STARRINGBruce 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.
REVIEWUnlike 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. What I love about Willis as John McClane is that he's very human and not some semblance 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 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 brilliant 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 cold and bitter 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 jerk 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?
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 characters, 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 Motherfu**ker!