The running exchange of wisecracks and affectionate insults sets the tone for violence so far-fetched that it lifts itself quickly and comfortably to the level of high camp spoof.

DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


"Die Hard With a Vengeance" is mad action spoofery that opens with Bonwit Teller engulfing 57th Street in a giant fireball. We learn immediately that the bomber is Simon (Jeremy Irons), a marvelously cerebral villain who wants to play games with John McClane (Bruce Willis), the cop who tangled with Simon's brother in the last go-round.

McClane, an alcoholic stumblebum on justified suspension from the police force, is recalled to match wits with the coldly sophisticated terrorist. In a classic tone-setter, a colleague says to McClane, "We'll be back to pick you up in fifteen minutes," and is answered by, "Take your time, I expect to be dead in four."

The reason he stays alive a little longer, aside from being the unexpendable star of the movie, is that he is rescued by Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson), who saves him from a mob in a burst of morally responsible behavior. The two are immediately and forever linked in the race to catch Simon before he blows up his eccentric list of targets. That's where the fun begins.

The special effects crew and scriptwriters have a holiday with the explosions and the challenge of keeping you slumped in your seat in worry and fear. The running exchange of wisecracks and affectionate insults sets the tone for violence so far-fetched that it lifts itself quickly and comfortably to the level of high camp spoof. It's a Tom and Jerry cartoon; it's Road Runner; it's fun.

The chemistry between Jackson and Willis is laced with the kind of lighthearted charm that bubbles up when two actors are having a good time making a movie. Willis, clad in filthy clothes, stubble, and clotted blood, and Jackson, the elegant, reluctant recruit, play off one another with gusto. Willis has great fun with the label handed him by his chief: "McClane is a toilet bug."

McClane and Zeus, with joyous zest, commandeer bikes, cars, and trucks to batter their way through Manhattan's gridlocked traffic. They swing from cranes, plunge into the Hudson, and fight the viaduct. They negotiate helicopters, trains, and flooded tunnels with untempered joy.

Jeremy Irons, with his Bondian sophistication, gives Simon the essential trait of a first-rate villain: he is cruel. He is very smart, says little, and has a girlfriend who sets a new standard for female predators. Speaking not one word in the whole film, she kills with a sickle and strides with the style of a killer who loves her trade. Together, they are a horrific double icicle.

It does, however, go on forever. Of the ships, taxis, dump trucks, bridges, schools, and the Federal Reserve Bank, most of them explode or crash. Oddly, a kind of comic charm infuses the debris. It's a movie of knives, guns, chains, bombs, cables, and suspense. It's boys and their toys and someone has just said, "Let's light the fuse."


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 496
Studio : 20th Century Fox
Rating : R
Running Time: 2h8m


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