The Washington Times, May 19, 1995,
"Madness, Mayhem in Manhattan:
Bruce Willis goes all around the town in action-packed 'Die Hard' sequel"
by Gary Arnold
"Die Hard With a Vengeance" begins with a bang that may appear a little ill-advised in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City tragedy: A terrorist bomb levels the ground floor of a Manhattan department store, and the impact overturns impressively choreographed stunt cars for a city block.
The explosive note is indispensable to this thrill-congested sequel to the undeniably spectacular and satisfying chase classic of 1987, which introduced Bruce Willis as the maverick cop John McClane.
In "Die Hard" his free-lancing heroism and irresistible tenacity foiled a terrorist gang holed up in a Beverly Hills skyscraper, which proved a brilliantly spacious and vertical variation on the "locked room" tradition of entrapment settings.
A somewhat disgraced and scroungy but still resourceful McClane is finally discovered on his home turf in "Vengeance"-- after a strenuously ludicrous detour to Dulles Airport and the Washington area in "Die Hard 2," released five summers ago.
Instead of running himself ragged on a wintry night in Herndon, in "Vengeance" he is running himself ragged on a summer day in New York. McClane the devoted family man and lovelorn husband disappears along with Bonnie Bedelia's Holly McClane in "Vengeance."
Well, to be fair, McClane supposedly leaves his estranged better half hanging on the phone to attend to one of the recurrent crises engineered by the new villainous mastermind, Jeremy Irons as a playful brute named Simon. It's a little difficult to believe Holly might actually be on the line.
Director John McTiernan leaves several threads hanging. The most obvious one is the two boys ascribed to Samuel L. Jackson as Zeus Carver, a Harlem shopkeeper who inadvertently becomes McClane's sidekick after rescuing the policeman from Simon's initial beau geste.
It amuses Simon, exclusively a telephonic menace for the first hour of the show, to invoke the children's game of "Simon Says" while sending the hero uptown, downtown and cross-town in pursuit of time bombs ticking down to the last second. He threatens to detonate the first in this sadistic, one-sided game of hide-and-seek unless McClane parades around Harlem wearing a placard with an insulting racial epithet.
Zeus is evidently unmarried, but he does take a keen paternal interest in two adolescents who are later directly threatened by one of Simon's time bombs. Curiously, the movie neglects to reunite this civilian hero with his boys.
Mr. Willis and Mr. Jackson share a preposterous wild taxi ride across Central Park, threatening scores of pedestrians with vehicular death in order to meet a subway train.
Once on board the train, McClane gets his mitts on a time bomb soon enough to spare the passengers, yet just in time to wreak picturesque havoc on an underground platform.
The spectacular highlight is a variation on Indiana Jones being chased by the boulder in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." This topper depicts McClane being pursued by a wall of water inside an aqueduct tunnel that's been under construction in New York for about two generations. The tidal wave obliges him to find an escape hatch, and there doesn't seem to be one within reach.
One welcome enhancement is to surround McClane with dedicated and resourceful police colleagues. Graham Greene and Colleen Camp are the most familiar movie faces in this ensemble, but the most attractive single performer is Larry Bryggman as their superior, Chief Cobb. A veteran of "As the World Turns" and an acclaimed theater actor, he's overdue for a movie break. He has an unassuming air of authority that dignifies certain aspects of the runaround while also implying that McClane is exceptionally lucky in his boss.
Copyright 1995 News World Communications, Inc.