Review: DIE HARD (1988) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Review: DIE HARD (1988)

In conjunction for the upcoming release of A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD this week (review coming soon!), here is the first installment of DIE HARD review.


This is the action movie that started all -- a new breed of subgenre where an unlikely hero caught in the confined space while struggling to battle terrorists or any kind of villains. And the answer is DIE HARD, a modern action picture that sets the high standard for subsequent like-minded genre in the future. This is also the movie that made Bruce Willis (of TV's Moonlighting fame) catapulted into an overnight sensation and put director John McTiernan (PREDATOR) as one of the most sought-after action filmmakers up to that time.

On Christmas Eve, a New York cop named John McClane (Bruce Willis) arrives in Los Angeles to spend the holidays with his estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) and their two young children (Taylor Fry, Noah Land). Both John and Holly are actually separated after she is promoted to a higher position in a Japanese-owned corporation she works for at the Nakatomi Plaza. Upon arrival, John finds himself in the middle of a Christmas party celebrated on the building's 30th floor. Everything seems to be fine, until a group of international terrorists lead by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) seizes the building and holds everyone at the party hostage. Apparently he is determined to break into the company's vault and steal $670 million in negotiable bonds.

Meanwhile, John manages to escape from the terrorists and makes his way to the unfinished upper floors of the building while improvising his next move to dispatch the terrorist one at a time.

As proven in PREDATOR, John McTiernan is a top-notch action director who knows very well how to sustain a consistent pace throughout its 131-minute running time. His direction is sharp and often breathtaking. All the action scenes are first-rate entertainment, with (again) kudos goes to McTiernan for keeping our hearts pumping as we watch the helpless Bruce Willis climbing up an elevator shaft, crawling in a cramped air duct, engaging in a fisticuffs with the terrorist, running barefoot across a floor scattered with broken glass and best of all -- a memorable death-defying moment where he has to throw himself off the exploding rooftop with a fire hose wrapped around his waist.

Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza's script (adapted from Roderick Thorp's novel called Nothing Lasts Forever), is engaging and well-written with snappy dialogue, witty remarks and of course, memorable one-liners. 

All the cast are rock-solid. Bruce Willis is tour de force as the wisecracking John McClane. Given his extended experience acting in Moonlighting, it's no surprise that he can be very funny. But what makes him such an icon is his "everyman" kind of persona who gets caught up in unlikely situations that forces him to become the hero to save the day. No doubt his character is someone that we can root for, even though we have to accept some of the implausibilities he seemingly capable to do so. (You'll be surprised that Bruce Willis wasn't really the first choice to play the lead role. Before he was cast, it originally went to Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Richard Gere, Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson). As Hans Gruber, British thespian Alan Rickman delivers one of the most memorable villains ever graced in the cinematic history. From his cunning presence to his meticulous speech pattern and his wicked charm, Rickman nails his role so well that it's hard to believe this is actually his first feature-movie debut (prior to this, he appeared either in TV or stage theaters).

The supporting casts are equally strong, with Bonnie Bedelia turns her otherwise thankless role as a damsel in distress into a noteworthy performance. Reginald Veljohnson is superb as John's unofficial cop partner on the outside, while William Atherton is perfectly cast as the slimy journalist, Richard Thornburg.

The rest of the technical credits are impeccable: Michael Kamen's exciting score is unforgettable; Jan De Bont's cinematography is often tense and claustrophobic; while John F. Link and Frank J. Urioste's editing is crisp.

A surprise box-office hit in the US (with more than $80 million grosses), DIE HARD is a must-see for every action-movie fans.

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