The Set of 400: #52 – My Favorite Chester A. Arthur Shoutout

Today! Because his own wife wants nothing to do with him, and he’s about two steps shy of becoming a full-blown alcoholic –

Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)

Directed by John McTiernan (x3)

Starring Bruce Willis (x5), Samuel L. Jackson (x10), Jeremy Irons (x2), Larry Bryggman, Graham Greene, Colleen Camp (x4), Kevin Chamberlin, Sam Phillips, Stephen Pearlman, Aldis Hodge, Anthony Peck, Aasif Mandvi, Charles Dumas, Michael Cristofer, Phyllis Yvonne Stickney (x2)

There has been many a day where I find myself lost in a general reverie and the water jug riddle from Die Hard with a Vengeance occurs to me. You have an empty five gallon jug and an empty three gallon jug and a water fountain. You need to come up with exactly four gallons of water. How is this done? In the movie, they have to solve this or bombs explode, whereas I need to solve it because the exact path they take to figure it out in the film hasn’t immediately come to mind, and I want to get on with my day. I’ll figure it out eventually – it’s not really that complicated – but for some reason, a month or two later, this will all happen again.

They solve this riddle in like 14 seconds

I can say with confidence that this is the first Die Hard movie I really enjoyed. Figure, Die Hard 1 came out when I was like eight, and so while I caught glimpses of it, I didn’t see it all the way through for years, by which point it seemed kinda old, with its ’80s hairstyles and Holly Gennero’s shoulder pads. Die Hard 2 came out more directly in my heavy viewing era, but from what I saw of it, Die Harder wasn’t anything special. So these movies were basically disregarded, despite the general growing consensus that the first film was the greatest action movie ever.

But then along came 3, even with its ridiculous title, and raised all boats. While I can’t say empirically that it is a better movie than 1, I do find it a helluva lot more fun. To do another Die Hard style film – e.g. Die Hard on a boat, Die Hard on a space station, Die Hard in a public restroom – would’ve been kinda superfluous by ’95, so instead they stretch it out across New York City. And instead of partnering him up with some geek or his dumb kid (à la Indiana Jones, or the later sequels in this rickety franchise) they pull in his Pulp Fiction co-star of the year before, Samuel L., to give the film some additional edge, comedy, and that non-law enforcement character caught up in the caper that all cop films need. The result is a terrifically tense, set-piece heavy adventure replete with explosions, riddles, and a wonderfully over-the-top Jeremy Irons as Simon, the big bad with the master plan, and some genuinely bizarre line deliveries.

Like, it’s a simple line, Jeremy, you don’t have to chew over it this much.

Unfortunately they didn’t know when or how to leave well enough alone, and so we got Live Free or Die Hard and A Good Day to Die Hard, and more sequels are rumored to this day. But hey, if they can come up with some less-CGI action and maybe dig up one more Gruber out for revenge, I’d probably see it. Live and Let Die Hard or Die Fair Lady. Dyer Dyer, perhaps. Maybe Bridge on the River Die Hard. You get the idea. This was a terrible device to fall in with the titles, but let’s make it ridiculous if we have to keep it going, huh?

The main guys have virtually all the screen time and interesting stuff to do, so I’m digging deep for the MVP – the only person from this film I’ve ever seen in person – Kevin Chamberlin! He plays bomb expert Charlie (“Like I said, very cool stuff!”), but I saw him swing through Chicago a few years back as Uncle Fester in the largely okay Addams Family musical that never totally caught on, despite being headed up by Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth. Good effort, Broadway!

It was fine, I suppose

Convict John McTiernan may not have gotten a film in front of the cameras since 2003, but this is his third list movie, following #223 the original Die Hard and #192 Last Action Hero. Despite his somewhat extensive criminal history in the 21st century, I’d still vote that no Die Hards should be made without him, given that he directed the only good ones. Who’s with me? No? That guy sucks? Well then maybe they should stop at five. Sam Jackson also extends his lead on the acting side, becoming the first Ten-Timer, while no one else has advanced beyond eight!

And they are a pretty hateful group, stuck on eight

Coming tomorrow! They’ll be mystery and catastrophe/But it’s all in fun, you paid you money/Wait and see –

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