Die Hard: With a Vengeance ★★★★★

Only John McTiernan could make another Die Hard film that's almost as good as the first. While not featuring the perfect script that helped make Die Hard so perfect, With a Vengeance satisfies on an action level that's so good you can forgive some of the lesser factors the film has.

McTiernan really is the greatest action director. He knows how to establish geography, and then combine creative angles and music to create tension. The action scenes here, like in the first Die Hard, are heaven to an action fan. Full of spectacle, and yet full of so much tension. It's amazing how the action holds up to repeat viewings. In an age where Michael Bay's predisposition for crappy chaotic action runs rampant and slowly kills the genre, it's nice to know that films as old as the original Die Hard films can still hold up and provide entertainment to old and new viewers alike.

I know I knocked the script as having a few flaws, but that doesn't mean it still has some strengths. The script realizes that part of what made the first Die Hard film so strong is the character beats. While this film is more focused on action than Die Hard was (which as I mentioned in my review was actually a character study), Die Hard With A Vengeance remembers to include these satisfying moments that we can come back to. We're already sold on McClane since he's the same lovable asshole that we had for the past two films, but there's a nice colorful group of supporting characters to work with too. Samuel L. Jackson's Zeus makes for a good buddy for McClane to have around, and he never steals the spotlight, nor does he feel completely unnecessary. Jeremy Irons brings enough menace and character to the film to provide a satisfyingly evil villain with a satisfying dispatch. The film also knows when to combine clever humor, and then switch to edge-of-your-seat tension, and back again.

This isn't perfection, but I'll be damned if it doesn't pass my action rule of 3 with flying colors:

1. The hero must be likable, and he must have a motive for being involved. The bigger the motive, the better the payoff.
2. The action must be comprehensible and feature either tension or spectacle, and if possible, both.
3. If there's a villain (not always needed but usually good to have around) we should either love to hate him, or hate to love him. The villain should always get what they have coming to them, and their death should be fitting, so it can satisfy.

Mary Conti liked these reviews