“Die Hard With A Vengeance (Expanded Edition)”
Music By Michael Kamen Featuring
“Summer In The City” Performed by The Lovin’ Spoonful
La-La Land Records LLLCD1233
Disc 1: 22 Tracks/Disc Time: 76:37
Disc 2: 30 Tracks/Disc Time: 77:23
Grade: B- Article # 600
After Die Hard 2 made a killing, well an explosive impact at the Summer box office in 1990, it was a no brainer that a third Die Hard would be in the works. After a series of false starts and a couple of ideas that turned into other films such as surprise Steven Seagal-Tommy Lee Jones blockbuster, Under Siege and the sequel to another Fox surprise blockbuster, Speed in Speed 2: Cruise Control, Die Hard With A Vengeance was finally released in the rather pedestrian Summer of 1995 to impressive results. Written by Jonathan Hensleigh (The Punisher, Armageddon, The Saint), from an aborted screenplay to what would’ve been Lethal Weapon 4, entitled “Simon Says”, and also returning to the series was director John McTiernan, who helmed the original 1988 film celebrating its’ 25th Anniversary this year. In this film, we see an out of shape and recently separated NYPD Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) pulled of a suspension and reluctantly back into duty after a mad bomber has destroyed a shoe store on Sixth Avenue. After surviving a rather impromptu trip to Harlem, McClane gains an uptight and reluctant partner in Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson), after saving his life. McClane is soon sent on a series of goose chases throughout Manhattan trying to figure out what this mad man is all about and soon we learn that he is the brother of the man that McClane had killed off at the end of Die Hard, Hans Gruber (played memorable by Alan Rickman). Simon Gruber (Jeremy Irons), has concocted a rather devious plan to rob the gold from the Federal Reserve in Lower Manhattan. McClane and Zeus start to work together to stop the mad man from accomplishing his goal, Die Hard style.
With the series returning for what was thought to be the final time, it was also fitting that the late Michael Kamen would also return to finish the original trilogy of Die Hard films. Kamen, who was his film music scoring peak scoring hits such as Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, The Three Musketeers, The Last Boy Scout and Mr. Holland’s Opus came into this Die Hard film with a rather different approach than the previous films eventhough stylistically it is a die hard score. Kamen wrote a slew of new material that does in part resemble the works of the previous films, but with an albeit different sound stylistically. There’s much bigger feeling to the score that previous films didn’t have and didn’t necessarily depend on a classical piece all that music, but this time around Kamen, was implored by Director John McTiernan to incorporate the famous “Johnny Comes Marching Home” theme (“Johnny Comes Marching Home”, “Bank Invasion”, and “Oh Canada!”) to perfectly play off the theme for the films’ unseen villiain Simon Gruber (for about the first hour of the film) and it is really a membrable aspect of the film.
Kamen plays up the film’s urban, Manhattan setting early in the film mixing in some tense moments of suspense (“Goodbye Bonwits”, “Neat Bomb”, “72nd Street Phone” with some gritty percussive action (“Taxi Chase”) as a lead in the films’ exciting and thrilling material as McClane races against time to catch a subway train with an explosive device (“The Subway Part 1, The Subway Part 2, Take A-nother Train) and the aftermath of the sequence (“Feds”) that Kamen leads us to the surprise reveal of our unseen villiain running the game on McClane and the NYPD (“Rings A Bell”). Soon after the “die hard” material that fans of the series were used was just starting to kick into gear with “Back Into Wall Street”, “The Federal Reserve” and “Bank Elevator” where Kamen redevelops his previous themes with a little bit of subtle tones this time around but still has the aggressive nature of the previous scores. Of course, this album is full of action and obviously how could it not with “Aqueduct”, “Surfing In The Aqueduct”, and “Mercedes Chase/School Assembly” that take its cues from the other films.
In writing this review, I was really really up and down on how to grade it and mainly because I’m used to and love the previous Die Hard scores and i like this one to a point to be quite honest. I really do like most of the new and unused material that Kamen did write for it, but the majority was not used within the final cut of the film and what was in the final cut, really works alot better in my view. The music was cut, dialed out or reworked into different scenes than intended and it was more effective. La-La Land’s album which is about three years in the making, really is an extensive and exhaustive listen that is quite refreshing for the most part in hearing what was not included and intended to be used in the film. In that case, it really is a terrific album, on the other hand, it is a really a score that really does grind you down like a machine. Not that it is a bad thing, if you take a breather from it during a listen. it isn’t the best score in the series, but definitely far from the worse and Kamen really did a commendable effort to recreate the magic of the previous films and great to see this score in its full glory given its’ just due after fans of the series were treated to a soundtrack album that only featured one-third of the score that was finally recorded at the time. I’m still a huge fan of the film with its deceptively creative storyline and again putting Bruce Willis in a seemingly unwinnable situation to get the bad guy, Michael Kamen also deserves his due for his score that despite its weaknesses, it still very effective and enjoyable. Kudos to La-La Land Records for doing justice to this score. Recommended with the reservations of way too-much good music to savor!