Die Hard (1988)
Directed by John McTiernan
Yippee-kai-yay, everybody. Snap on your seatbelts and prepare for an epic marathon of “Die Hard” reviews. Thanks to the new 25th Anniversary Blu-ray Collection, it’s all in one place! Well, besides the newest, but I went and caught that one too. That’s right, all five, in a row. Starting now, with 1988’s electrifying thriller that started it all.
What a rush. 30 floors up in a Los Angeles skyscraper, NYPD cop John McClane (Bruce Willis, but I shouldn’t have had to tell you) has to kill his way past half a dozen Euro terrorists looking to rob the place of hundreds of millions in order to save his wife and a couple dozen other hostages. Whew. When the LAPD tries to step in, they only make matters worse for the inside man. Will this 20th century cowboy walk away with his Grace Kelly, or will Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) pull off his elaborate scheme?
McClane epitomizes badass. A blackened tank top, messy hair (this was back when Willis, then 33, actually had hair), bloody bare feet, and a lit cigarette hanging out of his mouth. He wields only a police-issued pistol and a sarcastic charm. He kicks ass and literally takes names. McClane is #46 on AMC’s list of all-time favorite film characters, right after Forrest Gump and Mary Poppins. Impressive company to keep. Big shoes to fill…if he wore shoes. And that’s assuming McClane ever stops. Willis shows real emotional range, but we don’t even care about that. Why should we? This isn’t a “Grab the Kleenex hun, we’re gonna need them” movie. Willis only needs one emotion – awesome. And he has it. We know classic fight scenes are ahead when McClane enters LA’s Nakatomi Plaza, but we might not expect such epic shootouts. But these don’t all end with people getting shot. No, “Die Hard” is too cool to stop at that. What you get is much, much more entertaining.
Having McClane talk to himself was a real stroke of genius. That and his dead-pan remarks to Hans and his cronies via walkie-talkie make him such an unforgettable persona. This movie doesn’t need comedy, but it gets it. And not in the flaky way that Joss Whedon adds some fun quips to “The Avengers.” No, screenwriters Jeb Stuart and Steven de Souza give this story just a dash of real humor to liven it up a little. It’s clever, it’s fresh, and it’s well thought-out. Plus, when Willis cracks a sarcastic joke, it’s all the more enjoyable. You can find mistakes, sure, but even the littlest details are there for a reason. Everything is revisited. These guys knew their stuff.
“Die Hard” takes the terrorist thriller archetype, perfects it, and then blows it up in your face. It’s a classic for a reason.