In “A Day in Hell”, Zeus emerges as John McClane’s true alter ego. A character and a feature film that changed everything for Samuel L. Jackson.
A day in hell: John McClane victim of revenge
In 1995, five years after 58 minutes to live, John McClane resumes service. In the first sequences of A day in hell, the cop in the dirty tank top played by Bruce Willis is rinsed, suspended from his duties, depressed after his breakup with his wife Holly, and victim of a severe migraine. But when a mysterious terrorist calling himself Simon (Jeremy Irons) claims responsibility for a bomb blast in a store and asks to speak to him in person so it doesn’t happen again, the hero has no other choice but to make an effort.
Victim of revenge, the policeman launches into a frantic race around New York to prevent further attacks. During this day during which he would have preferred to stay in bed, John McClane solves puzzles with a teammate imposed by Simon. Following a turbulent encounter in the streets of Harlem, Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson), electrician and antique dealer, finds himself embroiled in spite of himself in the hectic and bloody misadventures of his improvised partner.
A day in hell marks the return of John McTiernan at the helm of the franchise after the second opus directed by Renny Harlin. MCT, who had revolutionized the action film with crystal trap, signs a monument of American cinema of the 90s with this third part, investing an extended playing field, opposite Nakatomi Plaza. After vertical clashes, the director makes wonderful use of New York to energize the genre he turned upside down seven years earlier.
A major milestone in the career of Samuel L. Jackson
If he has already had allies like Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson), John McClane has never worked as much as a team as in A day in hell. Zeus stands out as a true alter ego of the hero throughout the feature film, which uses the codes of a buddy movie. If he just turned to pulp fiction and was nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Jules Winnfield when John McTiernan’s film was released, Samuel L. Jackson considers that the latter had a greater impact on his career.
In an interview given to Vogue Arabia in 2018, the actor explained:
Bruce Willis and I were filming A day in hell when pulp Fiction came out and we went to Cannes together for the premiere of the film. We were both like, ‘Wow, that’s awesome!’ And Bruce was like, ‘Yeah that’s good, the movie will make you recognizable, but diehard will make you a star. diehard will change your life. And that’s true. A day in hell was the highest-grossing film worldwide that year. It changed everything.
An actor close to his character
However, the feature film is not one of those that Samuel L. Jackson prefers in his career. Questioned by Stephen Colbert in 2021, the star assures that Goodbye forever, The Right to Kill?, Jackie Brown, The Red Violin, and 187: murder code are her favorite films in which she appears. However, as he confides to vogue the actor did not never feel so close to a character as that of Zeus :
It was the only time I felt like I was playing myself, because my job was to be the spectator inside a diehard reacting to what John McClane does, as a spectator would.