Dan’s review published on Letterboxd:
This is my favourite Die Hard film don’t @ me. The first is always going to be more iconic because of what it did for action movies and action protagonists, because of the villain, and because of one of cinema’s most quotable lines: “Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker”. BUT, I honestly find Die Hard: With a Vengeance to be more rewatchable.
This could be down to a number of things, but chiefly it’s because of the introduction of Samuel L Jackson’s Zeus. His dynamic with John McClane is far more entertaining to me than seeing McClane go about his anti-terrorist shenanigans on his own (not that that isn’t absurdly entertaining anyway, but this buddy dynamic REALLY elevates the premise for me). I also prefer the idea of the film taking place all over New York and essentially being one wild goose chase, rather than being self-contained and in one location. Again, I’m not saying that doesn’t work perfectly for the first film, but I just find more fun in McClane constantly racing around the city and being even more on the back foot than he is in the first one.
The villain isn’t as memorable or as charming as Hans Gruber, granted, but he’s better than the villain in Die Hard 2 and he has a motivation that ties in nicely to the first film. With that said, until you find out who the villain is and why he’s doing this to McClane, the mystery of all that is intriguing enough.
The dialogue in this one is arguably even better than it was in the original, and the dialogue in that was top tier. I just love the back and forth between McClane and Zeus, the conflict between them, the humour that derives from the situations they find themselves in and the fact that they have to work together to fight a common threat. Their relationship also has deeper themes going on, such as some subtle things to say about racism and how it’s not just white people that can be racist.
Some of the action scenes here are excellent too. Whether it’s an exhilarating car chase or the huge explosions that go off in this film, the sound design, practical effects and in-camera way of shooting come together to make for visceral filmmaking where the action really feels like a gut punch.
It’s crazy that this wasn’t even written to be a Die Hard film, as I feel it works better than the second one and judging by people’s reactions, the fourth and fifth too. The first is probably “better” as a complete package, and you have side characters with more depth completing character arcs in that, but if I’m ever in the mood for a fun, endlessly-entertaining action movie, I tend to choose this one over Die Hard.
John McTiernan returned to direct this one after skipping out on Die Hard 2, and the film is definitely stronger for having him back at the helm. What an underrated director by the way! The tone of constant energy in With a Vengeance is also really similar to my third favourite Die Hard movie: Speed (seriously, how is it not just called Die Hard: On a Bus?).
A great ending to a super solid action trilogy, and in many ways it’s the complete opposite of the first film so doesn’t fall into the trap that Die Hard 2 does of feeling like a slightly watered down and overly familiar rehash of the first film (again, not knocking Die Hard 2, I enjoy that as well, but it is the weakest one of the 3 that I’ve seen).
Soul review coming soon, but I’m too ill to record any videos at the moment! 💙