Wednesday, 16 May 2012

10 DAYS OF MAYHEM DAY 9: DIE HARD (1988)


Day 9 is upon us with only one day left of our 10 Days Of Mayhem series, It's been a long hard journey, a lot of action films good and Bad have been watched, a lot of words have been typed and to be honest this is the most amount of reviews I have written in such a short period of time and thanks to everyone who has read them. Anyway what awaits Day 9....JOHN McCLANE!!!!, that's right Day nine is all about Die Hard....


Die Hard is one of the films that defines action and was one of the Key 3 action movies of the 1980s along with First Blood and Commando. It was these three films that took action to a completely new level of manliness. But the best thing about Die Hard was the fact that it took an average Joe and turned him into an icon. By that I mean look at Rambo, He's a trained killer, recruited to mame and murder for his country by the Military, He's muscular and straight talking, then you have someone like John Matrix crom Commando or Dutch Schaffer from Predator, both military trained and hard as nails, both built like brick shit houses but McClane was an average NYPD cop, he was troubled, had marital problems and was a bit of a dick, he wasn't like the former characters that I mentioned, he was an ordinary guy thrust into an extraordinary situation and I think in a time of muscle bound heroes, McClane was something fresh.

The plot follows NY detective John McClane as he arrives at LAX to surprise his wife who is working in the Nakatomi Plaza at Christmas. While in the building, the place is taken over by some terrorists led by the evil Hans Gruber as he and his team attempt to steal $600million in bonds. McClane has to save the hostages and kill the terrorists to save the day helped only by a beat cop who he speaks to on a radio....he does most of this minus shoes....as you do.
It's the basic plot of countless other action films that followed and this one does it better than any of them.

The cast of Die Hard is equally as good as the plot, Bruce Willis became a mega star thanks to his role as put upon copper John McClane. Willis was already familiar to some viewers as one of half of TV's Moonlighting duo along with Sybil Shepperd and from mediocre comic films like Blind Date and the Blake Edwards misfire, Sunset, but it wasn't until he was cast in John McTiernan's 3rd film after Nomads and Predator did Willis really hit the big time and he's pretty much stayed on top since then. Sure Willis has had some misfires such as Hudson Hawk and Colour OF Night but he made up for those with cracking roles in Last Boy Scout as the laconic P.I Joe Hallenbeck and as Korben Dallas in Luc Besson's high concept sci-fi flick The Fifth Element. Willis has always been a box office draw but for most and for me, John McClane is the character that he'll most be associated with, the dry whit and one liners and the constant pursuit of survival in the face of evil.

But not all the praise should go to Willis for Die Hard because he's equally matched if not bettered by Alan Rickman as terrorist leader Hans Gruber. Rickman made his feature debut with Die Hard and turned in on of the greatest screen villain roles since Gene Hackman played Lex Luthor, he's evil but has a whit about him. Rickman has some brilliant lines which he delivers faultless and he almost kind of carries the same role over to his performance as the Sheriff Of Nottingham from Prince Of Thieves. Rickman give Gruber a likable persona the kind you get with a panto villain and revels in the role. For some reason Brits always seem to player good German villains.

The supporting cast includes Reginald VelJohnson as the beat on the street, Officer Al, Willis' only contact to the outside world, Bonnie Bedelia plays Holly, McClane's wife, Hart Bochner plays suck up weasle Ellis and then you have the likes of William Atherton as a TV news reporter, Paul Gleeson as the police chief, Alexander Godunov as a blond haired terrorists and finally Robert Davi as on half of FBI agents Smith and Smith. It's a wonderful cast everyone does their part equally.

McTiernan proved to be an excellent action director with Predator and raises his profile immensely with Die Hard, the film is almost nonstop action from start to finish with buildings exploding, gun battles in conference rooms, rooftops and maintenance rooms but the most memorable stunt includes a jump off the top of the building with a fire hose tied around the waist. McTiernan continued making action movies through the 90s with The Hunt For Red October, The Last Action Hero and 13th Warrior and returning in 1995 for threequel, Die Hard With A Vengeance witch reuinted Willis with his Pulp Fiction co-star Samuel L.Jackson. The two made a great double act and McTiernan again shows his strength as action movie director this time however the action wasn't confined to one location as was with the first and Renny Harlin's Die Hard 2, This time the action took place across New York City as McClane is targeted by Hans' equally evil brother Simon.
McTiernan took a sorry nose dive in the early 21st century with the slow but interesting remake of The Thomas Crown Affair and the confusing but entertaining Basic, but his biggest misfire was a remake of 70s sci-fi classic Rollerball which lost all of the grit and social commentary of the first and instead became a shallow Hollywood popcorn movie that had no substance and failed to make much money. Unfortunately McTiernan's career is on hold as he continues to fight a legal battle with FBI over a wiretapping case.

Die Hard is one of the pinacle films to define modern action cinema, if it wasn't for it we wouldn't have films like The Rock, Long Kiss Good Night or even The Raid. It's influential in it's violence and gave us Bruce Willis as an action star. I love all three original Die Hard Movies but found the fourth one to be missing something and that it went way over the top with action such as McClane vs an F-16 fighter jet on an L.A freeway. But there is no denying Die Hard is a game changing action film. It's fast, funny, Violent and action packed and I think film in general would be a sadder place without it. Die Hard gets the full five star treatment here....


2 comments:

  1. I've only heard reviews of the movie but never really watched it because I tend to forget about movies easily. I don't seem to be good at remembering those good movies and I tend to only see the trailers and say "I'm definitely going to watch that" and then forget afterwards.

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  2. Hey Coco, It's a definite watch, one of the defining action movies of the genre. Check it out if you can

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