John McClane, officer of the NYPD, tries to save his wife Holly Gennaro and several others that were taken hostage by German terrorist Hans Gruber during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles.
Director: John McTiernan
Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Alexander Godunov, Reginald Veljohnson, Paul Gleason
Rated: R (Brief nudity, graphic language and graphic violence)
By Matt Greene
It’s no secret that Die Hard is as thrilling, fun, and cool as a movie can get; and those superlatives all describe Willis’s John McClane. He has what all heroes should have: relatability, brains, and wry sense of humor to-boot. The now iconic glass-plagued-feet are a perfect visual for what makes Die Hard stand out. Instead of just another god-like protagonist, we get a reminder of his intact humanity, whose stakes never let us believe he’s invincible.
On the other side is Hans Gruber. Rickman’s villain set the tone for action villains for the 20th and 21st centuries. He has what all villains should have: clear motive and ineffable charisma. Like McClane, he’s not just a towering beefcake; his strength is his charm, his lies speaking directly to modern fears of terrorism. This was the anti-Schwarzenegger/anti-Stallone punch-n-gun-fest; it was an unassuming thriller, known as much for its smirk and wit as its brawn.
Not that these two characters are the only great aspects in the film. The script is tight, the editing is sharp, the action is tense and the humor never misses a beat. But the head-to-head, McClane-Gruber enigmatic death match is what has implanted this forever in the zeitgeist. It may be sacrilege to watch this apart from the Christmas season, but regardless of what is decking the halls, it would be more of a shame to miss seeing this in theaters. Let’s send a message, that we want well-constructed and thoughtful action flicks, not lazy money-grabs (I’m looking at you, Batman and Superman).
4.5 out of 5 Stars
By Cole Schneider
Almost 30 years after its premier, the modern action movie prototype, “Die Hard” is back. “Die Hard” occupies a strange, pleasant place in my nostalgia and was among the first R rated films I saw due probably to my dad’s incessant fandom of action movies and its equally incessant T.V. replays. And yes, in many ways 1988’s “Die Hard” represents the same slick style and ridiculous excess that its 80s predecessors did: several played-up characters cross the border into incredulity, decision makers from 911 responders to FBI agents are unbelievable buffoons, and there can’t be a cliché missing.
There is one key difference, however: Bruce Willis. Stepping into a frame meant for Schwarzenegger’s pecs or Stallone’s biceps, Willis revolutionized both the action hero and on-screen “manliness”. A skinny punk-kid from New York with Arnold and Sylvester’s morals but with more drive, purpose, and wit and less direct “good guy” moralism, Willis arrived as something akin to Sam Spade if forced to play Conan. His John McClane is a cocky action hero who is none-the-less troubled, lacking confidence about the future of his marriage.
Indeed, while “Die Hard” is an action film in medium, it’s a more traditional hero-romance in story, set against the backdrop of Christmas Eve’s redemption and punctuated by an opening and closing that highlights a proud, nervous man tempted by L.A.’s Sirens and a humble, satisfied husband arm-in-arm with his wife, respectively.
Oh, but it also kicks tail as an action flick. It’s technically superb and very funny, and Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber remains as much an archetype of action villainy as McClane does as a hero. “Die Hard” is super dumb, super fun, and surprisingly revolutionary.
3 out of 5 Stars