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Die Hard

A 1988 movie directed by John McTiernan.

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The ultimate Christmas movie. 94%

  • Jan 3, 2012

Even though Christmas is over, the title still stands, this is the ultimate movie for Christmastime, but it can be watched year-round for full enjoyment. Aside from being the ultimate Christmas movie, this is one of the absolute best action movies ever, certainly a fine reason why the 80's was THE decade for action movies.




It's Christmas Eve, and a New York Cop named John McClane (Bruce Willis) flies into Los Angeles to visit his estranged wife, but things go awry when a group of German terrorists/thieves led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) invade the office building and cut off any possible contact to keep hostages from calling the cops. The only one out of Gruber's control is McClane, who desperately and quickly has to come up with ways to stop the terrorists.




What separates most action movies from Die Hard is that the hero, McClane, is very vulnerable. This creates a lot of tension while watching the movie, and I'd even say that compared to even the best action movies, Die Hard probably has the largest amount of tension because even after the initial viewings, I was still riddled with tension in the scenes where McClane gets really hurt.


This is where the characters come in. Because of the fact that John McClane is such a vulnerable protagonist, he's more believable as a person and this vulnerability makes him creative with his plans to weed out the terrorists infesting the Nakatomi building. While it's natural to root for the action hero for an action movie, you're rooting for McClane even harder to win because he faces steeper obstacles than most other action heroes. Rickman, despite being an Englishman, manages to pull off a rather convincing German accent. He also does a great job playing a slimy terrorist leader, since he has no problem personally killing his hostages and has a smooth charisma that keeps him from going into over-the-top territory.


The supporting cast is solid as well. Reginald Vel Johnson does a great job as Al Powell, a police officer whose the first to uncover the clandestine terror heist Gruber and his cronies are conducting by McClane throwing a dead terrorist's body on his car just as he's about to leave the Nakatomi plaza (with humorous effects). I must say, as a kid of the 90's, it was weird seeing Vel Johnson spew profanity and even be in this type of movie because of the fact that I grew up watching Family Matters (where he played Carl Winslow). Bonnie Bedelia is solid as Holly Gennaro-McCane, John McClane's estranged wife. The actors playing Gruber's cronies all do a good job, particular Alexander Godunov as Karl, Hans's right-hand man, since they're all good at being loathsome and menacing.




The action scenes in Die Hard are top notch and highly memorable. The action scenes, going along with the premise of a highly-vulnerable protagonist, exercise a great deal of creativity with the methods of combat McClane adapts to make it out alive. For example, after the LAPD arrive in droves in response to claims of terrorists in the building, they deploy an armored car, but Gruber's cronies start attacking it with a tripod-mounted anti-tank guided missile launcher. Because McClane is several stories above the attackers, he drops a block of C4 strapped to a broken computer monitor and computer chair down to the floor the anti-tank personnel are to wipe them out. McClane eventually gets confronted by one of the terrorists and engage in a brutal gun and hand-to-hand fight. This ends with McClane beating one of the terrorists and hanging him with a bunch of chains. When the top floor of the Nakatomi building is blown up, McClane escapes by swinging from a firehose he tied to himself and breaks through a glass window to get somewhere safe, but the spool holding the hose breaks loose and falls, dragging McClane towards the edge of the floor, and has to quickly untie himself so he doesn't plummet to his grave. That scene was really, really tense.




This is R-rated for good reason. Being a top-tier action movie, there's a good deal of bloody violence and death infesting this masterpiece. Towards the beginning of the ordeal, Gruber executes Takagi, the executive of the Nakatomi corporation, since he won't cooperate with Gruber, and you see a bunch of blood gush against the glass wall during the execution (which looks realistic and really daunting). One of the hardest scenes to watch is when McClane (whose barefoot throughout the whole ordeal against Gruber), has to flee a group of terrorists through a floor covered in broken glass. This leads to a scene where McClane hides in one of the bathrooms to pull out the glass shards out of his bloody feet. There's even some nudity towards the beginning when one of the terrorists grabs one of the female hostages and pulls down her party dress to reveal her breasts, and McClane bumps into a calendar depicting a nude female model a few times in one of the rooms under construction in the building.




The music in Die Hard is top notch. Overall, it's rather daunting and exciting, and the music is a perfect fit for the type of movie being played here. Michael Kamen did a great job with the music here, and he'd do really well with the soundtrack for Event Horizon nine years after this. There's even a Christmas song done by Run-DMC played towards the beginning of the movie, and some other Christmas tunes being played to bring about the “Christmas feeling” to this movie.




While this thankfully isn't a dated movie by any stretch, there's some bits of dialogue and character details that make it a perfect snapshot of the 80's. For example, when Argyle (McClane's limo driver) brags about all the gadgets in the limousine, he brags about it having VHS. Also, when the terrorist heist catches wind of the media, the reporter states that Gruber is the head of a West German terrorist organization. I guess it's because the Berlin Wall collapsed when I was only two years-old, this particular element certainly shows its age, but like I said earlier, it doesn't deter any enjoyment to be had in this film.




This is an action movie masterpiece, and probably John McTiernan's best film. If you love action movies and this isn't in your collection, get this in your collection right now.

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January 05, 2012
Great review, this is a classic.
January 05, 2012
Thanks, dude.
January 03, 2012
wholeheartedly agree with your review. This is one of the classic action flicks ever. Are you reviewing the sequels too? I'd like to read what you thought about Die Hard 2...
January 04, 2012
Haven't seen the sequels in a really long time, and I don't see myself reviewing them anytime soon. Thanks for the complements on my review.
More Die Hard reviews
Quick Tip by . December 23, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Simply put, this is an action-thriller masterpiece.  This was more notable for the fact that compared to so many other action films, Die Hard had so much more tension, with the fact that John McClane (Bruce Willis) has to be really careful with his attacks against the terrorists, and that it's loaded with great action scenes and zingy dialogue.       I will conclude by saying that aside from being a fantastic action film, it's also a great movie to watch on Christmas.
review by . May 20, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Undoubtedly the best of the 4 Die Hards and possibly the best action film ever made! It is definately my favorite action film. John McClaine is visiting his estranged wife at her office, the new Nakatomi building in Los Angeles. The office is celebrating both Christmas and the opening of the new building. Suddenly the building is invaded by what appear to be some heavily armed and very high tech terrorists who seal off the building and take all the employees prisoner. John, a New York cop realizes …
review by . May 20, 2009
Die Hard is a good and entertaining film that made a star out of Bruce Willis and gave Alan Rickman's career a shot in the arm as a screen villain. Despite many flaws and any lack of credibility, it's still a fun and watchable movie. The real star of this film is Alan Rickman. He makes a creepy and entertaining villain who acts circles around the cast.     A visiting New York cop (Bruce Willis) is inside a high rise building trying to see his ex-wife (Bonnie Bedelia Mc Culken). …
review by . May 10, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
Action movies have been around for a long time (just watch some old Cagney or Bogart gangster flicks if you don't believe me). However, it wasn't until the late 70s and early 80s that action movies entered a new domain: that of the superhuman who blows lots of things up due to a big budget. DIE HARD set a new template in the action genre because Bruce Willis' character really isn't a superhuman, he's just a good cop who uses his wits to out smart the bad guys.The movie re-ignited Willis' film career …
About the reviewer
David Kozak ()
I'm a morbid cynic who thinks very, very differently from most other people. Chances are, if the majority says X is the greatest in its category, I'll disagree with that notion, because I tend … more
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About this movie


Die Hard is the movie franchise that made a movie star out of TV star Bruce Willis, and created an entire action-movie genre of its own. In the original 1988 film, Willis plays wisecracking New York cop John McClane, who arrives at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles to meet up with his estranged wife, Holly (Bonny Bedelia), at her office Christmas party. As luck would have it, the company ends up in the middle of a terrorist plot led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his gang of expert killers, and with little help coming from outside, McClane has to pick off his enemies one by one. Thus was born the "Die Hardgenre", epitomized by such films asUnder Siege("Die Hardon a ship"),Passenger 57("Die Hardon a plane" ),Speed("Die Hardon a bus"), andCliffhanger("Die Hardon a mountain"). But few measure up to the explosive brilliance ofDie Hard. Director John McTiernan develops the action at a fast and furious pace, culminating in some fantastic set-pieces on the top of the building, in the elevator shaft, and in the building's outer plaza. Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza's script, based on Roderick Thorp's novelNothing Lasts Forever, is smart, funny, and full of memorable lines (among them "Welcome to the party, pal!" and of course "Yippee ki-ay, motherf*****"), and the cast is perfection, especially Rickman as the cunningly evil villain, and Willis, whose McClane character--bloodied, beaten, bruised, ...
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