Tag Archives: John McTiernan

Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) Review

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Die Hard With a Vengeance

Time: 128 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Bruce Willis as John McClane
Jeremy Irons as Simon Peter Gruber
Samuel L. Jackson as Zeus Carver
Graham Greene as Joe Lambert
Colleen Camp as Connie Kowalski
Larry Bryggman as Walter Cobb
Anthony Peck as Ricky Walsh
Nick Wyman as Mathias Targo
Sam Phillips as Katya
Director: John McTiernan

John McClane (Bruce Willis) must enlist the help of Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson), a local shop owner, to stop Simon (Jeremy Irons), a former colonel from East Germany, from detonating bombs across New York.

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I remember Die Hard with a Vengeance being one of the best Die Hard movies, my favourite just after the original. I recalled that it was on a much larger scale from the previous two movies, and it had Samuel L. Jackson as well as Jeremy Irons as the villain. On rewatching it I can say that it is the best Die Hard sequel despite a couple of issues.

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The story is suspenseful with a brisk and relentless pace, and it never lets up. It’s not the most original of stories for action movies, but it is well executed. The narrative is consistently engaging and really benefits from the central buddy dynamic with the main two characters. The initial plot having the lead characters racing around New York City trying to stop bombs going off was a great way to add tension. It is also quite funny, it’s probably the funniest of the Die Hard movies, mostly because of the dynamic between the two leads. Something about Die Hard with a Vengeance is that it isn’t a carbon copy to the first or second Die Hard movies. It scraps the idea of John McClane stuck in one location with terrorists or robbers running about and expands it to the entirety of New York City. It also abandons the Christmas setting of the first two Die Hard movies for Summer in the city. As a result, it definitely does more than just recycle the first film’s plot. The movie marked the biggest change of the series, for better and for worse. Even within this movie itself, the change does lose some things from the first movie, like it doesn’t feel as claustrophobic. Additionally, the third movie’s more expansive setting and complex plot does rob it of some of the simplicity of the predecessors. However, this change was necessary given that Die Hard 2 was already very similar to the first movie. There are a couple of changes that I wasn’t a fan of, some things were left off from the last two movies, mainly to do with John McClane. They explain what happened with him since Die Hard 2, but its all done in a rush. However, the biggest problem with Die Hard with a Vengeance is that the third act just doesn’t work as well as the previous two acts. It starts to lose steam when the mysterious villain is revealed even before his personal motivation becomes apparent. The ending feels especially rushed and tact on in a “here’s everything resolved now” way. It’s worth knowing that there was an alternative original ending which was much darker. While I usually would gravitate to it, that ending doesn’t work well either and would’ve needed a lot more work on it for it to be satisfying. Despite its issues, the disappointing theatrical ending is still fine and definitely an improvement over the alternate and more sombre ending that they abandoned.

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There are some solid performances from the cast. Bruce Willis is once again ever reliable as John McClane. McClane in this movie is at a low point in his life, his wife left him again, he’s suspended and he’s an alcoholic. These additions are a double edged sword, it does make him more vulnerable and as a result more relatable, and again he’s really put through the wringer. However, there is also a sullenness to McClane here that can be off-putting, especially compared to his appearance in Die Hard 2. Samuel L. Jackson’s character of Zeus Carver is one of Die Hard’s best characters behind McClane, providing some great comic relief with his line deliveries. This movie wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without the chemistry between Willis and Jackson, they are a perfect on-screen duo, bouncing off each other so well. This movie also has the Die Hard movies’ second best villain in Jeremy Irons, who is thoroughly chewing the scenery, even when we don’t see him for most of the movie and only hear his voice. Unfortunately, the writing for Irons just wasn’t that great and the character in retrospect is a little lacklustre, especially when it reveals the character later in the movie. The rest of the villains are forgettable even by Die Hard standards.

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Original Die Hard director John McTiernan’s return to the director chair was more than welcome. As written earlier, Die Hard 3 takes a very different approach and is no longer the claustrophobic thriller the first one was, and I thought that change was handled well partially because of the direction. The action sequences are great as expected. I don’t think they come close to the first Die Hard’s action, but With a Vengeance comes closest to achieving this.

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Die Hard with a Vengeance is a worthy third instalment in the franchise, and the best of the sequels by far. Despite some issues including the third act and some changes from the previous two movies, the fresh new direction in terms of scale and story really helped it. It is energetic, thrilling and entertaining to watch, and strongly benefits from the main duo of Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson.

Die Hard (1988) Review

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Die Hard

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and offensive language
Cast:
Bruce Willis as John McClane
Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber
Alexander Godunov as Karl
Bonnie Bedelia as Holly Gennero-McClane
Director: John McTiernan

Hoping to spend Christmas with his estranged wife, detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) arrives in LA. However, he learns about a hostage situation in an office building and his wife is one of the hostages.

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Die Hard is considered one of the greatest action films of all time for very good reason. It is a simple yet effective, and works as well as it does because each of its elements have been so perfectly handled.

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First of all, I won’t weigh into the argument or debate about whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie, but I will say that it works as either. Something that was so impressive about the movie was the script. Like a lot of other classic 80s action movies, it does have some very memorable dialogue and one liners, but it is also just structurally very well put together. There’s nothing much complex about the movie, it’s very simple. However it is very well written and has a tight and well paced story, that gradually escalates over time. It draws you in with the simple premise and keeps the momentum throughout the entire run of the movie. There’s a lot of time for build up, character development, and gradual increasing of tension and action. Every plot point in the film is set up in a natural way, and every one of these setups does have their satisfying payoffs. It is also a very contained and relatively small scale movie despite being an iconic action movie. There are large action scenes, some of which contain some explosions, but most of the film is claustrophobic and suspenseful.

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The acting is also really good. One of the key aspects that makes Die Hard work as well as it does is the character of John McClane. McClane is very much a regular person caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s very much not invincible here, each of his fights and encounters aren’t easy, most of the time he barely survives. He completely wings it every time and is just improvising as he’s going along. He’s also not a perfect person, he is flawed and combining this with his personality makes him relatable and likable as a protagonist. McClane however wouldn’t have worked without Bruce Willis. His casting at the time was no doubt unusual given that he was mainly known for comedy at the time, but he fits perfectly well in here. He was far from the Schwarzeneggers and Stallones in the 80s and was a different kind of action hero. Willis even nails talking to himself during challenging moments in a way that actually feels natural. It’s easy to see how this character made such an impact on future protagonists in movies, especially with how action heroes leads would be written and portrayed. Alan Rickman is equally as iconic as Hans Gruber, the main villain of the movie as the leader of a group of bank robbers. Despite the group of villains on the whole being rather average, Rickman overcomes this and more than holds his own against Bruce Willis, becoming a perfect counterpart to McClane despite not sharing many scenes with him. As Gruber, he’s menacing, charming and very intelligent, proving to be a difficult obstacle over the course of the movie. Definitely one of the most iconic movie villains, especially in the action genre. There are also other entertaining secondary characters who are also played well, including Bonnie Bedelia and Reginald VelJohnson.

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Another key element of Die Hard working as well as it does is John McTiernan’s impeccable direction. First of all, the setting of a large hotel is grand and claustrophobic all at once, providing a great background for the movie and action to take place inside. It is beautifully shot, and the lighting and camera movements are amazing. The action is fantastic too, tense and gripping, and well edited. McTiernan really knows how to build a lot of tension and suspense. Even the special effects are ageless, and for an 80s action movie that’s saying a lot.

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Die Hard is an incredibly important movie of the action genre, as well as movies in general, it’s actually hard to talk about it. Every time I come back to this movie it somehow ends up being better than the last time I watched it. If you’ve never seen the first Die Hard, it is definitely well worth a watch.

Predator (1987) Review

Time: 107 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer
Carl Weathers as Al Dillon
Elpidia Carrillo as Anna Gonsalves
Bill Duke as Mac Elliot
Richard Chaves as Jorge “Poncho” Ramírez
Jesse Ventura as Blain Cooper
Sonny Landham as Billy Sole
Shane Black as Rick Hawkins
R. G. Armstrong as Major General Homer Phillips
Kevin Peter Hall as The Predator/helicopter pilot
Director: John McTiernan

Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a soldier of fortune, is hired by the U.S. government to secretly rescue a group of politicians trapped in Guatemala. But when Dutch and his team, which includes weapons expert Blain (Jesse Ventura) and CIA agent George (Carl Weathers), land in Central America, something is gravely wrong. After finding a string of dead bodies, the crew discovers they are being hunted by a brutal creature with superhuman strength and the ability to disappear into its surroundings.

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With the latest Predator movie coming in under a month from now, I decided to check out the original film again. Predator was a pretty big hit upon its release and would lead to 2 (now 3) sequels and a couple of crossover films with the Alien franchise. While the reaction to Predator upon it’s release was mixed, it become more beloved over time. Watching Predator for a second time, I have to say that it is still a really entertaining 80s action movie. It may not be one of my favourite action movies of all time but I still really like it and it does have its place in action cinema.

Predator is a rather straightforward action movie that is rather thin on plot. The first third is a seemingly standard action movie, and the rest is a survival against a mysterious killer who’s picking each of them off. The highlight of the film without a doubt though was the third act with Arnold Schwarzenegger and The Predator facing off. It’s glorious to watch, and I like how Arnold has to go to ‘primal’ tactics to fight the Predator instead of just using all the guns that they have in most of the movie. One effective thing about the Predator in this movie is that the movie doesn’t just show it in all its glory (of course its not quite as impactful now that we all know what it looks like). As I said earlier, there isn’t a lot of depth to the story or the characters, and it’s not that unpredictable. However for the type of movie it’s trying to be, it works well enough most of the time. With that said, there is a death halfway into the movie that is lingered on for too long and it feels stretched out. It’s not like it left any emotional impact, we don’t feel much for the character’s death because we didn’t particularly learn much about said character and weren’t given any particular reason to like him. So really it would’ve just been better to move past that death scene reasonably quickly. Outside of that segment, Predator is pretty consistent in its hour and 46 minute running time.

The cast with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carrillo, Bill Duke, Richard Chaves, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham and Shane Black do a good job in the movie. As I said before, none of these characters get any characterisation or depth and so they don’t really get to do much with their roles. Arnold Schwarzenegger does quite well once again in an action role, there’s no real depth given to him here but he is believable enough in his role and is great in the action scenes, particularly in the third act.

John McTiernan is a very good action director with Die Hard, The Hunt for Red October and Die Hard with a Vengeance and Predator is yet another solid action flick from him. The gun battle (there’s really just one in the first act) and all the action scenes are really done well. The locations really works, it makes you feel like you’re in the jungle and it doesn’t feel fake for at least most of it. It really feels like an 80s action movie, with the sound effects, CGI, explosions, sparks and music by Alan Silvestri, which could really work for you or not, but you do need to go into it expecting an 80s movie. Some of it can look really dated, such as the cloaking effects, also some of the POV shots from the Predator’s perspective in the third act were kind of messy. On another note, the design of the Predator itself is quite great, it feels effective and while we don’t learn the background of these aliens (I don’t know if we ever get to learn in the movies) it works well for this movie.

Predator is a really solid action movie and watching it you can really see why it made such an impact when it was released. Not all of it has aged well, it has a very thin plot with thin characters, and I’m not sure if I’d personally put it on the best action movies of all time list, but it is still essential viewing for anyone who loves action movies.