspension and hung over, McClane is called back to active duty, since a terrorist is detonating bombs and threatens to trigger more unless McClane does just what he says. So, McClane finds himself in Harlem, standing on a street corner with a sandwich board sign on that reads “I Hate Niggers,” and back up is nowhere in sight. He escapes with his life and some abrasions, thanks to a local shop keeper, Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson), who decides to save McClane from the beating. This does not sit well with the terrorist Simon (Jeremy Irons), so he stages a series of stunts for the pair to complete, or else more damage will be done. As such, the two manage to work together long enough to finish the tasks, when they are told of an even bigger plot. Simon has placed a large amount of explosives inside a public school, and will trigger them to go off unless his word is followed. McClane has his mind in several other places, but he has to focus on the task at hand, or else lives will be lost.
Entertainment Value: After being confined to an office building and an airport, John McClane is allowed to run free in this third Die Hard movie, as the action spills all over New York City. This shift results in less of the established Die Hard texture, a trend that continues in other aspects of the movie. So while John McClane keeps this connected to the rest of the series, this installment feels like a standard action movie that happens to involve McClane, rather than a Die Hard movie. This one focuses on an odd couple dynamic and while I appreciate the fresh take on McClane’s adventures, I miss that special Die Hard recipe. This is a solid action movie with a good sense of humor, not to mention an outlandish summer popcorn narrative, but it just doesn’t feel like Die Hard to me, which lessens the fun. Even so, this movie has some wild set pieces and silly, convoluted moments, while letting McClane’s persona shine through more than it did in Die Hard 2. I would have loved a more traditional Die Hard experience, but this one has some solid moments and is a fun ride.
Bruce Willis is back and while he always seems stressed or burned out, this version of John McClane is the most worn down we’ve seen. He is beaten down and bitter, which seeps into his persona in natural ways, but he is also the same McClane and his charm and wit also shine through. Willis performs well and conveys that broken down side with skill, while the script also allows him to have more depth, though not at the expensive of charm or humor. The film’s odd couple dynamic has Willis sharing the spotlight with Samuel L. Jackson, who gives his usual aggressive, over the top effort that can be fun to watch. The two have good chemistry, which leads to some good banter and wild exchanges, though Jackson is so loud and one dimensional, it begins to grate at a certain point. Die Hard’s next villain was Jeremy Irons, who dials up a maniacal turn and delivers an outlandish accent. He fits in well with the previous villains, though Rickman still holds the crown as McClane’s best rival. The cast also includes Colleen Camp and Graham Greene, while John McTiernan returns to direct.