Directed by: John McTiernan
Written by: Steven E. de Souza & Jeb Stuart
Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia & Paul Gleason
Does the fact that John McTiernan’s 1988 action film Die Hard takes place on Christmas Eve make it a Christmas movie? No. But, that doesn’t mean that the Christmas season isn’t a perfect time to revisit with the classic action film that certified Bruce Willis as an action star. It’s been some time since I last saw Die Hard, but little has changed in the subsequent years since my previous encounter with the film. Even after twenty-five years, Die Hard is still a solid action flick.
Willis plays John McClane, a New York police officer who has just arrived in Los Angeles in an attempt to salvage his marriage with his wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia). The company Holly works for, Nakatomi, is throwing a Christmas party when a small group of heavily armed terrorist, led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), break into the building, holds everyone hostage and attempts to steal $640 million in bearer bonds located in the building’s vault.
At the time of this film’s production, Bruce Willis was best known for comedic roles and many had doubts that he would be able to work as an action star. Luckily, 20th Century Fox took a gamble and produced the film. It’s more than obvious from watching Willis on screen that he was born to play a role like John McClane (which is probably why he would go on to reprise the role 4 more times). He’s charismatic as McClane, and handles himself perfectly during the movie’s spectacular stunt and fight sequences.
But, what good is a hero if he doesn’t have an equally good villain to go up against? Of course, Alan Rickman plays an important part in making Die Hard the memorable movie that it is. The character works wonders because he’s the perfect counter to John McClane. McClane is someone who thinks on his toes and improvises, where as Gruber has everything methodically planned out before he makes his first move. And, I do say there is something charming and likable about this evil bastard, which is mostly due to Rickman’s natural charm seeping into the role.
The action in the Die Hard is more than serviceable, though certain moments do tread into the absurd. My only real complaint with the movie is its poor treatment of the Los Angeles police force and the FBI who respond to the terrorist attack on the Nakatomi building. Aside from Deputy Chief Robinson (Paul Gleason), the LAPD are presented as a dimwitted bunch who can’t quite seem to respond logically to this dilemma. Even worse are two FBI agents, both named Johnson (Robert Davi and Grand L. Bush), who are more interested in making a name for themselves. Even if that means putting the lives of the hostages at risk with their actions.
But, those shortcomings aside Die Hard is a thoroughly entertaining flick. The two central leads, Willis and Rickman, are strong enough in their roles, both of which are marvelously developed, to make up for the movie’s flaws. That, and all the bone-crushing, gun-shooting, explosive happy action that’s jam-packed into this picture.