Die Hard (1988) Movie Review


Die Hard is the greatest Christmas action movie of all time (are you sensing a theme here?).  Die Hard is my favorite action movie of all time…still…even after the golden age of superhero movies in which we currently reside.  Even after The Matrix, the Indiana Jones franchise, the Bourne movies, the Terminators (1 and 2 only), the John Woo classics, Mad Max: Fury Road, the Schwarzenegger classics, the Stallone classics, and so on.  One caveat: Michael Mann’s epic crime opus Heat is not a pure action movie.  It is a crime drama with some scenes of intense action.  So, that’s my position.  I think it’s honestly a timing thing.  I was obviously still quite impressionable, and my brain was still being molded into its current, cynical form the first time I saw Die Hard so I guess it just had a bigger impact.

Let’s take a closer look at the cast.  First, you have Bruce Willis.  This may be hard to believe, but Bruce Willis was not a huge star when he played the now legendary character John McClane for the first time.  His biggest claim to fame up until that point was the decent TV detective dramedy Moonlighting.  So, this single role was good enough to establish him as a bonafide star, and he rode the Die Hard train for most of his career.  Willis has an undeniable gift for snark.  He can deliver a funny, cutting insult with the best of them, and that gift is utilized so well in this movie.  Steven E. de Souza’s and Jeb Stuart’s wonderful screenplay of Roderick Thorp’s novel delivers perfectly to Willis’ strengths. 

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Of course, we have to mention the late, great Alan Rickman.  Some other movies may have tried it before, but Rickman as Hans Gruber pretty much invented the slick, smooth talking, expensive suit wearing, ruthless, menacing, murdering, European bad guy that so many other films pulled for inspiration.  His character became the cornerstone against which any similar villains would be measured, and he set the bar very high.  Again, as with Willis, I look to his ability to effectively deliver a well-crafted line.  “I’m going to count to three.  There will not be a four.”  Stuff like that is just pure gold with the right accent and timing.  Rickman excelled in that ability, and he owned that role. 

The supporting cast was all great as well.  Gruber’s team of terrorists was fantastic: The handsome, blonde haired, blue eyed German brothers, the nerdy, African American computer hacker (before anyone knew what a hacker was), the crazy long haired, mustachioed Asian with the machine gun, and so on.  Paul Gleason was great as the idiot police chief that refused to listen to street smart cop, Sgt. Al Powell (also excellent and played by Reginald VelJohnson).  Bonnie Bedelia was wonderful as McClane’s wife Holly who is attempting to move on after their separation.

The plot is simple enough.  A group of terrorists lead by Hans Gruber take over a Los Angeles skyscraper (Nakatomi Plaza) with the intention of stealing $600 million in untraceable bearer bonds.  There is a Christmas party taking place at the time so the group ceases on that floor and holds them hostage until the theft can be secured.  What they don’t know is that tough, supremely capable New York City detective John McClane had just arrived and was able to sneak away as the terrorists took over the party.  McClane then proceeds to mess up there plans one man at a time as he darts around the building barefoot wreaking havoc on Gruber’s increasingly frustrated crew.

I love this movie.  It hits all the marks an action movie has to hit.  It’s very funny.  It’s very suspenseful.  It’s got lots of explosions and gunfire.  It’s got a villain that needs to die, and a hero that needs to kill him.  It is a complete, well done action movie, and it is an absolute Christmas classic.    


Our Rating:  5/5