REVIEW – ‘Die Hard’ (1988)

Written by J.T. Johnson


DIRECTOR: John McTiernan
WRITERS: Jeb Stuart, Steven E. de Souza
MUSIC: Michael Kamen

Today, everybody knows about “Die Hard” and the four sequels that followed it. When someone thinks about this series, they think about Bruce Willis. They also think about the memorable scenes, explosive action and the villainous portrayal of Hans Gruber, played to evil perfection by the late Alan Rickman. What they may not know is that it is also based on a book by Roderick Thorp.

In 1966, his novel, “The Detective,” was released and later adapted for the screen. In that adaptation, the film starred Frank Sinatra. Thorp actually wrote “Nothing” in 1979 to be adapted as a film for Sinatra. Eventually, Sinatra passed and the script was slightly changed into what was supposed to be a sequel to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Commando”. Again, the main star decided against doing a sequel and the script was changed to what audiences now know as “Die Hard”.

The story revolves around NYPD Detective John McClane (Willis) as he travels to Los Angeles to patch things up with his estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) and spend Christmas with his kids. John meets his wife at Nakatomi Plaza, which is the headquarters in L.A. that Holly works for.

Soon, a group of terrorist, led by Rickman’s character, takes over the building and holds the workers hostage. McClane manages to escape their grasps and now he must do everything in his power to help the hostages. This includes several action sequences and the help of “Family Matters” star Reginald VelJohnson as a cop who assists McClane from the outside.

It goes without saying that the film is one of the quintessential action films of the 1980s. This is due in no small part to Willis, the actor that the film made into an international star. Granted, Willis was already known to audiences for his part in the television series, “Moonlighting”, but this was the one that made Willis unforgettable.

What is also impressive about the film is the fact that the writers made a film set primarily in a skyscraper memorable. That hadn’t happened since Irwin Allen’s masterpiece disaster film, “The Towering Inferno”. This is because McClane is not the only interesting character in the movie.

Rickman set the tone for what it is to be a villain in a “Die Hard” movie. He never takes the role too seriously except for where it counts. Also, his overwhelming charm takes the audience by surprise and makes the scenes where he does have to be a monster even more chilling. Willis may be the star, but Rickman almost steals the show.

Then there is Bedelia as McClane’s wife, Holly. She is a working, independent woman who has no problem standing up to Hans on behave of the hostages. It also helps that her boss is killed early on and she is really the only one who can be strong for the others. She also knows that the terrorists should not underestimate her hard-headed husband.

The action scenes are some of the most memorable put to screen. This includes McClane’s various fights with the terrorists, throwing C4 down an elevator shaft, jumping off the roof as it explodes and a painful scene involving McClane’s bare feet and shattered glass.

Almost every blockbuster has its share of sequels. “Die Hard” has fortunately had three decent if not amazing sequels (“A Good Day to Die Hard” was… meh), but the original is still the best. This is thanks to the actors as much as the action and any action movie buff should add this to their collection.


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