It struck me as odd how anachronistic this movie is. It’s not that the cell phones are the size of bricks or that pay phones are an integral part of the plot (or that Bruce Willis has hair). It’s that it’s so blasé about bombs blowing up the New York subway and white cops shakily pointing guns at black men who have done nothing more than yell a little and the overt discussion of racism between an angry white man and an angry black man. Back then a white man wearing a sandwich board emblazoned with the N-word in the middle of Harlem was a hilarious concept. Back then we believed that a hero would ride in and save the day. Back then the Twin Towers still existed.
It was the 90s. What a different country we were.
Nevertheless, Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), the third installment in the series, remains my favorite of them all. Perhaps it’s because it was my introduction to action movies, but mostly because it was my introduction to Samuel L. Jackson. There aren’t many actors who can stand up to the sarcasm and wit of John McClane, but my man Sammy J. can. Jeremy Irons makes a perfectly charming yet despicable villain and I love the addition of riddles to the action. It’s not just that McClane has to out-shoot the bad guys, he has to out-think them, too. The plot is as simple as the previous movies – SPOILER ALERT – the villain wants revenge for McClane killing his brother (Hans Gruber in the first movie) while also stealing a ton of gold from the federal reserve, but that’s not terribly important. What matters most is the comedic riff between the two leads, the fact that they can be funny while highlighting their racial differences and, let’s face it, prejudices while working together to stop a madman from wreaking havoc on the city. Honestly, I’m doubtful this movie could be made today (even more so than the second). In its casual discussions of race and terrorism, it’s a reminder of how innocent we all once were.