Die Hard (1988) Director: John McTiernan
“Come Out To The Coast, We’ll Get Together, Have A Few Laughs…”
Die Hard is a guilty pleasure movie, another amusing thriller from John McTiernan. It celebrates the great American working class hero, a lone everyman struggling against a sea of incompetence and bureaucracy -and the movie takes place on Christmas no less! It was widely expected to fail, and the decision to hire Bruce Willis, previously a television actor, for $5M against favored actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone drew unfavorable press, but Die Hard has since become a Christmas “classic.” The story is based on a 1967 novel by Roderick Thorp called Nothing Lasts Forever.
Die Hard stars Bruce Willis, in his career-launching role as John McClane, a street-wise New York City cop who is flying out to Los Angeles for the holidays to salvage his collapsing marriage. His wife who has started using her maiden name of Holly Gennero (Bonnie Bedelia) has taken a corporate job at the Nakatomi Corporation, a Japanese multi-national company. Per a recommendation from his seat-mate on the plane, in order to calm down after a bumpy flight, he advises removing your shoes and curling your toes on the carpet. This little recommendation proves instrumental to the movie as McClane spends the bulk of the film shoeless, tip-toeing from one brutal shoot-out to another. McClane travels from the airport to the Nakatomi Plaza (the real location is Fox Plaza in Los Angeles) by a goofy limo driver named Argyle who offers to remain nearby after dropping off McClane in case plans go sour with his wife. Shortly thereafter a clever cohort of German terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) assaults the towering office building taking everyone hostage except for John McClane.
He spends the rest of the movie devising one clever scheme after another to kill off the unsuspecting terrorists and lure the attention of the police. However, when the Los Angeles Police Chief and the FBI prove to be purely incompetent and ineffectual, McClane and his one lone partner on the outside must take things into their own hands — LAPD Sergeant Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson of Family Matters fame). McClane manages to orchestrate a one-man take-over of the building, saving all the hostages no thanks to the FBI and the vainglorious reporters outside. It’s a fun ride from John McTiernan.
To date, Die Hard has spawned numerous sequels beginning with Die Hard 2 in 1990, which portrays an airport hijacked by international terrorists. It is a mostly farcical sequel. This was followed in 1995 with John McTiernan returning to direct Die Hard with a Vengeance in which Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson team up to take on Hans Gruber’s brother in New York City (played by Jeremy Irons). This is as far as I got in the Die Hard series, but these movies were followed with two more sequels: Live Free or Die Hard in 2007, and A Good Day to Die Hard in 2013.
Ranking the Die Hard Series
#1 Die Hard (1988)
#2 Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995)
#3 Die Hard: Die Harder (1990)
#4 Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
#5 A Good Day To Die Hard (2013)
Bruce Willis as John McClain was a true hero in the sense of being just one person who could make a big difference even in overwhelming circumstances. It went somewhat overboard with all of the sequels. Mostly I now like Die Hard for being Alan Rickman’s breakthrough role as the notoriously evil Hans Gruber.
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