Die Hard


Oh, man! Is this a classic or what! I know, I know, purists might not agree, but just think about it. As far as my generation is concerned at least, this is one of the most beloved movies there is. This is truly one of the coolest action flicks ever, and it’s also surprisingly smart and well crafted. “Citizen Kane” it might not be, but “Die Hard” also had a lot of influence on contemporary Hollywood. It’s unbelievable how much current blockbusters owe it. The clever thing about “Die Hard” is how it sets-up everything in the first 20 minutes, putting all the characters in or around the same place, then has them play cat-and-mouse for the rest of the film, which becomes really action-packed.

Bruce Willis stars as John McClane, a New York cop who comes to L.A. to spend Christmas with his wife and kids. They’re still married, but they barely see each other. Holly came to LA for her career, but John didn’t want to leave the NYPD. But now they’re gonna be reunited again and who knows, they could work things out. The couple meets at an office party in a huge business building, but before they can start arguing, a gang of European terrorists take over the place.

Hans Gruber (played with gusto by Alan Rickman) leads a group of ulta-prepared, equipped and professional criminals, determined to make a big score. They’ve got everything planned, except for McClane, who’ll do anything he can to save the day. And so we’re in for one hell of a thrill ride, as John gets into a series of outstanding fights and shoot-outs.

The plot is simple, but it’s efficient. It achieves to put all of the action in a restrained setting and make the most out of it. I love how the film has McClane running all around the skyscraper, from the elevator cages to the roof to the ventilation system. The screenplay is from Steven E. de Souza, the godfather of action writing (he also penned the equally influential action classics “48 Hours” and Commando). His script is inventive and well structured, as well as involving and often very funny.

I love McClane’s witty one-liners, as well as the playful little touches. You could almost say that the movie is a satire of hostage situations. Souza takes a cynical bite out of the sensationalistic media and of the uninspired, bureaucratic police system. And you gotta love the characters: the cold-blooded but somehow goofy terrorists, the limo driver who doesn’t have a clue, the big-bellied black cop who converses with McClane on the radio through the events, FBI agents Johnson and Johnson (no relation)…

But of course, the film’s hottest trick is McClane. Bruce Willis almost burns the screen with his overwhelming charisma, his wicked sense of humor and his big-balled bravado. John McClane is one of the coolest heroes of recent memory. And don’t you just love that he spends the whole film barefoot?

The film also benefits from high skilled direction from John McTiernan, who directed another of my all-time favorites, Predator. He crafts the film with a lot of energy, but he avoids falling into frenetic MTV delirium à la Michael Bay. The film always looks gorgeous, and it never stops being exhilarating. I also dig the Michael Kamen score, which blends usual macho orchestration with Christmas melodies and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. I’ve seen the movie at least a dozen times, and it still find it immensely entertaining. You won’t grow tired of “Die Hard”.

Some extra random thoughts (added: 6/19/07)

– Carrying a gun on a plane? Those were the days, heh.

“This IS Christmas music!”

– McClane’s a real old-fashioned cowboy, who doesn’t like married women using their maiden name, fancy champagne and certainly not being kissed by another dude.

– At least he’s not Ellis – what an asshole!

– It seems ever more amazing how this is a straight character piece for the first 20 minutes; nowadays, action flicks usually start blowing shit up before the opening credits are over!

– Then when the terrorists show up, the suspense starts building like crazy right away and it never stops.

– Great lead villain entrance – Hans Gruber, man, Hans fucking Gruber!

“I always enjoyed models as a boy. The exactness, the attention to every foreseeable detail… perfection.”

– Gotta love all those tracking shots – none of that cut-cut-cut, shaky-cam ADD crap here.

“No fucking shit, lady! Does it sound like I’m ordering a pizza?”

– I mentioned this in my original review, but the sense of geography in this movie remains unequaled to this day.

– Ok, seriously, this is pure, brilliant cinema – “Citizen Kane”, nah, but if Hitchcock’d still been kicking in 1988, this is what kind of film he’d been making.

– Funny how they name-check both of Willis’ action hero contemporaries, Schwarzenegger and Stallone/Rambo, in addition to John Wayne and Roy Rogers.

“The following people are to be released from their captors. In Northern Ireland, seven members of the New Provo Front. In Canada, the five imprisoned leaders of Liberté de Québec.” WTF? I think you mean the Front de Libération du Québec, Hans.

– Oh, how they manage to put McClane and Gruber face to face under false pretenses… Hitchcock, I tell ya.

“You asked for a miracle, I give you the F… B… I.”

– Okay, now shit’s blowing up – there’s no beating that rooftop sequence!

– “Haaaaaaaaaaaaans!”

– Perfect ending.

“If this is their idea of Christmas, I gotta be here for New Year’s!”