Die Hard

"Essential"

Die Hard Review


If I were teaching a film class at a college (a shuddering prospect, I know), Die Hard would be studied the way Citizen Kane and Potemkin are. It's a perfect action movie in every detail, the kind of movie that makes your summer memorable.

Unfortunately, star Bruce Willis, director John McTiernan and company couldn't duplicate the heart-pulling thrill of the first one with two increasingly mediocre sequels. Die Hard 2 and Die Hard: With a Vengeance suffered because of stuffing thrills and spills in every crevice, to the point where I expected the Road Runner to make a cameo. Everyone involved seemed to forget that simplicity made the original so riveting. There's one flawed New York City detective trapped in a skyscraper with only his wits and some firearms to stop a band of talented international terrorists.

That cop is John McClane (Willis), who visits Los Angeles at Christmas time to see his kids and hopefully make amends with his estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia). When McClane drops in to visit Holly at work, they get into an argument.

As Holly and McClane make like the Bickersons, the aforementioned group of kick-ass terrorists led by the ruthless Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman in a career-making performance) take over the skyscraper. Gruber's request: The building's namesake, Takagi (James Shigata), must hand over millions of dollars in bonds he has stashed away.

Everyone is accounted for and locked in, except for McClane, who is the only hope to save his wife and her co-workers. The phone lines are dead, terrorists abound like gossipy secretaries, and McClane is barefoot and alone.

Screenwriters Jeb Stuart (The Fugitive) and Steven E. De Souza (Commando, one of my favorite Schwarzenegger movies) do a masterful job in detailing the McClane character, so he doesn't come across as some robotic one-man wrecking crew. He crawls through the building's air conditioning system. He grabs whatever weapons he can (including a bag of explosives) and he bleeds. We can root for him. Minus the killer abs and the extensive police experience, this guy could be any one of us.

Stuart and DeSouza make McClane additionally human by supplying him with some of the funniest dialogue in action movie history (Emergency radio operator: "Attention, whoever you are, this line is reserved for emergencies only." McClane: "No fucking shit, lady? Do I sound like I'm ordering a pizza!"). And Willis helps his own cause by giving a performance that blends comedy, heroism and pathos without preening or overacting.

And the supporting characters are amazing: Reginald VelJohnson (before doing a lengthy stint in TV purgatory with Family Matters) shines as the L.A. cop who counsels McClane via radio as he plots his next move. Rickman is so good here -- he has the perfect combination of charisma and malice -- that the other main villains in the two sequels (William Sadler and Jeremy Irons, both good actors) were about as vicious and threatening as my grandmother.

In all this talk about performance and cinematic theories, you might think I'm reviewing a Woody Allen film. But part of Die Hard's appeal is in its awesome action scenes: McClane running barefoot through shattered class, an overly eager terrorist trapping our hero under a conference room table, McClane jumping from the fiery skyscraper roof, tethered by a fire hose.

I have a feeling I'll be watching Die Hard sometime again in the near future, as this summer's crop of action movies don't appear at all engaging. They don't seem to offer something for everyone the way Die Hard does, which gives me all the more reason to start organizing that film class.



Die Hard

Facts and Figures

Run time: 131 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 20th July 1988

Box Office Worldwide: $138.7M

Budget: $28M

Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

Production compaines: 20th Century Fox, Gordon Company, Lawrence Gordon Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Fresh: 59 Rotten: 5

IMDB: 8.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as John McClane, as Hans Gruber, as Sgt. Al Powell, as Holly Gennero McClane, as Karl, as Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson, as Richard Thornburg, De'voreaux White as Argyle, as Harry Ellis, Dennis Hayden as Eddie, as Joseph Yoshinobu Takagi, as FBI Special Agent Johnson, Bob Jennings as Cameraman, Grand L. Bush as FBI Agent Little Johnson, Mary Ellen Trainor as Gail Wallens, as Tony, as Uli, Clarence Gilyard as Theo, Lorenzo Caccialanza as Marco, Hans Buhringer as Fritz, Anthony Peck as Young Cop

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Alice Through the Looking Glass Movie Review

Alice Through the Looking Glass Movie Review

This much more light-hearted sequel reinvigorates the franchise after Disney's quirky but murky 2010 reboot...

Love & Friendship Movie Review

Love & Friendship Movie Review

Acclaimed filmmaker Whit Stillman reunites the stars of his 1998 drama The Last Days of...

Money Monster Movie Review

Money Monster Movie Review

A sleekly made thriller with a sparky sense of humour, this is also a rare...

X-Men: Apocalypse Movie Review

X-Men: Apocalypse Movie Review

This closing chapter of the First Class trilogy falls into the same trap as The...

Sing Street Movie Review

Sing Street Movie Review

A buoyant celebration of the power of music, this is the third blissfully entertaining musical...

Departure Movie Review

Departure Movie Review

Complex, dark and very moving, this British drama never makes things easy for the audience,...

Everybody Wants Some!! Movie Review

Everybody Wants Some!! Movie Review

Richard Linklater loosely follows on from two of his most acclaimed films with this lively...

Advertisement
Our Kind of Traitor Movie Review

Our Kind of Traitor Movie Review

John le Carre's novel is adapted with plenty of inventive style into a remarkably personal...

The Angry Birds Movie Movie Review

The Angry Birds Movie Movie Review

There's nothing particularly memorable about this frantic animated romp, which adapts the iconic phone-app game...

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising [Bad Neighbours 2] Movie Review

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising [Bad Neighbours 2] Movie Review

While it's amusing and sometimes very funny, there's an air of desperation about this sequel...

Florence Foster Jenkins Movie Review

Florence Foster Jenkins Movie Review

Although this comedy-drama seems to have been written specifically to give Meryl Streep a chance...

I Saw the Light Movie Review

I Saw the Light Movie Review

Writer-director Marc Abraham gets ambitious with this biopic about iconic country music star Hank Williams,...

Captain America: Civil War Movie Review

Captain America: Civil War Movie Review

After the formulaic thrills of The Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron, Marvel's Avengers were...

Son of Saul Movie Review

Son of Saul Movie Review

From Hungary, this year's Oscar-winning foreign film is a remarkably fresh take on the Holocaust...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.