Bruce Willis - John McClane
Alan Rickman - Hans Gruber
Bonnie Bedelia - Holly Gennero-McClane
Reginald VelJohnson - Al Powell
Paul Gleason - Dwayne T. Robinson
Year - 1988
Score - 4 Howls Outta 4
Back in the early-to-mid 1980s, the action genre of films were led by men whose juiced up muscles and bigger guns were the epitome of what's tough and masculine. Two in particular, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, were poster boys for manhood, their huge machineguns compensating for the lack of acting skills they possessed. But that image of an action star changed when a little movie called DIE HARD came into the picture in the summer of 1988, surprising an industry that believed only strong, muscular men with bad accents could make huge money for an action film in the box office. One man led the charge to bring in a new wave of action film that would be over-to-top, yet human and down-to-earth at the same time. And that one man was named Bruce Willis.
New York police officer John McClane (Bruce Willis) visits his estranged wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) and children in Los Angeles for Christmas. He arrives to his wife's Christmas office party, only to be in the middle of a sudden terrorist plot led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). Hans and his terrorist buddies hijack the building in order to steal $640 million in bonds locked in a safe. Realizing his wife and her co-workers are in serious danger, John escapes and uses his resiliance and common sense [unlike the LAPD and FBI, who are a bunch of ignorant dumbasses] to launch a one-man war against these terrorists.
Unlike the previous film I reviewed, NEXT, DIE HARD is the epitome of what an action film is supposed to be like. From beginning to end, this film has you by the balls [or by the va-jay-jay if you're a woman]. Suspenseful, smart, and with great stuntwork and acting, director John McTiernan gives the action audience what they want...what they really really want...for two straight hours without taking a breath. The action sequences are well-filmed, making the audience feel as if they are a part of it. Character development is well-done, giving us a glimpse of each of the characters and making us sympathize with some and want to kick the crap out of others. We know clearly who are the heroes and who are the villains, creating great drama and suspense for us action freaks. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, "Ode To Joy", brings a touch of class to the film whenever it's used. Subtle touches like these give the film its own identity. John McTiernan does a fantastic job giving us action, but also drama and comedy in between. Not many directors can pull that off in an action film, but McTiernan does it with ease and should be commended for it.
The acting is exceptional here. I don't think I could start in this category without beginning with the Man himself, Bruce Willis. While MOONLIGHTING made Willis a star, DIE HARD made him a pop culture icon. He drives this movie, making every scene his showcase to show the audience how cool and how great he is. He's got charisma up the wazoo, and he's a great actor too [he got better with age, that's for sure]. What I love about Willis as John McClane is that he's very human and not some semblence of what a macho dude is supposed to be like. McClane is a badass who can use multiple weapons in an expert fashion, sure, but he doesn't want to be that guy. He doesn't want to be part of this whole terrorist agenda. He's scared he might fail. He's vulnerable against a group of gun-toting terrorists. He cracks jokes whenever he's feeling insecure and unsure of himself and the situation. He's like one of us if we were in his shoes [or barefeet, in this case]. Willis isn't an overly muscular and towering figure like Stallone or Schwarzenegger, and that's what makes McClane is a very believable character that we can relate to. There's nothing else I can really say about Bruce Willis other than that he's fuckin' awesome.
Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber was also a delight on screen. This film made him a star, due to his charming and cunning role as the film's villain. He looked like a normal guy with a cool accent, but you could see something evil working in that brain of his. He could have been over-the-top, but Rickman always keeps his cool and underplays the role. Plus his scene where he almost tricks Willis' McClane when he uses an American accent is brillaint and one of the smartest scenes ever by a film villain. Every other action film after DIE HARD [even the sequels themselves] have copied Rickman's villain to lesser success. Rickman is still the best villain in the series so far because he's one friggin' cool-headed monster.
Bonnie Bedelia as Holly did well with what she was given. She's the damsel-in-distress character of the film, but done in a tough and realistic manner that doesn't make her annoying to watch. She seems like a bitch in the beginning [her using her maiden name instead of her married one, especially in the 80s, would have made her hated], but we warm up to her as she knows that John is in the building doing everything to protect her and her colleagues. She even offers herself to Hans to help her fellow hostages feel more comfortable, showing how willing she is to take one for the team. And at the end, she maintains that tough personality while realizing that cop-work can be stressful on a marriage, but at the same time, helpful to one as well. She doesn't get to spew out many lines, but her facial expressions and body language speak on their own, making her performance top-notch.
And while everyone else in the cast did a wonderful job [especially Paul Gleason with his token assholish authority figure and William Atherton as a slimy journalist who I wanted to kick in the balls - he was that good as a bastard], Reggie VelJohnson as McClane's buddy cop contact on the outside was probably the best of the rest. He was the only intelligent police officer outside of the building, wanting to get the facts first before trying any offensive measure. He also had good rapport with Willis [through a walkie talkie], even though they only meet face-to-face until the end. It's shame this great actor had to play second-fiddle to Jaleel White's Steve Urkel on FAMILY MATTERS after this film, but at least VelJohnson had one great moment on film to shine.
The action is top notch as well. No CGI work done here. Real stunt men with real explosives used here. Balls to the wall, man! What more can you ask for?
THINGS I'VE LEARNED FROM WATCHING THIS FILM
1) The government will never pass an Immigration Bill. If they do, who would be able to hire a cheap Hispanic woman to babysit their white children?
2) The 1980s were a lot of fun. Doing cocaine without getting arrested, drinking while pregnant, guns being fashionable at parties, getting kissed on the cheek by strange men, the big hair and shoulder pads, Gary Coleman still considered a star, and Michael Jackson still black - those were some great times to be a fucked up American.
3) The Japanese seem to be the cause of many problems. Pearl Harbor, destroying the sales of American cars, and causing many people to be terrorized by their corporate enemies. And now they bring video game addiction to the world? When will it end, Tokyo? When it will it end?
4) Instead of just shooting shit up to resolve things, John McClane beats the bad guys because he's stealthy, cunning, fearless, and pays attention to his surroundings. In other words, the opposite of a real cop. Only in the movies...
5) Black people should never be taken seriously and only be considered as comic relief. That's why BLADE:TRINITY was a failure while NORBIT was a huge success. So if you want to be a successful black entertainer, be a joke for all of us to laugh at. Hmmm...I wonder if that set back the Civil Rights Movement a few decades?
6) There's a reason why you never see tall, blonde Nordic looking basketball players in the NBA: they can't shoot and hit their target for shit.
7) If the principal of THE BREAKFAST CLUB is in charge of stopping terrorist activity on the scene, you're luck may have just run out. If he couldn't control the Brat Pack, what makes anyone think he'll be able to handle this!?
8) I'm glad I don't live in Los Angeles. The LAPD are the most incompetent cops ever. Just ask Rodney King. He'll tell you!
9) Businessmen are scum. They use politically incorrect language, sell their friends down the river for their own benefit, grow great facial hair, and like to smile alot. I think I just found my calling.
(After gunshot kills the businessman)
10) Carl Winslow shot a kid, causing him to be traumatic about shooting people. That explains why Urkel survived the entire run of FAMILY MATTERS. Too bad...I really hated that nerdy bastard.
**BONUS [just 'cause I'm nice]**
If you have marital problems with your wife, place her into a dangerous situation and save her from it. You'll be shooting a different kind of gun later that night [wink wink].
THE FINAL HOWL
DIE HARD is one of the greatest action films of all time. It has explosions, blood, gunfire, great villains with accents, dumb ass cops, funny black dudes, a love story, and one badass Bruce Willis stealing every scene he's in - what else do you want from an action movie!? If you're one of the few who hasn't seen DIE HARD, do so! You won't regret it. Yippee-Ki-Yay Motherfucker!