Christmas Review: Die Hard

A review by SLAMADAM!

Director: John McTiernan

Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, and Reginald VelJohnson

Plot: John McLane, a New York police detective, visits his estranged wife in LA. During her company Christmas party, a terrorist group takes everyone but McLane hostage, making him their only hope.


Die Hard is, in my opinion, the greatest action movie of all time. The Expendables might have the all star cast. Black Hawk Down may have an abundance of used bullet casings. All the superhero movies may have the best CGI, but for my money Die Hard does every single thing right.

The action is undeniably thrilling. It takes pride in filling itself up with blood splatter and real explosions. The plot flows well with a well-balanced rise in stakes. Its use of miniatures is legendary. There is seamless transition by the real life-size action sequences and its mini versions. The movie is categorically fast paced, but it knows how to slow it down when it needs to. It effectively takes advantage of espionage style and delivers exposition without being boring. For a violently gritty and charmingly witty guy movie, the actual premise is a very intricate chess game between McLane and Han Gruber, the terrorist leader.

What really makes the exposition and pretty much everything better is the performances. Die Hard definitely came out during the time of the muscle bound action heroes. They were men of few words, but that was usually out of necessity as many of them were untrained actors hired to fill out exaggerated costumes. Die Hard instead opts for a fit yet thin television actor, Bruce Willis, who brought his good ole’ boy attitude to the table making an insufferable jerk into one of the most charismatic actors working today. Even more so, the filmmakers are not afraid to hurt McLane. It is a sort of running joke that action heroes escape unreal circumstances with little less than a hangnail. Instead, John McLane comes out the other side bloody, dirty, and seriously hurting. Couples with Willis’s natural screen presence, these stakes seem all too real and empathetic.

He faces off one of the greatest villains in cinema history. Alan Rickman follows a long line of eccentric and “too cool” villain performance that has become a major staple in action movies. What is difference in his Hans Gruber character is he is much more calm and calculating villain. Much more like a shark than the clownish gunslingers Arnold and Stallone usually face. While Rickman is no slouch by any stretch of the imagination, the writing deserves some responsibility for the greatness of the character as well. As the plot unfolds, his secrets are revealed. This helps Rickman and by extension the audience infer the true motivation behind Gruber’s actions.

Die Hard has a legacy that will never be forgotten. It was an early precursor to postmodern action movies that cashed in the muscle for charm. Now if only people would take a page from their chapter on special effects, and we would have action movies with less neutered danger.

TEN out of TEN