After his tough-cop-on-the-edge character John McClane was confined to a high-rise building and airplane for the first two movies, Bruce Willis clearly decided his mammoth ego needed a slightly broader canvas this time round.
Still, it’s hard to pin-point exactly where the movie is set, because Bruce – entertainingly accompanied by Samuel L Jackson in full sass-mode as an angry shopkeeper – pretty much gets everywhere. First he zooms all over New York (Harlem, the subway, Central Park, Federal Reserve Bank). Then he almost drowns in a big tunnel, jumps off a suspension bridge and gets blown off an exploding container ship. Finally – god help us – he ends up in Quebec.
The real revelation is Jeremy Irons playing Simon Gruber, the revenge-seeking brother of Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) who, you’ll remember, our Bruce yippee-kiyayed out a high-rise window in the first movie. While Rickman’s performance – oily and eloquent – has stood the test of time, in retrospect Irons here gave a display of mackerel-stinking proportions.
It’s a classic look-at-me turn, at once shouty and unconvincing (copyright: Al Pacino). The Allo, Allo accent is all over the shop, his tight powder-blue vest (Irons ‘bulked up’ for the role) looks camp as knickers and at no point did I not think: Oh look, there’s Jeremy Irons doing a funny, stilted voice. Terrible, terrible stuff.
|Irons: As camp as knickers|
The action finally swings to a port in Quebec, where our Jezza is whizzing about in an invincible attack helicopter and shooting merrily at everything. But doesn’t he realise it’s the last ten minutes of an action movie, and nothing’s exploded for a good 15 minutes? The fool!
Exploding helicopter innovation
Pretty standard fare here, with Irons following the time-honoured baddie tradition of throwing away a huge, seemingly unassailable advantage. Poised above pistol-wielding Bruce in a machine-gun helicopter and holding a huge shotgun, he naturally – instead of just shooting the prone figure on the tarmac below – smiles at him smugly for eleven seconds (I counted).
This gives our hero time to notice the chopper is idly whirring under some power cables. D’oh!. Being Bruce, he manages to sever a thick power cable with two quick pistol shots from half a mile away, which sends the chopper spinning into a telegraph pole. Ka-boom.
Do the passengers survive?
No. Jeremy, his evil girlfriend and his powder-blue vest are no more.
Spectacular and innovative the explosion ain’t, but it at least looks like there is a real helicopter on fire. There’s a nice back-shot of Bruce walking towards the blazing shell, which looks pretty authentic.
It’s done professionally enough but the explosion lacks any real ambition, which is also the movie’s main problem. The grubby vest; the ‘Gruber’ villain; the trusty Afro-American side-kick. There’s a distinct sense of laurels being rested on here. (Bruce even says ‘Yippee-kiyay, motherfucker’ when the chopper explodes.) It wouldn’t have hurt to throw in a couple of new ideas.
While being shot at by a helicopter machine gun, Bruce quips: “I had no idea Canada could be this much fun.” Well, I laughed.
According to Richard E Grant’s entertaining memoir, With Nails, Bruce is a right tosser.
Review by: Chopper