Die Hard (1988) Review

Die Hard.

Before I watched this movie, the phrase brought to mind images of my friend shouting this out while zapping me with a fake laser gun while playing ‘Space Cowboys’ when I was nine. After watching the movie, the images remain the same, except in place of my friend is the balding Bruce Willis. And I zap him.

Die Hard or Die Hair?
Die Hard or Die Hair?

This movie is supposed to be one of the all time great action blockbusters, and, with my thirst for movies ever-growing, it was on my list of must watch movies.

For those who don’t know the plot- a terrorist gang led by Hans Gruber (played by Alan Rickman, for younger readers, Severus Snape from Harry Potter) takes over the Nagatomi Corporation building in L.A during a Christmas Eve party. Gruber and his henchman plan to steal 6oo million dollars from the Nagatomi high-tech safe, while pretending to be politically motivated to throw the authorities (who seem to have anger management issues and are incredibly easy to fool) off track. Being the psychopathic maniac that he is, he also plans to leave no hostage alive. All said and done, New York cop (who, after this movie, becomes the iconic, heroic yet bloody stupid New York cop) John McLane has come to visit his estranged wife Holly, who is incidentally one of the hostages. And so, this strange hero, who only knows how to speak in expletives, armed with his handgun, and an are-you-kidding-me-the-world-is-so-cruel attitude, with a complete disregard for local authorities, decides to take on the bad guys.

The official Die Hard poster
The official Die Hard poster

There is not a lot to say about this movie. The beginning is boring. Alan Rickman turns out to be a fairly formidable antagonist through great acting effort, while Bruce Willis struggles to do so, and manages slight grimaces throughout the film. Most of the dialogues are ineffably bad, while one became iconic (Yippee ki-Yay m*****f*****) . And, I’m not sure if this was a mistake in the movie or done deliberately, but McLane’s vest turns from white to military brown halfway into the movie!

Yet, if you move past this, i.e. if you struggle to move past this, the movie gains good pace. The plot may not have been spectacular or intricate, but it is well thought out. The action effects (the explosions, and the blood splattering when people get shot) are fancy and gritty. And, I may be wrong, but I think that this movie may have been the first of its kind to introduce African Americans as intelligent, thinking characters.

This is John McLane’s epic jump off the roof- one of the really cool action sequences…

Overall, as the movie progressed, I grew to like John McLane. He was foolish, dumb, sassy, expressionless and incorrigibly jumping into danger, but he was a cool guy. The film made me root for the hero and hate the bad guy, without the protagonist-antagonist contradictions in today’s ‘modern’ movies (kind of like your typical Tamil movie!). When the villain died a fitting death, I was scared to bits at the magnitude (he falls from a thirty storey building), but there was a sick satisfaction bubbling at the surface. (A little known fact: for his death scene, Alan Rickman agreed to fall onto an airbag 25 feet below on the count of three. Except the director and the stunt director, cruel as they were, thought they would get a better reaction if they dropped him on the count of ‘one’. Hence, the amazing expression of terror on his face!)

In conclusion, Die Hard is how any ‘good guy saves the day’ movie should be. No wonder it received exceptional reviews from critics.The movie isn’t as slick as modern action movies, but it is nice- a nice bumbling mess of mayhem, in which McLane refuses to give up and be killed – a diehard survivor.


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