Die Hard with a Vengeance

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Die Hard with a Vengeance
Die Hard With A Vengance.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn McTiernan
Produced by
  • John McTiernan
  • Michael Tadross
Screenplay byJonathan Hensleigh
Based on
Music byMichael Kamen
CinematographyPeter Menzies Jr.
Edited byJohn Wright
Distributed by20th Century Fox[1]
Release date
  • May 19, 1995 (1995-05-19) (United States)
Running time
128 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$90 million[3]
Box office$366.1 million[3]

Die Hard with a Vengeance is a 1995 American action-thriller film directed by John McTiernan (who directed first installment). It was written by Jonathan Hensleigh, based on the screenplay Simon Says by Hensleigh and on the characters created by Roderick Thorp for his 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever. Die Hard with a Vengeance is the third film in the Die Hard series, after Die Hard 2 (1990). It is followed by Live Free or Die Hard (2007) and A Good Day to Die Hard (2013).

The film stars Bruce Willis as NYPD Lieutenant John McClane, Samuel L. Jackson as McClane's reluctant partner Zeus Carver, and Jeremy Irons as Simon Gruber, brother of Hans Gruber. It was released on May 19, 1995 to mixed reviews and became the highest-grossing film of the year.


In New York City, the Bonwit Teller department store is destroyed by a bomb during the morning commute. The New York City Police Department gets a call from "Simon" claiming responsibility. Simon threatens to detonate another bomb unless suspended police officer John McClane is dropped in Harlem, wearing a sandwich board with "I Hate Niggers" printed on it. The NYPD complies, and a hungover McClane is picked up from his apartment. The sight of McClane wearing the board attracts the attention of Zeus Carver, an electrician who owns a nearby shop. McClane informs Carver that he is a police officer on a case, but he is soon attacked by a group of black men. The two manage to escape and retreat in a taxi. They arrive at NYPD's headquarters, where they learn that a large quantity of binary liquid explosives, which caused the Bonwit explosion, were recently stolen. Simon calls again and demands that both McClane and Carver follow his continuing instructions.

Simon sends the two on a series of riddles, which ultimately require them to reach the Wall Street subway station within 30 minutes to stop a bomb planted on a Brooklyn-bound 3 train. McClane boards the subway while Carver drives to the stop. Though Carver answers Simon's call and McClane locates the bomb, Simon detonates it immediately after McClane throws it off the train, derailing the train and damaging the subway station. As McClane and Carver regroup with the police, they are met by FBI agents, who reveal Simon has been identified as "Peter Krieg", a former colonel in the East German People's Army and a mercenary-for-hire. However, Krieg's real name is actually Simon Peter Gruber, the brother of Hans Gruber, whom McClane had killed years earlier in Los Angeles.

Simon then calls the police, knowing the FBI is there, to inform them that he has placed a bomb in a NYC public school that is rigged with a radio detonator triggered by the use of the FBI and police bands. Simon tells them that he will give McClane and Carver the school's location if they continue to play his games, but threatens that evacuating any school will lead to the device detonating. While McClane and Carver set off on Simon's next task, the police organize all NYC's public works to search schools, using 9-1-1 to coordinate activities. As McClane and Carver solve Simon's riddles, McClane realizes that Simon is using the school bomb as a distraction to draw the police away from the bomb damage at Wall Street. They return there to find that Simon and his team used fake repair crews to dig into the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and steal $140 billion of gold bullion in dump trucks. They follow the trucks to an aqueduct in the New York City Water Tunnel No. 3. McClane has Carver continue Simon's game while he follows the trucks.

Within the tunnel, McClane kills some of Simon's men. Simon destroys a cofferdam, flooding the tunnel, but McClane escapes through a vent, ending up near Carver. After surviving a car chase with Simon's men who had followed Carver and finding that they were carrying a roll of quarters, they recognize that the roll of quarters would pay for a toll bridge, and they head to a tanker vessel in the Long Island Sound. They sneak aboard, learning that the bullion isn't there, and are captured by Simon and his crew.

Simon confirms McClane's suspicions that the school bomb was a trick to distract the police before handcuffing the two to the real bomb. He says he is going to destroy the tanker, redistributing the bullion across the Sound, to destroy the economies of the world. Before Simon leaves, McClane jokingly asks him for some aspirin for his hangover, much to Simon's amusement. He happens to have a bottle of aspirin and tosses it to McClane. After Simon leaves, Carver manages to free them with a cable splinter. They barely escape before the bomb detonates, sinking the tanker.

As McClane and Carver are debriefed by the police, McClane reports that none of the bullion was on the tanker. McClane notices the bottle of aspirin came from a truckstop located in Quebec at the Canada–US border. McClane, Carver, and the police arrive at a warehouse near the truckstop where Simon and his men are in the process of distributing the bullion and planning their escape. The rest of Simon's men are captured, while Simon and his girlfriend Katya attempt to escape in a helicopter. McClane shoots an overhead power line that falls onto the helicopter, destroying it and killing Simon and Katya. After celebrating their triumph, Carver convinces McClane to call his estranged wife, Holly.


Additional cast members include Simon's goons: Richard Council as Otto, Mischa Hausserman as Mischa, Phil Theis as Erik, Robert Sedgwick as Rolf, Sven Torvaid as Karl, Timothy Adams as Gunther, Tony Halme as Roman, Greg Skrovic as Kurt, Bill Christ as Ivan, Gerrit Vooren as Nils and Willis Sparks as Klaus. Michael Cristofer and Charles Dumas appear as agents Bill Jarvis and Andrew Cross respectively. Aldis Hodge and Michael Alexander Jackson appear as Raymond and Dexter respectively, Zeus's nephews caught in the school bomb panic; Hodge would later play a different role in A Good Day to Die Hard.



Like most of the films in the series, the premise of this film was repurposed from a stand-alone project. Various scripts were written for Die Hard 3; a number of them were ultimately rejected by Bruce Willis on the grounds that they felt like retreads of the action movies that came in the wake of the first film.[4] One script, originally titled Troubleshooter, had McClane fighting terrorists on a Caribbean cruise line, but was rejected for being too similar to Under Siege.[5] Troubleshooter was later repurposed for Speed 2: Cruise Control.[4]

The script ultimately used was intended for a film entitled Simon Says, originally positioned as a Brandon Lee vehicle and the character of Zeus was written with an actress in mind. Warner Bros. bought the script and rewrote it as a Lethal Weapon sequel. Warner Bros. later put the script in turnaround, only to be purchased by Fox and rewritten as a Die Hard film.[4]

Andy Vajna replaced Joel Silver and Larry Gordon as the producer on the film due to a fall-out with Willis.[5] As a result, Vajna's company, Cinergi, acquired foreign rights to the film. Disney and Summit Entertainment bought Cinergi's rights in a number of territories, while Fox retained domestic rights.[1] (Many years later, Fox had bought back the overseas rights of the film.[6])


Laurence Fishburne was originally offered the co-starring role of Zeus Carver, a part also written for him, but wanted a higher fee. Producer Andy Vajna held out on the deal. Fishburne had earlier turned down the role of Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction, which was eventually played by Samuel L. Jackson. Fishburne was talked out of playing Jules by his representatives who wanted him to only accept leading parts, otherwise he would be stuck career-wise as a supporting actor. Subsequently, Pulp Fiction premiered at the Cannes Film Festival during the same time as Fishburne’s pay negotiations. Vajna also attended the event to support Willis who was appearing in the Quentin Tarantino film. Tarantino recalled that Vajna was so impressed by Jackson’s performance that he offered him the part of Carver instead. Fishburne later filed a lawsuit against Vajna’s company Cinergi for reneging on a verbal agreement.[7][8]

Alternative endings[edit]

An alternative ending to the one shown in the final movie was filmed with Jeremy Irons and Bruce Willis, set some time after the events in New York. It can be found on the Special Edition DVD. In this version it is presumed that the robbery succeeds, and that McClane was used as the scapegoat for everything that went wrong. He is fired from the NYPD after more than 20 years on the force and the FBI has even taken away his pension. Nevertheless, he still manages to track Simon using the batch number on the bottle of aspirins and they meet in a bar in Hungary.

In this version, Simon has double-crossed most of his accomplices, gotten the loot to a safe hiding place somewhere in Hungary, and has the gold turned into statuettes of the Empire State Building in order to smuggle it out of the country; but he is still tracked down to his foreign hideaway (this version is very similar to Alec Guinness' character's situation in the British heist film The Lavender Hill Mob made some 45 years earlier in which the stolen gold was turned into Eiffel Tower paperweights).

McClane is keen to take his problems out on Simon, who he invites to play a game called "McClane Says". This involves a form of Russian roulette with a small Chinese rocket launcher that has had the sights removed, meaning it is impossible to determine which end is which. McClane then asks Simon some riddles similar to the ones he played in New York. When Simon gets a riddle wrong, McClane forces him at gunpoint to fire the launcher, which fires the rocket through Simon, killing him. McClane had been wearing a flak jacket (which was the answer to the final riddle: "What could he have brought to the meeting to save his life?"), so even if Simon had pointed the launcher the right way, it is likely that the relatively low-velocity rocket would not have caused McClane enough injury to prevent him from shooting Simon.

In the DVD audio commentary, screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh claims that this version was dropped because the studio thought it showed a more cruel and menacing side to McClane, a man who killed for revenge rather than in self-defense. The studio was also displeased with the lack of action in the scene, feeling that it did not fit as a "climax" and therefore chose to reshoot the finale as an action sequence at a significant monetary cost. Hensleigh's intention was to show that the events in New York and the subsequent repercussions had tilted McClane psychologically. This alternative ending, set some time after the film's main events, would have marked a serious break from the Die Hard formula, in which the plot unfolds over a period of roughly 12 hours.

According to the DVD audio commentary, a second alternative ending had McClane and Carver floating back to shore on a makeshift raft after the explosion at sea. Carver says it is a shame the bad guys are going to get away; McClane tells him not to be so sure. The scene then shifts to the plane where the terrorists find the briefcase bomb they left in the park and which Carver gave back to them (in this version it was not used to blow up the dam). The film would end on a darkly comic note as Simon asks if anyone has a four-gallon jug. This draft of the script was rejected early on, so it was never actually filmed. The rocket-launcher sequence was the only alternative ending to be filmed.


Box office[edit]

The film earned $100,012,499 in North America (i.e. USA & Canada), while it earned $266,089,167 in other markets, giving it a total worldwide gross of $366,101,666 and making it the highest-grossing film of 1995. Despite this success, the next film in the series would not be released for another 12 years.

Home media[edit]

Die Hard with a Vengeance was released on LaserDisc on January 17, 1996, on VHS on May 14, 1996, and on DVD on March 9, 1999. A special edition was released on DVD on July 10, 2001 and then re-released in February 2005 and 2007.[9] The film was released on Blu-ray in 2007 and 2013.[10]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 52% based on 62 reviews, with an average rating on 5.92/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Die Hard With a Vengeance gets off to a fast start and benefits from Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson's barbed interplay, but clatters to a bombastic finish in a vain effort to cover for an overall lack of fresh ideas."[11] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 58 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[12] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.[13]

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly stated that while "McTiernan stages individual sequences with great finesse... they don't add up to a taut, dread-ridden whole."[14] James Berardinelli thought that the explosions and fights were "filmed with consummate skill, and are thrilling in their own right."[15] Samuel L. Jackson's performance in the film was also praised by critics. Desson Howe of The Washington Post thought that "the best thing about the movie is the relationship between McClane and Zeus," saying that Jackson was "almost as good as he was in Pulp Fiction."[16] Roger Ebert gave the film a positive review, praising the action sequences and the performances of Willis, Jackson, and Irons, concluding: "Die Hard with a Vengeance is basically a wind-up action toy, cleverly made, and delivered with high energy. It delivers just what it advertises, with a vengeance."[17]

Empire magazine's Ian Nathan applauded the film with a three out of five stars review stating that "Die Hard with a Vengeance is better than Die Hard 2, but not as good as the peerless original. Though it's breathless fun, the film runs out of steam in the last act. And Jeremy Irons' villain isn't fit to tie Alan Rickman's shoelaces."[18] In the Crime Time Filmbook, which archives various UK film reviews, the film was given a 5/5 star review citing it as "...simply the best Action film of the decade, leaving imitators like Bad Boys, Executive Decision, The Rock and Chain Reaction in varying depths of shadow.[19]

Empire considered it to be one of the 50 greatest film sequels in 2009.[20]


RCA Victor album[edit]

Michael Kamen returned to score the third film, again incorporating other material into his score (most notably "When Johnny Comes Marching Home", not included on the soundtrack album), but excerpts from his score for Die Hard and Die Hard 2 were tracked into the new film. The soundtrack was released by RCA Victor.

  1. Summer in the CityThe Lovin' Spoonful (2:44)
  2. Goodbye Bonwits (6:28)
  3. Got It Covered – Fu-Schnickens (4:13)
  4. John and Zeus (3:19)
  5. In Front of Kids – Extra Prolific (2:44)
  6. Papaya King (5:20)
  7. Take A-nother Train (2:55)
  8. The Iron Foundry – Alexander Mosolov (3:08)
  9. Waltz of the Bankers (4:13)
  10. Gold Vault (3:45)
  11. Surfing in the Aqueduct (2:30)
  12. Symphony No. 1Johannes Brahms (15:00)
  13. Symphony No. 9Ludwig van Beethoven (9:46)

La-La Land album[edit]

In 2012, La-La Land Records released a limited edition two-disc soundtrack containing the Kamen score.[21]

All tracks composed by Michael Kamen except where noted.

  1. Summer in the CityThe Lovin' Spoonful (2:45) (by John Sebastian, Mark Sebastian & Steve Boone)
  2. Main Title (0:16) (cue deleted from final film)
  3. Goodbye Bonwits (6:28)
  4. John and Zeus (3:20)
  5. Taxi (1:51)
  6. Neat Bomb (2:11)
  7. Papaya King (5:19)
  8. 72nd Street Phone (3:18)
  9. Taxi Chase (5:08)
  10. The Subway, Pt. 1 (4:24) (final film version)
  11. The Subway, Pt. 2 (2:15) (final film version)
  12. Take a-nother Train (2:54)
  13. Feds (4:42)
  14. Rings a Bell (8:28) (features music from Ode to Joy by Ludwig van Beethoven)
  15. Infiltration (5:33) (features music from Ride of the Valkyries by Wagner & When Johnny Comes Marching Home by Louis Lambert (Patrick Gilmore))
  16. Bank Invasion (4:15)
  17. Back to Wall Street (2:55)
  18. Fake Cops (1:42)
  19. The Federal Reserve (2:18) (features music from Daisy Bell by Harry Dacre & When Johnny Comes Marching Home)
  20. Bank Elevevator (2:54) (features music from When Johnny Comes Marching Home)
  21. Gold Room Aftermath (1:36)
  22. Panic (2:04)
  23. Aqueduct (2:10)
  24. Santa Claus (2:36)
  25. Yankee Stadium & School and Tunnel (3:42) (features music from When Johnny Comes Marching Home)
  26. Refrigerator Bomb (0:40)
  27. Surfing in the Aqueduct (2:29)
  28. Ticking Refrigerator (0:50)
  29. Mercedes Chase & School Assembly (3:14)
  30. Aftermath & Waiting and Falling (2:00)
  31. Hooking the Boat (5:45) (final film version)
  32. Bunny & Fire Drill (2:39)
  33. Running in the Halls (1:42)
  34. Bomb Goes into Hold (5:42)
  35. John Makes it Mad (1:39)
  36. Holly & Celebration (3:17) (features music from When Johnny Comes Marching Home)
  37. Oh, Canada! (Showdown with a Vengeance) (3:23) (features music from O Canada by Calixa Lavallée & Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier)
  38. Johnny Comes Marching Home (End Credits) (1:45) (features music from When Johnny Comes Marching Home)
  39. Regret (1:50)
  40. Hooking the Boat (4:23) (version from earlier cut of the film)
  41. On the Freighter & John Makes it Mad (3:33)
  42. Wall Street Station (1:29)
  43. The Subway, Pt. 1 (1:30) (segment deleted from final film version)
  44. The Subway, Pt. 2 (0:47) (segment deleted from final film version)
  45. Ode to Johnny (3:13) (features music from Ode to Joy and When Johnny Comes Marching Home)
  46. No Rush (1:20)
  47. Escape (2:04)
  48. The Foundry (Iron Foundry) – Alexander Mosolov (3:09)
  49. Waltz of the Bankers (4:17) (track original to the first soundtrack album)
  50. Gold Vault (3:50) (track original to the first soundtrack album)
  51. Somebody Had Fun (Wild Snare) (1:14)
  52. Johnny Comes Marching Home (Wild Vamps) (1:28) (features music from When Johnny Comes Marching Home)


A novelization by Deborah Chiel was first published on May 28, 1995. The novel is written in third person omniscient and has a somewhat darker tone in comparison to the final film.

The novel provides a deeper exploration into McClane's psyche and shows how angry and broken he has become since leaving Holly and becoming an alcoholic. McClane's introduction is also different. In the film, McClane is first seen in the police van to Harlem while being briefed on what is going on. The novel includes a scene before this where Connie and Joe find McClane in his messy apartment.

Simon's henchwoman Katya appears much later into the story than she does in the film. She is not involved in the Federal Reserve robbery and instead appears just before Simon and Targo take off in one of the dump trucks. Like the final film, she ends up killing Targo for Simon.

The original placement of the "Yippee-Ki-Yay" line is included. Instead of being used at the end, McClane uses the line when talking to Simon over the radios while in the aqueducts. This was meant to be in the same vein as the original use of the line in the first movie.

Zeus' original backstory is presented in the novel, explaining why he is looking after his nephews and why he hates white people. During the car chase, Zeus explains that his brother was killed during a drug raid. When McClane suggests that it was his brother's own fault, Zeus explains that his brother was never involved in drugs and the only reason he was there was to bring Zeus home.

The novel also uses the "McClane Says" ending rather than the film's version of the finale.


  1. ^ a b Die Hard with a Vengeance script
  2. ^ "Die Hard with a Vengeance". British Board of Film Classification. August 10, 1995. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 1, 2008.
  4. ^ a b c "The strange history of the Die Hard movies". Den of Geek. Retrieved November 11, 2016.
  5. ^ a b WELLS, JEFFREY (November 1, 1992). "OFF-CENTERPIECE : 'Die Hard 3' Blown Out of the Water by 'Siege'". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved November 11, 2016.
  6. ^ http://www.dvdcompare.net/comparisons/film.php?fid=11973
  7. ^ "Quentin Tarantino Says Laurence Fishburne Turned Down 'Pulp Fiction' Which Led To Him Losing Role In 'Die Hard'". theplaylist.net.
  8. ^ "The Insider". People.com.
  9. ^ "Die Hard: With a Vengeance DVD Release Date". Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  10. ^ "Die Hard with a Vengeance Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  11. ^ "Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
  12. ^ "Die Hard: With a Vengeance reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved July 9, 2017.
  13. ^ Pandya, Gitesh (February 19, 2013). "Weekend Box Office (February 15 - 18, 2013)". Box Office Guru. Archived from the original on September 24, 2019. Retrieved September 24, 2019.
  14. ^ Randall Wallace (May 26, 1995). "Die Hard with a Vengeance". Entertainment Weekly.
  15. ^ James Berardinelli. "Die Hard with a Vengeance - Reelviews Movie Reviews". Reelviews Movie Reviews.
  16. ^ "'Die Hard With a Vengeance'". The Washington Post. May 19, 1995.
  17. ^ Roger Ebert (May 19, 1995). "Die Hard With a Vengeance". Chicago Sun-Times.
  18. ^ "Empire's Die Hard With A Vengeance Movie Review". Empire.
  19. ^ Ashbrook, John (1997). The Crime Time Filmbook. Harpenden, Herts, AL5 IEQ: No Exit Press. p. 231. ISBN 978-1874061847.CS1 maint: location (link)
  20. ^ Empire, Team (August 25, 2009). "The Greatest Movie Sequels". Empire.
  21. ^ "La-La Land Records' release of Die Hard with a Vengeance - Expanded Score". La-La Land Records. Archived from the original on March 15, 2018. Retrieved December 10, 2018.

External links[edit]