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Film / Die Hard with a Vengeance

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Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995) is the third film in the popular Die Hard franchise, which reteamed Bruce Willis with John McTiernan, the director of the first film. While it was distributed by 20th Century Fox in North America, it is the only film in the franchise to be distributed internationally by Disney under Buena Vista International.

After being suspended for alcoholism, John McClane is put back on duty when a bomb destroys a department store in New York City, and a man named "Simon" claims responsibility. Simon demands that McClane wear a sandwich board with a racist remark on it and walk into the middle of Harlem in order to prevent further attacks. McClane does so, and is barely saved by the intervention of a local business owner, Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson). Together, the duo are forced to take part in a series of malicious tasks set up by Simon, who threatens to set off several more bombs if they aren't completed in time. While the pair is solving the riddles, they realize that it's a distraction from the real threat - Simon (Jeremy Irons) is planning to rob the Federal Reserve Bank, and he has a much closer connection to McClane than the cop realizes...

Vengeance was adapted from a spec script called Simon Says, which was originally intended to be the third installment of the Lethal Weapon series before it was reworked to include McClane and Zeus.

This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • 3 + 5 = 4:
    • McClane and Zeus must solve this type of puzzle in order to disarm a bomb near a public fountain.
    • In the original script, the bomb was a Chekhov's Gun, as the movie would end with McClane planting the bomb on Simon's helicopter, and upon discovery one of them asks if anyone has a four gallon jug. (In the final script, the bomb was used to blow up a dam and the puzzle was never brought up again.)
  • 555: McClane must stop a bomb by dialing "555 and the answer" to the riddle the villain just gave.
  • Accidental Misnaming: John first hears Zeus's name when a local boy says "Hey, Zeus!" John consequently mistakes his name for Jesús, which sounds very similar. Zeus is angered and asks if he looks Puerto Rican.
  • Action Duo: McClane and Zeus.
  • Actor Allusion: McClane mentions he's been working on a nice fat suspension, "smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo". Willis sings these lyrics (from the Statler Brothers' "Flowers on the Wall") in a previous film in which he co-starred with Samuel L. Jackson.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: McClane gets a laugh when Zeus tells Simon to stick his well-laid plan up his well-laid ass.
  • Affably Evil: Simon Gruber is more so than Hans was in the first movie. For instance, when raiding the Federal Reserve, the crew takes out the guards with tranquilizers instead of bullets. The terrorists (disguised as cops) when given a suitcase with a bomb, worry that a kid might find it if they left it there. The bomb in the school is a fake, with Simon himself saying he isn't a monster who'd actually plant a real one to kill schoolchildren. When asked what to do with Zeus by his henchmen, he decides to let him go. Also, at the end the remaining mooks toast to fallen comrades.
    • Probably best exemplified when, upon meeting McClane face to face, instead of gloating or being angry, he shares a laugh with him about the Coast Guard putting him on hold, and lets out a genuine laugh and agrees when McClane says his brother was an asshole. He even tosses McClane a bottle of Aspirin upon request while leaving him to die. His vendetta against John comes across more like just reclaiming family honor than actually hating him.
    • Then again, the main plan does require a bomb to go off in the metro, killing everybody in the train and close by in the station. The only reason it doesn't is McClane - and notably this intervention wasn't part of the Big Bad's Batman Gambit. Guess every plan has acceptable losses...
  • All There in the Manual: Zeus' original backstory is presented in the novelisation, explaining why he's 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 plot point was originally intended to be seen in the film proper, but wound up on the cutting room floor.
  • Almighty Janitor: Jerry the truck driver. He quickly recovers from John holding him at gunpoint only to prove to be an expert on the aqueduct he's driving a truck for and also knows which President John needs to know.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: While pulled into a meeting with several federal agents, John quickly tires of their dancing around the subject of the bomber's personal vendetta against him and tells them to get to the damned point. The one agent who hasn't spoken simply asks him, "Does the name 'Gruber' mean anything to you, Lieutenant?" Cue an epic Oh, Crap! moment as John realizes who would want him dead.
  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba:
    Officer Wanda Schepard: Sergeant Turley, Sergeant Turley! In the last five minutes, the volume that comes here have tripled. What the hell is going on?
    Sgt. Turley: Stop, let me explain. For the rest of the day, we are supposed to handle the department's communication.
    Wanda: What do you mean, handle?
    Sgt. Turley: They are shutting down the police band. All calls will be coming through this switchboard.
    Wanda: And I'm gonna marry Donald Trump!
  • Artistic License – Cars:
    • Simon claims the truck McClane is driving contains $13 billion worth of gold bullion. In 1995, this would be 1,015 tons, more than the trucks could hold, much less move under their own power. Even the largest dump trucks, massive open pit mining trucks, can only hold a maximum of 400 tons. Simon, in real life, would have probably needed at least twice, if not, three times as many dump trucks as he ultimately uses (he uses 14, he would need in real life at least 50 trucks to carry that much gold out).
      • Not to mention the weight would have shattered those flimsy boards that they drive over in the tunnel.
    • The dump trucks are too tall to clear any of the underpasses and tunnels on the FDR Drive. There's a reason only cars are allowed on it.
    • The WARN winch on the Dodge Ram requires at least five wraps of wire around the drum for a safe pull, so if the winch ran out and the truck started to get pulled, the only thing securing the winch cable to winch drum is a small bolt. If the weight of the truck was applied to the bolt versus a static object, the cable would snap.
    • The fusebox in a 1985 Mercedes 560 is under the hood, not where Zeus finds it.
  • Artistic License – Economics:
    • The ultimate plan of Simon's employer, to blow up all the gold in the Federal Reserve and thereby destabilize the world economy, is about 20 years out of date. The world went off the Gold Standard for valuing their currency in the 1970s. Blowing up the gold would be bad because of the loss of resources, not loss of money.
    • By contrast, Simon's ultimate plan, to steal all the gold, would run into an entirely different problem: any attempt to cash in on the gold would, in short order, be found out by EVERY intelligence service, and Simon and his mercenaries would have to contend with a group of nations using extrajudicial means to punish them, because any amount of gold showing up on the market, black or otherwise, would be flagged immediately. It would end badly for them.
    • The very idea that taking $140 billion in not-in-circulation funds out of the global economy would have any major effect is also laughable. Even if it was value-in-use, the lost value would be a drop in the ocean of world economic trade.
  • Artistic License – Geography: Simon first gives McClane and Carver fifteen minutes to get from Police Plaza to the 72nd Street and Broadway Subway station. In reality, that's at its shortest a distance of 5.7 miles, and in good weekday morning traffic, it takes about 35 minutes by car IF you depart immediately. Yet, they have at least an additional 4 minutes for Carver to get pissy about his obligated participation before even leaving the building AND they did have to use civilian transport, so they casually rolled up to the station in a taxi.
    • Then, Simon makes them immediately, no building to leave, at ground level, get to Wall Street 2/3 Station within 30 minutes. A 6.3 mile journey. Much, much more feasible without even having to rush had they used 9th avenue or the West Side Highway. This is in a film that knew enough about NYC geography to have fake hidden the bomb that Weiss found offscreen in a park in Chinatown, which is the closest neighborhood to Police Plaza in the city, ensuring it was located quickly to show the cops the threat they possess for the Batman Gambit later on.
      • Plus, Wall Street Station's island platform isn't nearly as broad as the film presents, nor is there an exterior platform.
  • Artistic License – Physics: When Simon's bomb derails the subway car, it crashes through and knocks down the support pillars for the station. NYC MTA has had multiple subway derailments in real-life, and the pillars won those collisions. Definitively.
    • When Simon's shipboard bomb explodes, the enormous shockwave - neatly displayed, even - would pulp anything nearby, no matter whether in the air or in the water: ship, containers full of junk, cops, electricians...
    • Even if they'd somehow miraculously survived the blast, they could have never survived the aftermath - an exploded ship doesn't miraculously vanish into thin air: they'd have surfaced to a maelstrom of fire, airborne metallic debris, a fuel-oil slick and very little breathable air.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: McClane stops a truck:
    McClane: You're a truck driver?
    Jerry Parks: No, I'm a beautician. Of course I'm a truck driver!
  • Avenging the Villain: Played with. Simon initially claims that his bombings are a campaign of vengeance against McClane for the death of Hans Gruber, but it turns out that's a cover for his real motivation, robbing banks on Wall Street. In fact, he explicitly agrees with John that Hans was an Asshole Victim. But on the other hand, he also explicitly states, "There is a difference, you know, between not liking one's brother and not caring when some dumb Irish flatfoot drops him out of a window!"
  • Awesome Mc Cool Name: Zeus Carver stands out. It's almost a name worthy of Samuel L. Jackson. Which leads to this:
    John McClane: Guy back there called you Jesús.
    Zeus: He didn't say Jesús. He said, "Hey, Zeus!" My name is Zeus!
    John McClane: Zeus?
    Zeus: Yeah, Zeus! As in, father of Apollo? Mount Olympus? "Don't fuck with me or I'll shove a lightning bolt up your ass", Zeus! You got a problem with that?
  • Badass Bookworm: Charlie Weiss.
  • Bait the Dog: Averted with Simon, who doesn't pass the Moral Event Horizon like his brother did but still had planted bombs for McClane to find and disarm in public places.
  • Batman Gambit: Simon's plan is dependent on the NYPD worrying more about schoolkids than Wall Street (as well as McClane believing that Simon is out for revenge rather than money).
  • Big Applesauce:
    • Although the New York centrism is fully on display with the other installments, notice how bumbling and ineffective the LAPD and FBI are in Die Hard compared to how well the NYPD is depicted.
    • Not to mention the incredibly thick accents a couple of characters sport:
      Looter Kid: It's Crissmis, yoo could steal city hwall!
      Policewoman: They wuh lookin' fuh you and Mista Cawvuh?
  • Big Bad: Simon Gruber (brother of Hans).
  • Big, Bulky Bomb: Both a Red Herring bomb the size of a commercial refrigerator (the explosive liquids are actually maple syrup), and the actual bomb that takes a major part of a ship's hold and leads to an impressive blast.
  • Blood Knight: Katya, who needs to be physically restrained by Simon and Targo from further cutting up the poor Federal Reserve guard she already killed. An almost literal example as her knife-work leaves her clothes covered in blood for the rest of the film.
  • Blood-Splattered Warrior: McClane emerges blood-spattered from shooting five mooks in an elevator. Zeus ask with concern, "You all right?" McClane replies, casually, "Yeah, yeah, it's not my blood."
  • Bowdlerise: A TV-edit of the film has Zeus saying "Look, all brothers don't know how to shoot a gun, you racist melon farmer." It also changes McClane's racially-insensitive sandwich board sign from "I hate niggers" to "I hate everybody." In reality, the sign was blank, and the messages were added with CGI.note 
  • Bond One-Liner: "Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!"
    • Subverted when McClane is searching the ship and runs across a mook.
      Mook: Nicht schießen!
      John: (shoots him anyway) What was that?
      Targo: (kicks John in the head from off-screen) He said, "Don't shoot."
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Simon handcuffs John McClane and Zeus to a bomb on a ship and leaves them to die, instead of shooting them and blowing up the ship after (in his defense, the only reason they survive is Artistic License – Physics; in Real Life, they would have died).
  • Bottomless Magazines: Played straight with the one Federal Reserve guard who tries to make a futile stand by firing a shotgun down the hallway while screaming like a maniac (and failing to notice Katya opening the door to his left until she slices him to death with a knife). Before Katya slices him, he gets off 14 rounds, when in real life, the model of shotgun he's using only holds nine shells at most.
  • Brick Joke: Sort of. In an alternate ending (which was, ultimately, never filmed), the bomb that John and Zeus disabled in the park isn't used to blow the dam. Instead, it makes an appearance later. As the two heroes float around on a raft after the ship with all the gold blows up, Zeus laments that it's a shame Simon's going to get away with it. John tells him not to be so sure. The scene shifts to a plane, as Simon and his henchmen leave, and they find the briefcase bomb. The movie ends on a darkly comic note, with Simon asking if anyone happens to have a four-gallon jug.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Jeremy Irons tries to fake an American accent as the German Simon Gruber pretending to be an American (Irons is British). It is simply awful.
  • Bystander Syndrome: When Zeus is roped into being John's partner:
    Zeus: I'm not jumpin' through hoops for some psycho! That's a white man, with white problems. You deal with it.
  • Call-Back:
    • When John is forced by Simon to walk into Harlem with a sandwich board reading "I HATE NIGGERS", he at least has the foresight to tape a gun to his back, like what he did to defeat Hans Gruber in the first film.
    • One of the FBI guys asks John, "Does the name 'Gruber' mean anything to you?" The camera cuts to John's wide-eyed face, and then we see a brief clip of Hans falling to his Disney Villain Death at the end of Die Hard.
    John: It rings a bell, yeah.
    • Simon's plan to pretend to blow up all of the gold bars, while swapping it out with worthless scrap metal is very similar to his older brother's plot to fake their deaths and escape with the $640 million from Nakatomi's vault. John lampshades this:
    John: I know him; I know the family. The only thing better than blowing up $100 billion worth of gold is making them think you did.
    • The music when the bomb at the school detonates is the exact same cue heard when Hans fell to his death in the first film.
  • The Cameo: Z100 DJ Elvis Duran, whose show is used by Simon to panic the city about the school bomb. To this day, he'll occasionally bring up "I was in Die Hard with a Vengeance for five seconds!"
  • Canada, Eh?: The final reel of the film takes place in Quebec (specifically, the Nord des Lignes truck stop), where Simon flees to after faking the destruction of the gold, and where John faces off with him for the final battle. John even directly comments on the area while pinned down by gunfire.
  • Chain Pain: John McClane does this on Targo.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Ricky Walsh's badge number (which is how McClane realizes that "Detective Otto" is rogue), the 14 stolen dump trucks (to haul out the gold), and the bottle of aspirin.
    • The aspirin is a double Chekhov's Gun, as the FBI / CIA agents note that one of the only known facts about Simon is that he suffers from chronic migraines.
    • The suitcase bomb is taken by the fake cops to a meetup at the end of the aqueduct, where Simon uses it to blow the dam to try and drown McClane.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Early on in the film, Charlie demonstrates the chemicals that make up Simon's bomb for the benefit of the other officers (along with John and Zeus), who are surprised when they see how reactive the chemicals are (and how much damage they can do). Later on, while attempting to escape the boat, John uses the same trick to break Zeus' restraints attached to the bomb.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Simon betrays his Middle Eastern clients by stealing the gold they hired him to destroy and then screws over some of his accomplices to make sure he gets as large a share as possible. In the alternate ending, which takes place a few months after a successful heist, he has even eliminated his girlfriend to rob her.
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • McClane prevents Simon from escaping AND defeats him using nothing more than a clue from an aspirin bottle that Simon gave him.
    • Also, he suggests Zeus pick their cuffs with a splinter in John's shoulder from the cable they slid down minutes earlier. It works in freeing John from his cuffs, but Zeus drops the makeshift lockpick and John still saves Zeus from the explosion by using a small amount of the explosive to break his cuffs.
  • Comically Missing the Point: McClane when he and Zeus are solving the St. Ives riddle.
    Zeus: The riddle begins, "As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives." The guy and his wives aren't going anywhere.
    McClane: (confused) What are they doing?
    Zeus: Sitting in the fucking road! Waiting on the moon! How the hell should I know, McClane?!
  • Confiscated Phone: McClane hijacks a car to use a car phone which then dies out. Earlier, Zeus needs to answer Simon's call on a payphone another person is using.
  • Contemplative Boss: Simon walks like this when entering the Federal Reserve Bank vault he's about to rob.
  • Continuity Nod: Allusions to the first two films, which took place on Christmas Eve:
    Simon: No, I mean Santa Claus.
    McClane: We got a report of some guy coming through here with eight reindeer... *shoots everyone dead* They said he was a jolly old fat guy with a snowy white beard and a cute little red-and-white suit.
  • Contrived Coincidence: John is ejected from the flooded aqueduct just as Zeus is passing. Had he missed Zeus and had even a few minutes' delay, they would have missed their chance to jump to the boat and get the vital clue to Simon's hideout.
  • The Convenient Store Next Door: Played with. The bad guys blow up a subway station, then disguise themselves as contractors there to clear debris and conduct repairs, while actually using their equipment to dig into the vault of a nearby bank.
  • Cool Guns:
    • Simon uses a Makarov Pistol.
    • John gives a Heckler and Koch MP5K to Zeus and shows him how to use it. Unfortunately, he neglected to explain to Zeus how to disengage the safety.
  • Cop Killer Manhunt: Discussed. Zeus saves John from being killed in Harlem, but insists he did it for this reason.
    McClane: Why'd you save my ass?
    Zeus: I didn't, I stopped a white cop from getting killed in Harlem. White cop dies today, tomorrow we got a thousand white cops, all with itchy trigger fingers. Got it?!
  • Crazy-Prepared: Simon prepared quite a few puzzles and deathtraps for John and Zeus, considering that any one of them could have easily killed them both early on. Perhaps Simon knew just how indestructible John McClane really was.
  • Criminal Mind Games: Subverted with "Simon" playing a Simon-Says type game with McClane through the first half of the movie in order to prevent a bomb from being detonated. Subverted in that it's shown to simply be a way to get McClane (and the entire NYPD) out of the way while Simon pulls off a heist of the federal reserve.
  • Dark Action Girl: Katya is evil, female and deadly. The fact that she's The Voiceless makes her more intimidating.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Not even having a gun pointed at you can get a New Yorker to turn it off:
    McClane: You a truck driver?
    Jerry: (in a truck) No, I'm a beautician! Of course, I'm a truck driver!
  • Defensive Failure: Zeus is holding up the entire bad guy parade with a gun, at which point Simon Gruber walks up to him, promptly explains that he forgot to turn the safety off, then shoots him in the leg and captures him.
  • Deuteragonist: Zeus, who gets almost as much screentime as McClane.
  • The Drag-Along: Zeus gets roped into John McClane's bomb-diffusing adventure after trying to protect McClane from a street gang without realizing what was happening. They become friends by the end.
  • The Dragon: The knife-wielding blonde, and very much mute, Katya works at the main muscle for Simon.
  • Elevator Action Sequence: McClane unwittingly enters an elevator with no less than four mooks disguised as law enforcement. The mooks make a number of gaffes, betraying that they are neither Americans nor cops, before McClane notices that one of them is wearing a familiar badge. An elevator gunfight ensues.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: While Simon Gruber doesn't quite fit this trope in terms of his mooks (they're all Germans and Slavs, with a token Hungarian as second-in-command), John McClane uses this description to convince Zeus to help him. McClane lies and tells Zeus that Simon put a bomb in Harlem (he actually put it in Chinatown), saying, "This guy doesn't care about skin color even if you do."
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Running into a band of underaged looters ("There's no cops anywhere, it's like Christmas! You could steal City Hall") makes McClane realize that the Simon's ploy is likely a distraction for his actual motive: robbery.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: While Simon admits that he disliked his brother, he still cared about him.
    There's a difference, you know, between not liking one's brother and not caring when some dumb, Irish flatfoot drops him out of a window.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Simon's men, when entering the Federal Reserve, are shown to leave the guards alive by tranquilizing them, and only kill anyone who tries to resist (such as the guard who Katya uses a carving knife to slice to death after attempting to fire a shotgun at the other robbers while yelling loudly). A henchman pretending to be a foreman also angrily starts to chew out Otto after that guy shoots Walsh, only for one of the "cop" henchmen to inform him that Otto doesn't speak English.
    • Zeus passes off a suitcase bomb to two of Simon's henchmen who are disguised as cops. They take it, because not doing so would have blown their cover. But then, the first guy admonishes his partner for starting to leave it on the sidewalk which also doubles as Foreshadowing.
      Rolf: (in German) What are you doing?!
      Rogue Cop: (in German) I don't want to ride with it!
      Rolf: Some kid could...
    • While this is happening, the cop was actually on the phone with Simon, asking what he should do with Zeus. Simon takes a moment to think about it, but then says "Let him go," because he legitimately doesn't bear Zeus any ill will.
    • And of course Simon himself, after he reveals that the bomb planted in a school was a fake. His Affably Evil approach comes back to haunt Simon when McClane is able trace him back thanks to the text of an aspirin bottle that Gruber hands to John when McClane is tied and distressed.
    Simon: I'm a soldier, not a monster. Even though I sometimes work for monsters.
  • Everyone Hates Mimes: John McClane briefly considers running over a mime while he and Zeus are racing through Central Park trying to make it downtown:
    Zeus: Are you aiming for some of these people?!
    John: "No... [Wilhelm scream] Well maybe that mime...
  • Evil Plan: Like his brother, Simon's plan is more than it seems. What looks to be a simple act of revenge against John for Hans' death is really a massive distraction for the NYPD so Simon's men can rob the Federal Reserve of its billions in gold. Simon has been paid by Middle East factions to blow up the gold and destabilize the U.S. economy but secretly bombs a ship of scrap metal to keep the gold for himself.
  • Exact Words: When addressing the senior officers regarding the bomb in the school, Walter informs them that Simon has said that they can't evacuate, but he didn't say that they can't search.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The film takes place across a single day.
  • Failed a Spot Check: That guard who gets sliced to pieces by Katya died because he was so busy trying to call for help and also shooting his shotgun down the hallway that he fails to see someone opening the door to his left.
    • Justified in that a closed vault is the last place you'd expect a threat to come from.
  • Fighting for a Homeland: Touched on when Simon is giving a victory speech to his troops, almost all of whom are soldiers turned mercenaries:
    "Yesterday we were an army with no country. Tomorrow, we have to decide which country we want to buy!"
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When the Rogue Cop tells his comrade to not leave the bomb on the sidewalk because a kid might find it, indicating they aren't actually willing to put innocent kids in danger.
    • When Simon and his men enters Reserve Bank, one of the bank guards notices the guys in business suits wears combat boots for some reason.
    • When the police scramble to find the bomb in the school, Simon, who is watching from the roof, tells his crew, "They bought it", indicating that the bomb is a dud.
  • From Camouflage to Criminal: The baddies are mostly members of a former East German special forces unit specialising in infiltration and sabotage.
  • Fulton Street Folly: The film features a Wall Street subway bombing. (And subverts it by using the explosion to break into the Federal Reserve — which is actually a couple blocks away.)
  • Gangbangers: McClane very nearly gets killed by a group of black gangbangers in Harlem upon being forced to stand there wearing a sandwich board with a racial slur on it.
  • Give My Regards in the Next World: Heroic example when McClane says "Say hello to your brother" just before he kills Simon Gruber.
  • Given Name Reveal: For the first half of the movie, the cops only know Simon by the name he gives them. Then the FBI identifies him as a man named Peter Krieg... who was born Simon Peter Gruber. As in Hans Gruber's brother.
  • Going by the Matchbook: Variation. An aspirin bottle that Simon jokingly hands to McClane earlier turns out to have an address on it of the truck stop in Canada where he and his men are hiding out later.
  • Good Samaritan: Zeus doesn't know anything about John McClane other than he's a white man in Harlem wearing nothing but a racist sandwich board sign. Despite being a rather unrepentantly bitter and biased man when it comes to white people, he saves him from a gang. It wasn't that he necessarily wanted him to live, but he was afraid of what would happen if a white guy was killed on his block. Throughout the film, Simon Gruber calls him "The Samaritan."
  • Gory Discretion Shot: We get one of these when one of the Mooks is sliced in half by a snapping cable. We see the cable whip towards him, we see him catapulted backwards by the hit, but cuts away before we see him bisected. Then McClane and Zeus come across his body. "I'll get his arms, you get his legs." They start out carrying the body normally, until Zeus turns until he's side-by-side with McClane.
  • Gosh Dangit To Heck: An odd variant. In the censored UK DVD, some swearing is redubbed, but the subtitles are left untouched. Most noticeable when McClane and Zeus commandeer a car — the (former) owner yells "Take a hike!" while the subtitles read "Go fuck yourself!".
  • Had the Silly Thing in Reverse: An alternate ending has McClane threatening Simon Gruber with a Chinese rocket launcher with the sights removed, allowing Gruber to point the rocket whichever way he liked. Gruber ultimately points the rocket launcher the wrong way.
  • Hair-Trigger Explosive: Played Straight and later subverted. The liquid/gelled binary explosive used in the movie, PLX, actually exists but neither looks like it does in the movie nor does it explode on impact (instead requiring at least a blasting cap). It's also certainly not energetic enough that the amount collected on the tip of a paper clip would be enough to flip a chair. Seen later on, the actual bombs made with it feature more realistic amounts of priming explosives.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: Happens to a Mook; there's a brief shot of the cable slicing him in two, and then we see McClane and Zeus drag the corpse away side by side, one holding his wrists and the other his ankles.
  • Handguns: McClane's able to take out a helicopter with a snub-nosed revolver. To be fair, he didn't aim directly at said helicopter...
  • Hassle-Free Hotwire: Averted:
    McClane: You know how to hot-wire this thing?
    Zeus: Of course I can, I'm an electrician. Only problem is...
    [Zeus turns the ignition with his screwdriver]
    Zeus: It takes too fuckin' long.
  • Helicopter Blender: Played with. Simon's helicopter hits a light pole with its main rotor, producing a shower of sparks; however, instead of this causing the rotor to shatter and the helicopter to simply drop a few metres on the ground, the whole thing just blows up for no clearly defined reason.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Besides commandeering a taxi and a sedan car, McClane and Carver literally take two shoplifting kids' bicycles.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Averted. Charlie, the NYPD's Bomb Expert is busy defusing a bomb in Chester A. Arthur Elementary School, when he's told that all of the kids have been evacuated, so he may as well retreat to a safe area. Then he's told that there are still kids trapped inside of the building, and knowing full well that should he fail he'll be killed, instantly chooses to stay and attempt to defuse the bomb. Fortunately for him, the bomb is a fake.
  • Hollywood Density:
    • Averted when Zeus tries to pick up a loose gold brick that fell out of one of the dump trucks, not knowing how heavy one is. Of course, later on it's played straight when they throw gold bricks as though they were footballs...
      • Do you really believe that these mercenaries are not built and strong enough to easily fling heavy things?
    • Either this trope or Writers Cannot Do Math comes into place with the trucks: in 1995, $150 billion worth of gold would be about 9,000 tons—far more than even 14 full dump trucks could take. They would probably need at least 28 to 40 dump trucks to haul the gold out.
      • On top of this, the Federal Reserve Bank only holds 5,000 tons of gold, while Fort Knox holds 4,600 tons.
      • Justified when Joe verbatim tells Walter that the Federal Reserve is the biggest gold storage in the world.
  • Hypocritical Humour: John McClane of all people, when a juvenile thug calls him a "dickhead", tells him to "Watch his mouth". This is probably instinctual, as he has two young kids.
  • I Can See You: When Simon demands to know why the phone was busy at their first stop, they dismiss him, asking for their next set of instructions. Simon (quite reasonably, actually) tells John, "You could have just said there was a fat woman on the phone and it took you a minute to get her off." Cue the Oh, Crap! reaction from the two as they realize that Gruber is watching them.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...:
    Simon: If killing you was all I wanted, you'd be dead by now.
  • Imminent Danger Clue: McClane gets on an elevator with some fake cops. Because he was earlier in the film with some real NYPD cops who mentioned they always play their badge number in the lottery, he realizes at the last second that the fake cop next to him has the same badge number as the real cop. This is enough for McClane to kill them before they kill him.
  • Impressed by the Civilian: Zeus is an ordinary Harlem pawn shop owner who happens to get entangled in Simon's plot to destroy John McClain. Over the course of the story, Zeus and McClain gradually come to earn each other's respect and friendship.
  • Incredibly Obvious Bomb: The villain plants one of these in a school as a distraction; it's a deliberate dud.
  • Indy Escape: McClane flees the water gushing through the aqueduct in a dump truck when the villains attempt to drown him.
  • Indy Ploy: It's Die Hard, John McClane is always cooking up some absurd solution on the fly. Lampshaded by Zeus:
    John: I know what I'm doing.
    Zeus: Not even God knows what you're doing!
  • Informed Ability: Simon Gruber is identified as an elite East German spy, comparing him to English-speaking Nazis infiltrating Allied camps during the Battle of the Bulge. When Simon appears and introduces himself to Rick Walsh as "Bob Thompson" from the City Engineer's office, he actually attempts an American accent and the outcome is an stereotypically exaggerated Texan drawl. Given his Laughably Evil nature, Simon seems to be enjoying himself, joking around in a very morbid and ironic sense in that iconical context and opportunity:
    Ricky Walsh: [tries to wave down the trucks] Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!
    Simon Gruber: Detective! [shows up, holding a briefcase] Bob Thompson. City Engineer's Office. [shakes Walsh's hand] We'd like to get an idea of the damage. [Mathias Targo jumps onto the driver's door of a passing dump truck behind him]
    Ricky Walsh: Man! You guys really got here fast! [He and Simon start walking]
    Simon Gruber: Well... it's Wall Street, sir. A lot of money here. A lot of opinion makers the mayor doesn't want to piss off, you know. Is this it? [sees what his bomb has done, and feigns shock] Holy Toledo! [lapses into Jeremy Irons' real accent, with a bit of a smile] Somebody had fun! [turns to Walsh, as "Bob" again] I'd appreciate it if you'd show my associates the way down. [beat]
    Ricky Walsh: Yeah, yeah, sure.
  • Intercom Villainy: Simon doesn't use an intercom, but he talks to the main characters on payphones throughout New York City. He smugly commands McClane to do horrendous or dangerous tasks in order to save civilians, making McClane all the more determined to find Simon and knock him down a peg.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: McClane interrupts Simon as he's about to get intimate with Katya. The normally stoic woman suddenly gets very angry at McClane.
  • Ironic Echo / Strange Minds Think Alike: Zeus and John decide to bring the briefcase bomb with them fearing "some kid could find it". Once they deliver it to Simon's henchmen disguised as cops, one admonishes the other thinking about just leaving it in the sidewalk with "Some kid could..."
  • It's Personal: Zigzagged. Simon is apparently blowing up buildings as part of an elaborate scheme to screw with, and eventually kill, McClane as payback for killing his brother Hans. Then it's revealed that was all a cover for Simon's scheme of robbing the Federal Reserve and that Simon didn't even like his brother. Then it's revealed that while Simon's in it for the money and he didn't like his brother, he still took the man's death personally:
    "There's a difference, you know, between not liking one's brother and not caring when some dumb Irish flatfoot throws him out a window!"
  • Jerkass: Zeus is initially a hothead but gets better.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Zeus is openly hostile to people, even when he's putting himself in danger to save their lives.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Consider this: Simon once was a distinguished military officer in his country. When Nationale Volksarmee was disbanded, he was discharged and got a pension smaller than a graduate student stipend. Naturally, he became somewhat pissed.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Averted twice.
    • Inspector Cobb is ordering his men to search the schools and challenges the FBI agents not to pull a jurisdictional stunt. The FBI agent has kids in one of the threatened schools, and he's more than happy to provide assistance.
    • As Cobb goes to liaise with the other department chiefs and officers, Ricky informs him that the senior officer present is Chief Allen, and Cobb makes sure to acknowledge his authority in his briefing.
  • Just Train Wrong: Wall Street station on the IRT Broadway – Seventh Avenue Line (#2 and #3 trains) is depicted as having a very wide island platform and a narrow side platform. While this station does indeed have an island platform (but not a side platform), the real one is much narrower than the one shown in the movie. Also the #3 train is shown running R-30 cars (which is wider than IRT cars) instead of the R-62/62A cars.
  • Kidnapped by the Call: After Zeus plays Good Samaritan and saves McClane, Simon forces him to team with McClane and solve together several puzzles to defuse some bombs scattered all along the city.
  • Language Barrier:
    • Between McClane and his German-speaking foes.
      Gang Member: Nicht schiessen!
      John McClane: [shoots him] What was that?
      Mathias Targo: [kicks McClane] He said "don't shoot".
    • Some of Simon's men can speak English and some can't. Otto is of the latter category, shown when he kills Walsh and another Mook chastises him in English. A third replies:
      Mook: Otto doesn't speak English, do you Otto?
  • Last Chance to Quit: When Simon realizes that once again, McClane simply won't die, he attempts to bribe him with some of the stolen gold. John's response, "Or you can come out from that rock you're under and I'll drive this truck up your ass."
  • Last Request: McClane asks Gruber if he has any aspirin. This doesn't help McClane escape his predicament, but it does give them a lead on where to find Gruber later.
  • Last Stand: Attempted by the Federal Reserve guard when realizing he's cut off from any help and alone until Katya appears from the one direction he wouldn't expect and cuts him up like a pig.
  • Let's Dance: Bomb squad technician Charlie Veiss says this to a bomb he's attempting to defuse:
    "Six booby traps, four dead ends, and a Partridge in a pear tree. Okay, honey. Let's dance."
  • Little Useless Gun: During the climax, McClane asks for a gun and is given a tiny revolver of which he is extremely disdainful. Subverted in that he manages to take out the helicopter attacking him with it by shooting some overhead power lines.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: Zeus - being a civilian - doesn't have to follow McClane once they get to the bridge - as a matter of fact Zeus messes things up a little once on the ship, even after being told not to be the hero. There's absolutely no reason McClane (and definitely not Zeus) needed to go along to Canada at the end.
  • Made of Iron: Targo. McClane stabs a big sharp piece of metal into the guy's leg and it does nothing.
  • Malcolm Xerox: Zeus Carver, despite saving McClane from being beaten to a pulp by black men.note 
  • Mauve Shirt: Every NYPD officer with the obvious exception of McClane, who all get decent amounts of characterization and focus. Surprisingly, most of them wind up surviving the film, with the exception of Ricky.
  • Missing Backblast: The alternate ending includes McClane playing a variant of Russian Roulette with Simon using a Chinese rocket launcher with the sights removed, so they can't tell which end is the muzzle. He asks Simon a series of questions, and eventually asks a question that Simon gets wrong. Turns out that the answer to the question is that he forgot to bring a flak jacket, which is what McClane is wearing and this would have protected Simon from the blast of the rocket, and the rocket fires on Simon, killing him instantly.
  • Mistaken for Racist: Simon's first attempt to get McClane killed is to get him to go to Harlem, a predominantly black neighborhood, and wear a sandwich board saying "I Hate Niggers". Unsurprisingly, he's nearly killed.
  • Motivational Lie: Realizing that Zeus won't help him if it's just one white dude blowing up some others, John tells him that one of Simon's bombs was found in a playground in a black neighborhood.
  • Motive Misidentification: Simon first tricks authorities to believe that he's a terrorist who wants revenge on McClane, but is actually using the confusion to set up a huge robbery. The fact that he would also get revenge on the cop who killed his brother is just icing on the cake. He then almost convinces the world that he carried out the robbery in order to destroy the gold rather than keep it, which as a mercenary he has actually been paid to do. In this case, blowing up the gold was the actual Evil Plan, but Simon being part of a Big Bad Duumvirate (with Middle Eastern radicals) decided to make some changes to that part of the scheme.
    McClane: I know the man, I know the family. The only thing better than destroying a hundred and forty billion dollars in gold is making everyone think you did.
  • Mundane Solution: Zeus could hotwire the car since as an electrician he knows how - or just stick his screwdriver in the ignition and turn.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • McClane finds two of Simon's guys in a dump truck waiting to ambush him in the tunnel:
      John McClane: Hey, fellas! Mickey O'Brien, Aqueduct security! Hey listen, we've got a report of a guy coming through here, with, uh, eight reindeer!
      [He opens fire before either can get off a shot. McClane opens the door and the driver's body falls out]
      John McClane: Yeah they said he was a… jolly old fat guy with a snowy white beard; cute little red and white suit. I'm surprised you didn't see him!
    • At the beginning, another nod to the first film: in the first film, Hans Gruber and his crew arrived at Nakatomi in a Pacific Courier truck. In the opening of this movie, when the Bonwit Teller storefront blows up, an Atlantic Courier armored truck is thrown into the air by the blast and flipped over.
  • Near-Villain Victory: Even closer than Die Hard 2 but only due to the fact Simon was after the gold and was only trying to kill John on the side, not really caring if he lived or died. He nearly gets away with his scheme, but one tiny slip up via the aspirin bottle cost him dearly.
  • Never Hurt an Innocent: Most of Simon's soldiers follow this, as they go out of their way to take down police and civilians non-lethally, express concern over one of their disabled bombs being found by some children, and Simon's infamous "Of course not; I'm a soldier, not a monster" response when it's found out the "bomb" he left in the school was merely a distraction filled with corn syrup. Keyword being most: one of his goons gleefully guns down Ricky Walsh (and is immediately chastised for it), of course Katya is a batshit insane murderous Psycho Knife Nut, and Simon himself will gleefully kill Zeus for getting in his way too much or being friends with the "dumb Irish flatfoot who threw his brother out a window".
  • The '90s: Payphones everywhere, the suggestion the bomber could set off a bomb with a beeper. The portable phone in the bomb briefcase was pretty cool for its time.
    • One of Simon's brainteasers is "What's 21 out of 42?", referring to the fact that there had been 42 Presidents of the United States at the time, the answer being Chester A. Arthur, which points them to searching the Chester A. Arthur elementary school.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Subverted, as Simon agrees with McClane that Hans was an asshole. But "there is a difference between not liking one's brother and not caring when some dumb Irish flatfoot drops him out of a window."
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: John fights a hangover in addition to Simon. When he complains about it to Simon while being held captive, Simon tosses him a bottle of aspirin. John manages to escape his predicament and tries to take an aspirin only to find the bottle is empty. But he also discovers the bottle has the address of the hotel where Simon is staying printed on it.
  • No OSHA Compliance: For the subway scene, the gratings over the subway tunnel are light enough to be lifted by a single man in a hurry. The glass window on the subway car shatters with a wild kick. (Of course not the one on the back of the train when John has to throw the bomb off.)
  • No Place for a Warrior: Ultimately the plot is Simon Gruber trying to steal $150 billion in gold with former communist soldiers and agents (mostly East German) intended to infiltrate US and British agencies who were left jobless after the Berlin Wall fell. Described as "an army without a country".
  • Noble Demon: The kind of leader a band of warriors have is reflected in their behavior, for unlike most moustache-twirling one-dimensional villains, Simon's men actually go out of their way to make sure children will not be hurt in their operations, and actually bother to mourn the losses of their brothers before rejoicing in their ill-gotten money.
  • Noble Top Enforcer: Invoked by Simon, after the bomb at the school turns out to be a decoy.
    "Of course. I'm not a monster. Even though I sometimes work for monsters."
  • Not His Blood: McClane sports blood on his face after an action sequence. When asked by his partner if he is alright, he shrugs it off noting that it's not his blood.
  • Not So Stoic:
    • Action Girl Connie Kowalski is pretty hard-boiled - as are almost all of the NYPD cops - but during the evacuation of the elementary school (when it's believed that a bomb has been planted there) she confesses that she might "pee [her] pants."
    • Katya never smiles, never speaks, never even makes a sound throughout all her scenes...until the film's climax, when she and Simon are interrupted by John McClane and Zeus Carver at a very inopportune moment - and she completely loses her cool, firing off a machine gun and screaming in rage.
  • Not With the Safety On, You Won't: Apparently, an electrician played by Samuel L. Jackson isn't magically better with guns than the average electrician. Entirely McClane's fault, since he only told him he needed to cock the gun and pull the trigger.
    Simon Gruber: [casually takes gun from Zeus] You forgot to take the safety catch off. [shoots Zeus in the leg] See, that works. Now where's McClane?
    • This is actually a small error, as the dead Mook they took the gun from is briefly shown firing off a burst from the weapon as he is sliced in half by a cable. There is no reason McClane would’ve put the safety back on when giving a gun to the inexperienced Zeus to defend himself.
  • Notable Non Sequitur: There is an offhand report about fourteen dump trucks being stolen the night before. Later in the film, it is revealed that these trucks are being used by the villains to cart off the gold they have stolen.
  • Novelization: The film was novelised by D. Chiel. More details here.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: John McClane has to fake this when Simon makes him wear a billboard insulting Afro-Americans while in his underwear. Zeus saves him by claiming his insanity, and he runs with it.
  • Oh, Crap!: Most of Zeus' reactions in this film are of the Oh, Crap! variety.
    • The look on Zeus's face when he tells Simon that McClane's on his way and Simon tells him, "The rules applied to both of you. I'm afraid this is non-compliance. Goodbye."
      Zeus: Trust me, guys..... duck.
    • Zeus' already panicked voice only intensifies when he realizes exactly which school is being bombed. It's the one his nephews attend.
      McClane: I found out who the twenty-first President was!
      Zeus: Oh yeah? Who?
      McClane: I don't know, some guy named Arthur.
      Zeus: Chester A. Arthur?! Chester A. Arthur Elementary School?!
    • Simon's reaction during the climax when he realises that McClane is about to shoot the powerlines above his helicopter.
  • One Bullet Left: McClane has two bullets left in a small gun, and two bad guys in a helicopter with a BFG. He shoots a power cable which wraps around the tail rotor, causing the helicopter to crash and explode.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: A bunch of German mercenaries impersonate cops. Although the leader speaks English with a flawless American accent, he slips up on a few word choices, such as calling an elevator a "lift" and saying that it's raining "dogs and cats", instead of the usual "cats and dogs". When McClane recognizes that one of them is wearing a friend's badge, and mentions the lottery to figure out if anyone on the elevator is real. None of the fake cops know last night's numbers, though in the beginning it's established that every NYPD cop plays the lottery and knows exactly what the winning numbers were.
  • Outrun the Fireball:
    • McClane does this with a dump truck and a rush of water in the tunnel after the dam is blown up.
    • Subverted: After being told that a bomb is in a garbage can by the phone booth, both Zeus and McClane try to push people aside and then dive to the ground; when no explosion happens, the terrorist's laughter reveals the joke.
    "I didn't say 'Simon Says'."
    • Later played straight with the exploding boat.
  • Pants-Positive Safety: McClane puts his pistol in his waistband instead of in the shoulder holster he is wearing! It takes a little longer to draw a gun out of a shoulder holster than from the hip; given how his day had been going thus far...
  • Parlor Games: The villain uses Simon Says in his games. His name is Simon, so he has a lot of fun with it.
  • Pass the Popcorn: Happens when a group of office workers begin eating popcorn while staring at the giant smoking crater in the middle of Wall Street.
  • Pet the Dog: Simon orders a mook to let Zeus walk away twice.
  • Plot Armor: Now the armor extends to Zeus.
  • Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: Although not involving poison, the alternate ending lays with this trope. John McClane faces off with Simon Gruber, a rocket launcher with the sights removed on the table between them. They play the Simon Says game, with the rocket being turned each time Simon Gruber answers a question correctly. Eventually he gets a question wrong, so John tells him to pull the trigger. However Simon turns the rocket launcher one more time before doing so, convinced the muzzle will then be facing towards John. He's wrong.
  • Police Are Useless: Averted, as the NYPD is shown as being very competent, as opposed to the LAPD.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Simon Gruber plays with this trope like a kitten does a ball of yarn; he seems to delight in making people think he is bigoted, mostly because he thinks it's fun to anger people and/or fake them out. When first speaking to Zeus Carver, for example, Simon (who is German but can mimic American Accents quite well, and who knows that Zeus is an angry black man because he's been watching him on hidden video cameras) says: "So whot's yowuh name, boy?" in twangy, corrupt hick fashion just to irritate Zeus; he then apologizes, explaining that he's fond of tasteless jokes. Later the trope is seemingly played straight when Simon calls John McClane a "dumb Irish flatfoot," but this is due not to anti-Irish sentiment but to Simon's general bitterness toward John for having killed his brother Hans in the first movie. Simon admits that he didn't even like Hans, but he's still determined to exact vengeance on anyone who messes with his family, saying "There's a difference between not liking one's brother, and not caring when some dumb Irish flatfoot drops him off a building."
  • Power Cable Attack: McClane has One Bullet Left, and takes out Simon's helicopter by aiming for the power line going to a building. The severed line becomes tangled in the blades, causing them to crash. Once the vehicle touches ground, current flows, igniting the aircraft fuel tank for a spectacular fiery finish.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: The sniper at Yankee Stadium is ordered not to shoot Zeus, because the initial orders were to hit both him and McClane.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "Say hello to your brother".
  • Precision F-Strike: A beautiful precision strike amid a cluster of F-bombs: Suppose you're carjacked. Suppose you're standing in the rain, watching the two carjackers drive off in your Mercedes. Suppose the Mercedes suddenly stops and one of the carjackers rolls down the window. Now, what in the world could he possibly have to say to you? Oh, I don't know, how about ...
    Zeus Carver: Hey, who was the twenty-first president?
    Carjack victim: Go fuck yourself!
    • The TV edit? A quite hilariously dubbed-in "Go take a hike!"
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "Look, if you have to shoot me, then you go ahead and you shoot me! But I have! To answer! THIS! PHONE!"
  • Putting on the Reich: Simon's archive photo depicts him dressed in early NVA uniform, looking completely like a Nazi save for the imperial eagle.
  • Razor Floss: Mentioned and seen. As McClane and Zeus are attempting to get from a bridge to a ship passing under it, Zeus says they should jump to the attached crane. McClane says the cables would cut them in half. Then when they use the winch on a pickup truck to climb down, the ship pulls the truck off the bridge, leaving the hook and cable attached to the crane. As it swings, it hits a henchman. Zeus and John are then seen dragging him by his arms and legs. About eight feet apart...
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Walter Cobb.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Although Michael Kamen returned to score this entry (the last one he'd do), the producers tracked in material he wrote for the first two films.
  • Red Herring: Simon is presented as a mad bomber with a personal grudge against John McClane for killing his brother. Turns out that was all a distraction to keep John and Zeus busy finding bombs, while he and his crew of professional mercenaries rob The Federal Reserve Bank of its gold. It's later revealed that the villain didn't even like his brother, and John dying from one of the bombs going off was just a bonus while doing the robbery, not a personal priority.
  • Refuge in Audacity: John McClane walks around Harlem in his underwear with a sign that proclaims "I Hate Niggers" (Simon made him do it). The street corner at which John is forced to stand is less than twenty yards away from the favorite hangout of a street gang armed with knives. Zeus Carver ominously lampshades this — not five seconds before said gang members spot the sign and come over looking for trouble, and one of them hurls a switchblade that lodges in the sign. John quickly tries to save himself by pretending to be a mental patient... which doesn't work too well. What's most outrageous is that John and Zeus both survive this harrowing encounter with little more than a beer bottle broken over John's head and minor knife wound for Zeus.
  • Refuse to Rescue the Disliked: After defeating the terrorist villains, McClane ponders trying to rescue survivors from the burning wreckage. Zeus snorts, "Fuck, let 'em cook."
  • Remember the New Guy?: All of McClane's fellow police officers. They're his coworkers so he's naturally very familiar with them, but since the film is largely told from his viewpoint they don't get much of an introduction for the audience.
  • The Remnant: Simon Gruber's unit of East-German Special Forces who were trained to speak fluent English for infiltration operations and were disbanded after the Soviet Union fell.
  • Revised Ending: There were not one, but two alternate endings (one was filmed, the other wasn't).
    • In the filmed one, McClane and Simon meet again at a European cafe well after the events of the film. In this ending, Simon gets away with the heist by turning the gold into small Empire State Building statues. McClane recaps that he was fired because of Simon's getaway. McClane forces Simon to play a "McClane Says," Russian Roulette-style game using a Chinese rocket launcher with the sights removed. Simon gets a question wrong and dies from being shot by the launcher. McClane was wearing a flak jacket which would have prevented major injury. The filmed alternate was rejected by the studio for being too dark and McClane was bordering on He Who Fights Monsters.
    • In the unfilmed one, McClane and Carver head back to shore after the boat explodes. Carver notes that the villains are going to get away; McClane tells him not to be so sure. The scene cuts to Simon and his crew on board a plane when they suddenly discover the briefcase bomb that Simon had used on McClane and Carver in the park, the same one Carver gave back to the Mooks posing as cops. Presumably, the bomb used on the plane would have been a different one or not used to blow up a dam in a later sequence. Simon would then ask anyone on the plane if they had a 4-gallon jug, calling back to the disarming sequence from the park.
  • Riddle Me This: The St. Ives Puzzle is used by Simon this way. McClane gets the right answer, but not within the time limit; fortunately, there's no bomb because the villain did not say "Simon Says".
  • Roofhopping: Averted. Joe, Connie and a couple of schoolkids climb up onto the roof of the locked building with the intent of jumping to an adjacent building to escape from the bomb, but when they get there, they realize the distance is too far.
  • Russian Roulette: The alternate ending includes John McClane playing a variant of Russian roulette with Simon Gruber using a Chinese rocket launcher without the sights (so no way of telling which end is the muzzle). He asks Simon a series of questions (with them turning the launcher to face the other each time) and eventually asks a question that Simon gets wrong. Turns out that the answer to the question is that he forgot to bring a flak jacket, which is what McClane is wearing and this would have protected Simon from the blast of the rocket, and the rocket fires on Simon, killing him instantly.
  • Say My Name: Zeus, riding shotgun with McClane driving, realizes that when he says he's going to cut through Central Park, he means it. "MCCLAAAAAAAAAAAAANE!!!!"
  • Scary Black Man:
    • Nicely averted despite the presence of a tough black character from the hood who's played by Samuel L. Jackson. Zeus is a no-nonsense individual with the courage to get done what he needs to, but he's not particularly intimidating just by his looks or presence, even with a gun in his hand, as he handles it rather nervously as he's not experienced with firearms.
    • Played straight with the hoods who were about to knife McClane before Zeus intervened.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: John McClane won't take money from criminals, even when it's a hell of a lot easier than getting the shit kicked out of him by them.
    Simon: John. In the back of the truck you are driving, there is $13 billion worth in gold bullion. I wonder if a deal would be out of the question?
    John: Yeah, I got a deal for you, crawl out from under that rock you hiding under and I'll drive this truck up your ass.
  • Set Piece Puzzle: The "four gallons from a 3- and 5- gallon jug" variety.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: The Caper plan the bad guys came up with not only was a Near-Villain Victory, but it also landed the film's scriptwriter in hot water with the FBI because they thought it was a little too plausible for comfort. Jonathan Hensleigh was called in to explain how he knew so much about the Federal Gold Reserve in downtown Manhattan and he stated that most of it came from an article written in the New York Times. In one version of the anecdote, an anonymous FBI agent even said, "It sounds crazy, but somebody could pull this off."
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: Simon wasn't happy with Zeus meddling in his "well-laid plan". Zeus' response?
    "You can stick your well-laid plan up your well-laid ass."
    [Simon hangs up]
  • Silent Antagonist: Katya utters only a single sound (a frustrated scream) in the entire film. Ironic, given that the actress who plays her, Sam Phillips, is a noted singer in real life (she was originally supposed to speak, but it was decided that she was more intimidating if she didn't speak).
  • Smokescreen Crime: Simon's plot involves detonating bombs all around New York City, forcing Mc Clane to jump through hoops to find the others and convincing the police there is a bomb planted in an unidentified school. The end goal of all this chaos is to keep the authorities and emergency services occupied while Simon robs the Federal Reserve Bank on Wall Street. Not too surprising given he is the brother of Hans Gruber from the first movie.
  • The Snack Is More Interesting: In the "You forgot to take the safety catch off" scene, Simon stands there looking bored and eating a boiled egg while Zeus holds him at gunpoint.
  • Spanner in the Works: For once, it isn't McClane as Simon actually dragged him into the plot. This time it's the teenage shoplifter who gives McClane his "Eureka!" Moment (see above).
  • Speech Impediment: Simon has a stutter when he's angry. We later find out it's just an act.
  • The Speechless: Katya, presumably due to the scarring on her throat. As she's implied to be Targo's wife, this is likely a result of the bomb planted in their bed. Alternately, she could be speechless by choice since when McClane tracks Simon to Canada, Simon and Katya are just starting to get it on...cue Coitus Interruptus via McClane in a police helicopter. Katya opens fire on them, screaming in German. Leading Zeus to observe, "I think she's pissed at you, McClane!"
  • Spotting the Thread: McClane steps into the elevator down to the Federal Reserve's vault with a couple of Simon's henchmen who are posing as security guards, including one "Detective Otto". But as they are getting on, one of them gives himself away by referring to the elevator they are riding as a "lift" (British terminology, which may be a hint, that Simon's unit was supposed to infiltrate the British Army of the Rhine,) as well as mentioning a hard rainstorm as raining "like dogs and cats" (when an American would say it's raining "cats and dogs" - the order reversed). This leads McClane to then notice the badge Otto is wearing and catches the reflection of the badge number - 6991 - and realizes that the guy had killed Ricky Walsh and stolen his badge (McClane had remarked on Walsh's badge number in the van when Cobb and the other detectives were transporting him to Harlem for Simon's first game). He breaks the silence by asking them about last night's lottery numbers (a topic routinely discussed among the cops), and then....
  • Standard Snippet: '"When Johnny Comes Marching Home" (under the other title, "Ants Go Marching") is featured, which when used during the Federal Reserve heist, in particular that scene where Katya slashes a guard to death, makes it seem epic. Note the third film is the first actually set in New York, where John (McClane) is a police officer.
  • Status Cell Phone: Simon's gang has plenty of them.
    • Super Cell Reception: And he's able to call John and Zeus from an underground vault without the phone picking up lots of background noise.
  • Stereotype Reaction Gag: Happens a lot between John McClane and Zeus:
    • McClane asks "can you pick this lock?" Zeus calls him a racist ("Oh, all black dudes know how to pick locks, right?"), then when McClane says that he's just asking if he's a locksmith, says that, yes, yes he can.
    • Earlier in the movie, when McClane asks if Zeus can hotwire a car, Zeus says:
      Zeus: Of course I can, I'm an electrician. [Proceeds to force-start the car without hotwiring it] Only problem is it takes too fucking long.
    • But as it turns out, Zeus doesn't know how to use a gun.
  • Stock Lateral Thinking Puzzle: Simon forces John and Zeus to solve several of these as a distraction technique. In the alternate ending, John gives Simon the same treatment.
    • Just one example: "As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives. Each wife had seven sacks, each sack had seven cats, each cat had seven kittens. Kittens, cats, sacks, wives, how many were going to St. Ives?"Answer 
  • Stock Scream: The Wilhelm Scream is heard when McClane is driving through the park when he apparently nearly hits a mime.
  • Strapped to a Bomb: Happens to McClane and Zeus.
  • Street Performer: When they're tearing through Central Park in a stolen Taxi, barely missing several picnickers, Zeus asks McClane "Are you AIMING for those people?" "No, no... well, maybe that mime."
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The movie opens right away with the now-closed Bonwit Teller department store destroyed by a bomb during the morning commute. A subway train, a boat and a helicopter also explode during the movie.
  • Suicide by Cop: Inverted. Simon tries to get the cop McClane to commit Suicide by Angry Black Man by walking through the streets of Harlem wearing a disgustingly racist sign.
  • Super Cell Reception: Simon calls from the vault of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. While it's in Wall Street, this is still underground... and the phone somehow doesn't pick up the noise made by the heavy machinery picking up gold as he speaks.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • John and Zeus don't magically heal in between all their injuries. By the end they're as battered, beaten, and bloody as you would expect, even after getting medical attention.
    • Zeus has no idea how to use a gun John hands him. He is just an untrained civilian after all. John gives a quick how-to, but forgets to mention the safety or take it off, something Zeus as an untrained civilian doesn't realize. This gets him caught and shot after he fails to shoot Simon.
    • Simon's Evil Plan is to use bomb threats to have the police spread thin and distracted long enough for him to rob the Federal Reserve. He isn't the only criminal to realize this, a few teenage shoplifters also take advantage of it...which is what tips McClane off.
  • Take Me Out at the Ball Game: The terrorists claim they want John McClane to go to Yankee Stadium to collect a clue to stop the bomb that will blow up a school. In truth, there is a sniper at the stadium who will shoot him if he shows up.
  • Terrorists Without a Cause: Played perfectly straight with Mathias and Katya Targo. Freelance terrorists who work by written contract.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Katya carves up the security guard real nice until Simon physically stops her.
    "I think he's dead, my dear."
  • This Is Gonna Suck:
    • Zeus' reaction to McClane about to drive between two perilously close trucks is an understated "Oh, dear."
    • McClane before jumping onto a subway train: "This is a bad idea."
  • To Absent Friends: When the bad guys are celebrating the successful theft, they're toasting to several things and then one says along the lines of "auf gefallen kameraden," which translates something like "for fallen comrades." There is a moment of silence and then they all toast in honor of their lost brethren.
  • Tranquil Fury: Targo's attitude about McClane midway through the film comes in growling, clipped tones. "Stop toying with him and kill him now!"
  • Treasure Room: The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where Uncle Sam keeps a lot of gold, almost all of it for other countries' central banks.
    Simon: Fort Knox? Ha! It's for tourists!
    • Incidentally, the Federal Reserve Bank actually holds sixty minute tours of the vault, while Fort Knox is off limits to tourists.
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: With an initially unsuspecting McClane sharing a small elevator with four guards, most of them significantly larger than himself. It gets bloody once he realizes they're Simon's henchmen.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The truck driver reacts to McClane gunning down two terrorists with an understated "That guy dead?" Then again, this is New York...
  • Villainous Breakdown: Simon Gruber is able to keep his cool nearly all the way through the movie... until he realizes that McClane tracked him to Canada.
  • Wham Line: After John asks the FBI what "Simon" and his group have to do with him.
    "The name 'Gruber' mean anything to you, Lieutenant?"
    • A close second from a shoplifting "tough kid":
      "Look around! All the cops are into something. It's Christmas! You could steal City Hall!"
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The $13 billion in gold on the dumptruck McClane leaves in the aqueduct, though it's probably not going anywhere until the tunnel is drained.
    • What was supposed to happen to McClane had Carver not swerved the game by intervening? Were gang bangers just gonna kill him, or was there another bomb before heading to the fake game at 72nd street station?
  • Wire Dilemma: Subverted when Charlie is cutting wires left, right, and center, but nothing happens at all... he stays to the end, then gets doused in pancake syrup when the timer runs out.
  • Working Through the Cold: John has a hangover throughout the film.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Ultimately averted, as Simon reveals that the school bomb was a fake; lampshaded as he points out that even he wouldn't go that far to get the cops' attention.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: The line "children may find it [the bomb]" is uttered by both the good guy and a bad guy. This brings a question of doubt in the perpetrators' actions, and it's revealed that Simon never planted a real bomb, just a fake one, because "he's a soldier, not a monster".
  • Xanatos Roulette: Ultimately subverted. While much of Simon’s plan goes off without a hitch, the riddle game starts to go off the rails after the water jug bomb when John splits from Zeus. Simon had intended for John and Zeus to both be at Yankee Station to be killed by a sniper fire after seeing a note saying “game over”. Because John ends up catching onto the heist, Zeus goes to the stadium alone and the snipers end up not springing the trap. When John radios Simon in the tunnel implicitly noting he’s figured out their heist, Simon is very nonplussed.
  • You Are What You Hate: Zeus is a black man with serious problems with white people, most especially white racists (though the latter can hardly be said to be an unreasonable position). Eventually McClane calls him out on the fact that he's acting like a racist himself, which seems to offend Zeus.
    John: Give it here, you stupid—
    Zeus: Say it! Say it!
    John: Say what?!
    Zeus: You were gonna call me a nigger, weren't you?
    John: No I wasn't!
    Zeus: What were you gonna call me, then?!
    John: Asshole! Huh? How 'bout that, "asshole"? You got some kinda problem with me becaue I'm white? Have I oppressed you? Have I oppressed your people? I'll tell you what the problem is, you don't like me because you're a racist.
    Zeus: WHAT?!
    John: You're a racist! You don't like me because I'm white!
    Zeus: I don't like you because you're gonna get me killed!
  • You Monster!: Simon actively attempts to avoid this trope when he reveals he lied about planting a bomb in a school.
    Simon: I'm a soldier, not a monster. Even though I sometimes work for monsters.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Parodied when Zeus aims an automatic weapon at Simon, who immediately calls his bluff. Not that he didn't think Zeus would shoot him (Zeus immediately tries) but because Simon could see that Zeus, who was unfamiliar with the weapon, hadn't taken the safety off.