Movie #83: Die Hard (1988)

Director: John McTiernan

Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Paul Gleason, William Atherton, and Reginald VelJohnson

Academy Award Nominations (1989):

Best Effects-Sound Editing: Stephen H. Flick, Richard Shorr

Best Effects-Visual: Richard Edlund, Al DiSarro, Brent Boates, Thaine Morris

Best Film Editing: Frank J. Urioste, John F. Link

Best Sound: Don Bassman, Kevin F. Cleary, Richard Overton, Al Overton

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While visiting his wife Holly (Bedelia) at her company Christmas party in Los Angeles, New York City cop John McClane (Willis) becomes the only defense for Holly and her co-workers from a group of thieves led by Hans Gruber (Rickman).  Working with LAPD Sgt. Al Powell (VelJohnson) via radio, and at times against the local FBI officers, McClane takes down the thieves and saves the hostages.

Though this movie was huge for Bruce Willis, the real star of this movie is the building itself.  Die Hard is more or less a combination of Rambo and The Towering Inferno, and the various floors and parts of the skyscraper offer a variety of venues for great confrontations, explosions, and action sequences.  The four Academy Awards this movie was nominated for all have to do with effects, and in this particular movie the backdrop for those effects set it apart from other movies.

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What makes Alan Rickman a great villain is his ruthlessness and simple objective.  I liked that he wasn’t looking for world domination or something completely unrealistic.  For him it was all about the money, and nothing else.  The cat-and-mouse game he and McClane have throughout the movie were well-done and the adversarial chemistry the two have help make this movie work.

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Both Reginald VelJohnson and Bonnie Bedelia do great in their supporting roles.  They complement both Willis and Rickman in their respective roles.

This film established Bruce Willis as a reliable movie star who plays the bad-ass cop who doesn’t play by the rules and whose quick wit matches his action star capabilities.  Die Hard was one of his first film roles, with most of his prior experience being on the TV Show Moonlighting.  Though it’s a bit of a pitfall that Willis has more or less remained typecast in this particular role throughout his career, he does a convincing job of it.

It’s unfortunate that they decided to revive the Die Hard franchise with Live Free or Die Hard and A Good Day to Die Hard.  As with many of these huge franchises, I wish Hollywood would just leave them alone.  I’ve seen Live Free, and while I thought it was decently made, I’ve skipped the most recent installment entirely.  It’s all about the money, and I suppose as long as people keep going to these remakes that pale in comparison to their predecessors, they’ll keep getting made.

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Die Hard is an entertaining film, plain and simple. Though there’s some of the conflict between McClane and his wife, McClane and Gruber, and Powell’s own internal demons, for the most part this summer blockbuster is about entertaining the audience.  The memorable one-liners and great action propelled this film to great success, four sequels, video games, and a comic book.  With this I’ve now seen Die HardDie Hard with a Vengence, and Live Free or Die Hard.  I’ll probably check out Die Hard 2 at some point, and will re-visit this movie when I need to shut my brain off for a couple of hours.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

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