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

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

The Big Sick Movie Review

The Big Sick Movie Review

It may be rather long for a romantic comedy, but this film has such a...

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

There's no reason why this animated comedy adventure needed to be this pointless. Solidly entertaining...

Advertisement
England Is Mine Movie Review

England Is Mine Movie Review

While this is billed as a film about The Smiths' singer-songwriter Morrissey, it's actually an...

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

It's been 20 years since French filmmaker Luc Besson shook up the sci-fi genre with...

Dunkirk Movie Review

Dunkirk Movie Review

Britain's epic 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk has been dramatised on film before, but no one...

Killing Ground Movie Review

Killing Ground Movie Review

From Australia, this dark and edgy thriller is skilfully made by writer-director Damien Power to...

City of Ghosts Movie Review

City of Ghosts Movie Review

This award-winning documentary plays like a thriller as it traces the work of a group...

Cars 3 Movie Review

Cars 3 Movie Review

It's been six years since the last Cars movie (there were two Planes movies in...

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled Movie Review

In her inimitable loose style, Sofia Coppola remakes the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie from a...

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.