Details: More information can be found at https://www.20thcenturystudios.com/movies/die-hard-with-a-vengeance and https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112864/
Die Hard with a Vengeance is one of the classic 1990’s action movies. It’s one of those movies where a location is as important to the story as any of the characters. To make a movie like this, you needed a huge budget, enormous coordination with New York City, and a substantial amount of knowledge of the city itself.
The film takes place some time after the first two Die Hard movies. John McClane is down on his luck and about to get fired when a mad bomber tasks him to run around Manhattan solving riddles. If he fails, bombs go off. Now McClane and an unlucky civilian must run around the city, defuse bombs and try to stop the bad guy.
What is so strange is that even though this film came out in 1995, it is suddenly incredibly relevant. A big component of this film is the tense race relations between whites and blacks. Not that tense race relations ever stopped being a component of American society, but given the recent protests related to George Floyd, it becomes hyper relevant again.
In the film’s own way, it constantly tries to overcome the race issue. Often times, the biggest obstacle to diffusing a bomb and saving lives is the racists attitudes of whites and blacks. This film does not shy away from how much one group of Americans hate or hurt another and incorporates that racism into the movie. Die Hard with a Vengeance is very much a period piece that showcases the sites and attitudes of 1990’s Manhattan. This inherent racism is an integral part of that setting. It’s just sad that in the year 2020, that racism is still there.
Going along that thought, I loved how the film incorporated all the other parts of the city into the narrative. Our protagonists pay a visit to quite a few major New York City tourist attractions and constantly reference locations in Manhattan that required nuanced knowledge.
For instance, in one scene, McClane needs to drive from Harlem to Wall Street during mid day traffic in about twenty minutes. If you’ve tried that before, you’d know that is close to impossible. Part of the solution he comes up with requires calling an ambulance and telling them someone’s been shot at a certain location and following that ambulance. He makes sure to say that this will only work up to a certain point because the closest hospital only reaches a certain jurisdiction and reporting the shooting too far would mean a different hospital responding and sending an ambulance from the wrong direction. Such nuanced knowledge requires knowing the names of various NYC hospitals as well as the distance of the hospitals to certain locations. They either made it up or did a little research. Either way, if you’re a New Yorker familiar with the neighborhood, you’ll appreciate this mostly accurate detail.
And the entire film is written around these details. It’s just fun as a resident of this city watching these guys run around real world locations and solving riddles which amount to trivia about the city. There’s also a guest appearance by Elvis Duran, a very popular disc jockey from the Z100 radio station. It seems like the film spared no effort to keep this movie feeling like New York.
Overall, this movie is conceptually ridiculous, but works wonderfully as a high octane action flick. It successfully incorporate the New York City of the 1990’s into an action movie with all the bullets, explosions and blood you’d want from an action movie. This film is a classic and despite its age, easily holds up.