Twitter Plot Summary: John McClane is back, slightly hungover, and has to stop a terrorist from blowing up half of New York City.
Five Point Summary:
1. He’s not going to survive five minutes in that…
2. And lo, Samuel L Jackson has no choice but to stay in the film.
3. Alan Rickman!
4. Everything starts to slot together… endgame?
5. Just when you think it’s over… John McClane doesn’t like to lose.
By the time of this third entry in the Die Hard franchise, times had not been kind to John McClane. After the events of the first two movies evidently proved too much for long suffering wife Holly, we begin here with McClane at his lowest ebb – separated (again) from his wife, suspended from the force and seemingly in the process of drinking himself to death. So that’s exactly the right time for a terrorist to strike, right? And not just any terrorist, one who has a personal vendetta against McClane, for reasons that will become apparent. A deadly game of Simon Says ensues, with McClane run ragged across the city as he tries to complete tasks and avoid the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians.
As part of his first task McClane is dumped into Harlem wearing what can only be described as a derogatory sign. He’s saved by local shopkeeper Zeus (Jackson) and then the story really gets going as a strained buddy pairing is established. It’s the classic formula of two guys who initially don’t get along and eventually find a mutual level of respect, nothing new there. What is fun however is the interactions between Willis and Jackson, two actors arguably at the top of their game. It’s also a formula that’s been re-used in both additional Die Hard sequels since 1995, with McClane buddied up with an unusual partner for the majority of the film.
Unlike those later entries (reviews forthcoming!) it’s in this third entry that it hits the right notes. Looking past the surface, McClane is a broken man on a path of redemption, attempting to redeem himself in the eyes of… well, everyone else. Meanwhile Zeus is basically called out as a racist, after which he realigns his perspective and he and McClane become equals – as it should be. By throwing these two together they help each other overcome their preconceptions, their flaws and their world concerns – something that was blatantly missing from the fourth and fifth films.
It’s easy to argue that this is a stronger film than the second entry, although weaker than the first. The action never lets up for a second, there’s a shot of Alan Rickman plummeting from the top of Nakatomi Plaza (always a winner), and the wild goose chase setup, making McClane solve task after task, is a clever device until McClane decides he’s had enough. Whilst no offence is aimed at Renny Harlin, I discussed in my Die Hard 2 review that he often loses sight of the core story/theme behind the explosions, which is why it’s instantly recognisable that John McTiernan is back in the director’s chair. He balances the two perfectly, switching between the bickering between McClane and Zeus, Simon’s plans to make away with a vast amount of gold and, surprisingly, the efforts of the local police force to stop bombs exploding in a number of schools. It’s testament to both the writer and to McTiernan’s handling of the action that events never get confused.
It also suffers from “Not as good as Hans Gruber” villain syndrome – Jeremy Irons’ Simon is competent and at least has a half decent plan in this instance, but you can’t help but wonder if he’d have made a clean getaway if he hadn’t been blinded by a personal vendetta. When will these villains learn, eh? They should know by now that John McClane doesn’t like to lose.
Put it this way – one New Year’s Eve many moons ago, I had the opportunity of going out to a pub for the evening or stopping at home and watching Die Hard With A Vengeance on DVD. Die Hard won that particular battle, and it wasn’t a particularly fair fight.
Is there an Alan Rickman plummet?: YES! The one from the first film!