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Review: Die Hard (1988)

Feb. 11, 2013by: JimmyO
NOTE: With A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD opening on Thursday, we thought this would be a great time to revisit the older films from the franchise, so expect a review/day until my review of the latest one is posted on Friday.

PLOT: When NYPD Detective John McClane shows up at his wifes work, he isnt the only visitor. Soon after he arrives, a group of terrorists show up taking everyone at the building hostage. Unlucky for them, McClane is ready to take on each and every one of them in order to save his wife and her co-workers from villain Hans Grubers deadly plans.

REVIEW: In 1988 audiences were most familiar with Bruce Willis as the wisecracking Detective David Addison on the hit series Moonlighting. He and his co-star Cybill Shepherd scorched the small screen each week with their undeniable chemistry. It was no surprise that Willis would be offered a chance at the silver screen. At the time nobody expected the ex-bartender to become an action hero, so the idea of DIE HARD seemed to be a risky venture. However, director John McTiernan knew exactly what he was doing with this actor known mostly for his comedic skills. After all, Officer John McClane is an every man, a New York City cop with a whole lot of attitude and a penchant for a wisecrack or two.

I doubt that I need to expand on the plot of DIE HARD as nearly every single person is very aware of the poor schlep fighting off bad guys in the Nakatomi Plaza - the real life Fox Plaza in Century City, California plays a huge role in the film - to save his wife and her co-workers from certain doom. What I will say is that for me personally, the film had a major impact on this young moviegoer. As I was already a fan of Willis, this is really the film that turned him into a modern day cinematic hero of mine. There was a real sense of an average guy that made McClane such a likeable presence. This was especially true with the strained relationship he had with his wife Holly (a terrific Bonnie Bedelia) which made him far more accessible than most of the 80s action heroes.

With a perfect leading man it helps to have the right villain and what a villain it has in Hans Gruber. Played by the superb Alan Rickman, Gruber is the epitome of movie baddie. He is cold and calculating with a layer of dark humor without going over the top. In one scene where McClane and Gruber meet, you really get a sense of these two iconic characters in how they relate to each other. The cat-and-mouse between the two is especially well-played by both actors. Even many of Grubers minions stand out including the menacing Alexander Godunov who gives Willis a run for his money.

This is a perfectly cast adventure all-around that features stand out performances from Hart Bochner as Hollys seedy co-worker, Reginald VelJohnson as a uniformed Los Angeles police officer who unwittingly gets involved and William Atherton as a dangerously ambitious television reporter. Much of the charm in the terrific script by Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza is brought to life by how well these actors work together. Had Willis not been able to take on such a heavy burden it could have been a disaster, thankfully he is ready, willing and able. Yippee ki-yay mutherf*cker indeed!

Of course it is director McTiernan that kept audiences at the edge of their seat. Every single sequence here is memorable including the simple touches that he injected such as Willis discovery of curling your toes on carpet after a long flight or the nudie picture that makes a couple of appearances giving a little inspiration. It is a riveting and sometimes claustrophobic experience that holds up just as well as nearly every single action film twenty-five years after DIE HARDs 1988 release. I still wince as McClane is forced to run across a floor covered in broken glass with his bare feet. This fantastic film builds and builds to a very satisfying climax without taking itself too seriously, and never sacrificing the thrills and tension.

DIE HARD is a classic film. Simply put, every single thing works. With a charismatic leading man, an above-average supporting cast, and a great director at the helm as well as Jan de Bonts excellent cinematography - this is what a summer blockbuster should look like. Its no wonder so many other films copied this in terms of changing the way we look at a modern day action hero. I for one am glad Officer John McClane decided to head to the West Coast and joined the party!

Extra Tidbit: What is your favorite DIE HARD moment?
Source: JoBlo.com

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12:44AM on 02/11/2013
tidbit: Always Hans Gruber's fall. It looked so real it freaked me out as a kid. That and McClain's moment of doubt, make the movie stand out for me. Our hero is bloodied, broken and in tears confessing to Powell at the thought he'll never see his wife and kids again. It seems that through the rest of the series as he's gotten older he's become more numb to these things.
tidbit: Always Hans Gruber's fall. It looked so real it freaked me out as a kid. That and McClain's moment of doubt, make the movie stand out for me. Our hero is bloodied, broken and in tears confessing to Powell at the thought he'll never see his wife and kids again. It seems that through the rest of the series as he's gotten older he's become more numb to these things.
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1:20AM on 02/11/2013
Re extra tidbit: Probably "Ho ho ho, now I have a machine gun".
Re extra tidbit: Probably "Ho ho ho, now I have a machine gun".
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2:21AM on 02/11/2013
Re Extra Tidbit - 2 moments absolutely crack me up every time -

McClane: Come down to the coast, we'll get together, have a few laughs. [link]

Supervisor: Attention, whoever you are, this channel is reserved for emergency calls only.
McClane: No fucking shit, lady. Does it sound like I'm ordering a pizza? [link]

Favourite action film of all time! ">
Re Extra Tidbit - 2 moments absolutely crack me up every time -

McClane: Come down to the coast, we'll get together, have a few laughs. [link]

Supervisor: Attention, whoever you are, this channel is reserved for emergency calls only.
McClane: No fucking shit, lady. Does it sound like I'm ordering a pizza? [link]

Favourite action film of all time!
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2:51AM on 02/11/2013

"Welcome to the party pal!"

Die Hard is a key movie in cinematic history one man against the odds..copied by many movies but never bettered a true classic

An all time favourite
Die Hard is a key movie in cinematic history one man against the odds..copied by many movies but never bettered a true classic

An all time favourite
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3:21AM on 02/11/2013

All things bein' equal, I'd rather be in Philadelphia

Nice review, Jimmy. You hit all the key points that make Die Hard the best action movie ever made. Still and always my all-time favorite movie.
ET: McClane jumping from the tower just before it explodes is the most iconic action movie moment ever for me, closely followed by Arnold's howl in Predator (another McTiernan great), when he beckons the alien to fight after lighting the torch. We need more moments like those in our action films. A lot more.
Nice review, Jimmy. You hit all the key points that make Die Hard the best action movie ever made. Still and always my all-time favorite movie.
ET: McClane jumping from the tower just before it explodes is the most iconic action movie moment ever for me, closely followed by Arnold's howl in Predator (another McTiernan great), when he beckons the alien to fight after lighting the torch. We need more moments like those in our action films. A lot more.
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7:29AM on 02/11/2013
10 out of 10 for me as well. Extra tidbit: Two moments for me - 1. When McClane threw the computer that was attached with tons of explosive devices down the elevator shaft and then Kaboom! 2. After McClane met Hans Gruber on the roof thinking that he was the hostage that got away. They talked, smoked and then Gruber tried to pull a gun on him. And then there's no bullet and then chaotic fight ensues. This really shows McClane is one sly Policeman that's not only street smart but can outsmart
10 out of 10 for me as well. Extra tidbit: Two moments for me - 1. When McClane threw the computer that was attached with tons of explosive devices down the elevator shaft and then Kaboom! 2. After McClane met Hans Gruber on the roof thinking that he was the hostage that got away. They talked, smoked and then Gruber tried to pull a gun on him. And then there's no bullet and then chaotic fight ensues. This really shows McClane is one sly Policeman that's not only street smart but can outsmart uber-intelligent villain like Gruber as well!
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8:11AM on 02/11/2013
I literally just watched this movie last night, and it still holds up! top notch action classic
I literally just watched this movie last night, and it still holds up! top notch action classic
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11:47AM on 02/11/2013
No matter how many times I watch it, I always get scared whenever John is on the rug and it's going off the side of the building.
No matter how many times I watch it, I always get scared whenever John is on the rug and it's going off the side of the building.
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12:28PM on 02/11/2013
I clearly remember the rooftop explosion scene in the theater, and that was one of the few times ever watching a movie when I said "whoa" out loud.
I clearly remember the rooftop explosion scene in the theater, and that was one of the few times ever watching a movie when I said "whoa" out loud.
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+8
1:10PM on 02/11/2013

10+

Pound for pound, the best action movie of all time. Period.
Pound for pound, the best action movie of all time. Period.
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+2
3:26PM on 02/11/2013
Just rewatched this recently and it is still very much as enjoyable as it has always been. It's hard these days to think of it in the context it once was, with it being a more practical action film with a more vulnerable hero (how many of those action films do we have now), but it really does, still, capture the perfect balance between an action hero flick, ala Schwarzenegger or Stallone, and something more practical like one of Michael Bay's action flicks (of the Bad Boys and Rock category,
Just rewatched this recently and it is still very much as enjoyable as it has always been. It's hard these days to think of it in the context it once was, with it being a more practical action film with a more vulnerable hero (how many of those action films do we have now), but it really does, still, capture the perfect balance between an action hero flick, ala Schwarzenegger or Stallone, and something more practical like one of Michael Bay's action flicks (of the Bad Boys and Rock category, NOT Transformers or the like).
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+4
4:37PM on 02/11/2013

Every part is my favourite

How about some love for Michael Kamen's score?
How about some love for Michael Kamen's score?
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7:22PM on 02/11/2013
You are absolutely right... the score is fantastic!
You are absolutely right... the score is fantastic!
-1
7:34PM on 02/11/2013

Every part is my favourite

Damn you double post!
Damn you double post!
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+8
7:54PM on 02/11/2013

"Best thing to ever happen to a bum like me..."

Having him pull out glass from his feet while coming to terms with his looming death, and his past mistakes, but still planning to fight to the end made him the ultimate hero. This scene would be cut so fast nowadays. Also, the above line along with "She heard me say 'I love you' a thousand times but she never heard me say 'I'm sorry'. " Are more romantic/touching lines than any rom com ever pulls off. This movie can do anything and is perfect.
Having him pull out glass from his feet while coming to terms with his looming death, and his past mistakes, but still planning to fight to the end made him the ultimate hero. This scene would be cut so fast nowadays. Also, the above line along with "She heard me say 'I love you' a thousand times but she never heard me say 'I'm sorry'. " Are more romantic/touching lines than any rom com ever pulls off. This movie can do anything and is perfect.
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12:18PM on 02/12/2013
Yes. A million times, yes. Will love this movie until the day I die....hard?
Yes. A million times, yes. Will love this movie until the day I die....hard?
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+1
11:57PM on 02/12/2013

"Boy, I hope that's not a hostage."

Probably my favorite humorous cutaway of all time.
Probably my favorite humorous cutaway of all time.
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