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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.

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 racist remarks 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 by Simon, who threatens to set off several 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 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:

  • 555: McClane must stop a bomb by dialing "555 and the answer" to the riddle the villain just gave.
  • Accidental Misnaming: John hears a kid address Zeus by saying, "Hey, Zeus!" so John initially mistakes his name for Jésus.
  • Action Duo: McClane and Zeus.
  • 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 the bomb if they left it there. Also, at the end the remaining mooks toast to fallen comrades.
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  • 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: 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.
  • Artistic License – Cars:
    • Simon claims the truck McClane is driving contains $13 billion. 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 the gold out).
    • 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 40 years out of date. The world went off the Gold Standard for valuing their currency in the 50's. Blowing up the gold would be bad because of the loss of resources, not because of the 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.
  • 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. He also explicitly states that, "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 Coolname: There are probably a few more examples throughout the series, but 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?
  • Backwards-Firing Gun: 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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 CGInote .
  • Bond One-Liner: "Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!" says John as blows up the Big Bad.
    • Subverted when McClane is searching the ship and runs across a mook.
  • 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.
  • Call-Back:
    • When John is forced by Simon to walk into Harlem with an offensive sandwich board reading "I HATE NIGGERS", he at least has the foresight to tape a gun to his back.
    • 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 demise 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!"
  • 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.
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • McClane prevents the villain 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 on the side of the fucking road! How the hell should I know?!
  • Contrived Coincidence: John is ejected from the flooded dam just as Zeus is passing. Had he missed Zeus and had even a few minute delay, they would have missed their chance to jump to the boat and get the vital clue to Simon's hideout.
  • 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.
  • Dark Action Girl: Katya.
  • 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!
  • Deuteragonist: Zeus, who gets almost as much screentime as McClane.
  • The Dragon: The knife-wielding blonde, and very much mute, Katya.
  • 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.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Simon Gruber, 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.
    • 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.
      Rogue Cop (in German): What are you... Some kid could...
  • 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.
  • 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 the closed vault is the last place you'd expect an threat to come from.
  • Foreshadowing: When the Rogue Cop tells his comrade to not leave the bomb on the sidewalk because a kid might find it.
    • When Simon and his men enters Reserve Bank, one of the bank guards notices than guys in business suits wears combat boots for some reason.
  • 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.
  • 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, his brother.
  • Going by the Matchbook: Variation. An aspirin bottle that the villain jokingly hands to McClane earlier turns out to have an address on it of the hotel in Canada where he and his men are hiding out later.
  • 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!".
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: One of Simon's henchmen is sliced cleanly in two by a snapping steel cable.
  • 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...
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Indy Ploy: Lampshaded by Zeus:
    John: I know what I'm doing.
    Zeus: Not even God knows what you're doing!
  • Informed Ability/Brief Accent Imitation: 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.
  • Jerk Ass: Zeus is initially a racist hothead but gets better.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Zeus.
  • 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. 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.
    • Further averted shortly afterwards - 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: While the subway rolling stock for the 2 train is correct for 1995, Wall Street station on the IRT Broadway – Seventh Avenue Line is depicted as having a very wide island platform. While this station does indeed have an island platform, the real one is much narrower than the one shown in the movie.
  • 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 Mook replies:
    Mook: Otto doesn't speak English, do you Otto?
  • 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.
  • 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 
  • 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.
    • It should be noted that when they filmed this scene (in Harlem), the filmmakers did not make him wear a sign that said "I HATE NIGGERS". They had him wear one marked up for effects, then added that later, probably for the simple fact that the producers did not want to upset the Harlem residents. The "I HATE EVERYBODY" version was a simple addition when it was sold to networks; the edited for content version could theoretically use anything it wanted.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The '90s/Unintentional Period Piece: 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
      Zeus: Chester A. Arthur Elementary School?
  • 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!
  • Pet the Dog: Simon orders a mook to let Zeus walk away twice.
  • Plot Armor: Now the armor extends to Zeus.
  • 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."
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "Say hello to your brother".
  • Reality Ensues:
    • 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. Getting him caught after he fails to shoot Simon.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Salt and Pepper: McClane is forced to partner up with Zeus, a black man with a none-too-fond opinion of white people.
  • 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. Though it's played straight with the hoods who were about to knife McClane before Zeus intervened.
  • Set Piece Puzzle: The "four gallons from a 3- and 5- gallon jug" variety.
  • Short-Lived Aerial Escape
  • Shout-Out: When McClane's running from a Giant Wall of Watery Doom in an aqueduct, the soundtrack drifts into a brief snippet of "Singin' in the Rain".
    • In an apparent reference to Goldfinger, Simon quips that Fort Knox "is for tourists."
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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) 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). (It may be a hint, that Simon's unit was supposed to infiltrate British Army of the Rhine) 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 4-5 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...
  • 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 Aquaduct, 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?
  • 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.