Reviews, Vault Reviews — December 20, 2011 at 3:00 pm



This week’s review wraps this run of Christmas-themed films while simultaneously kick-starting a new series of reviews. To round out the holidays and ring in 2012, what’s better than Bruised Willis in the franchise that not only earned him that nickname, but made him the action star we know and love.

The sun is setting on a pleasant afternoon in LA when John McClane (Bruce Willis) arrives at the Nakatomi Corporation’s Christmas party. It’s not really the setting a New York cop wants for his Christmas, but he’s come to reconcile with his wife, Holly Gennaro (Bonnie Bedelia), and see their kids. John and Holly quickly settle into their usual marital contentions, and she returns to the party leaving John to simmer down. Meanwhile, Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his brutal, efficient band of “terrorists” seize control of Nakatomi Plaza and take all the party guests hostage. Well, all except John, who slips away and becomes the monkey in the wrench to Hans’ expertly planned heist.

Die Hard is based on the novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorpe, but director John McTiernan revised the original, dire terrorist plot into that of greedy thieves to avoid the politics and lighten the tone. He also changed the story’s supercop hero into an everyday man with his own problems so audiences would better relate to him. McTiernan, along with producer Joel Silver, discovered Alan Rickman in a stage play and knew he was the perfect Hans Gruber. McTiernan even suggested the terrorist theme be Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, which works superbly.

There is a point to all this trivia. I am a huge Bruce Willis fan, going all the way back to Moonlighting, so believe me when I say that while Bruce is the face we all associate with Die Hard, director John McTiernan deserves the credit for crafting one of the most phenomenal action films ever. I revert into an excited teen anytime Bruce has a new action flick opening; this role cemented Bruce’s stardom and McTiernan made it all happen.

Funny thing is Willis wasn’t the first, second, or even fifth choice to play McClane. Were this filmed today, some bloggers would no doubt set the internets ablaze with slanderous, hateful comments about choosing a wise-cracking punk with a receding hairline as our heroic star. Thankfully, McTiernan and company were left to their own devices.

In his playground, McTiernan, his crew and his talented cast of actors deliver on all fronts.?Die Hard‘s brutal and bloody. I’m talking splattering-in-faces, splattering-on-windows, dripping-from-wounds, bursting-from-knee-caps bloody. McClane gets beat down, knocked around, blown up by the bad, and the good, guys. His bloodied body and dirt-drenched wifebeater prove he’s getting the job done while Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Johnson (Paul Gleason) and FBI agents Johnson (Robert Davi) and Johnson (Grand L. Bush) make the Keystone Kops look like Navy SEALs.

To level out the action, and to keep McClane’s witty dialogue going without making it appear he’s crazy for talking to himself, Sgt. Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) is brought in as a fellow street-wise cop. Their radio relationship humanizes McClane. The radio not only gives McClane a chance to goad Hans and his gang, but it’s his outlet to express frustration, desperation, rage and regret.

I could easily write five hundred more words on what makes?Die Hard a classic. The thing is, what is there that hasn’t been already said about it? I could continue recounting its merits, but why don’t you tell us why you love Die Hard.



  • Great review. Great movie. And to our readers, chime in Monday for our discussion on whether or not this is a X-mas film!

    • Ooh, I can’t wait to weigh in on Monday! I nearly discussed your post, Top 5 Films That Revolve Around Holidays…, but I figured the review was already getting a little lengthy.

  • Pitch-perfect review, Wayne.

    Like you, I cannot rave enough about this film.

  • Huzzah for the points to McTiernan – I could scarcely pick the guy out of a lineup and yet he’s responsible for two of the best action films of all time (easily) with this and Predator, and then you throw in DH3 and The Thomas Crown Affair and Hunt for Red October and it’s like, wow, how is this guy not celebrated more?

    Shit, I hadn’t even realized until just now that he’d not made a film since 2003 and is/was in all kinds of legal trouble that led to his absence. Weird.

    • Whoa. I hadn’t done my research on McTiernan either. He’s got some legal craziness going on. If he ever works it all out, I bet it’ll make for a great movie.

      McTiernan’s got one great resume. There’s only three of his flix I haven’t seen. Hmm, that sounds like the makings of another vault review series.

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