Monday, July 11, 2011
(July 1988, U.S.)
I was 21 years-old when DIE HARD first came out, but somehow it feels as if the entire franchise has been a part of my life and our pop culture much longer than that. I can still remember the first time I saw the advance teaser movie poster for the film and thinking how miscast Bruce Willis seemed in the role of the action hero. Remember at that time, Willis' was still a virtual unknown whose only claim-to-fame had been the ABC-TV series MOONLIGHTING and a couple of silly screen comedies. So the idea of his playing a New York City bad-ass cop made about as much sense to me as comedian Michael Keaton playing Batman would make a year later. Who knew, right?
So, for the kind benefit of those who having been living under a rock since 1988, Bruce Willis' John McClane is a righteous and dangerous cop who has a very bad habit of being the wrong person at the wrong place at the wrong time. For this film, he's found himself in Los Angeles as a guest at the Nakatomi Plaza building where his estranged wife Holly (played by Bonnie Bedelia) works during a big company Christmas party. The party is so rudely disrupted by the arrival of twelve armed German terrorist led by Hans Gruber (played by Alan Rickman). Hans and his group secure the party goers as hostages, but McClane manages to slip away into a nearby stairwell. What follows for much of the film is McClane moving through the building, elevator shafts and duct shafs while hiding from or shooting each terrorist he comes into contact with. Along the way, there are spectacular shoot-outs and explosions-galore! In the end, as you'd guess or as you've seen, the bad guys die, the hero wins, he gets his woman back and everybody lives happily ever after. Perfect Christmas story!
Looking back at the original DIE HARD now, the film may seem somewhat outdated, or at the very least, at the proper level of conformity with anything and everything else that's ever been part of the action film genre. But you need to appreciate that back in the 1980s, before Bruce Willis was to really jumstart his career, the action hero of the big screen had been mostly occupied by a bunch of mindless, petuitary cases that came in the form of Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. These men could kick bloody ass, but emotional acting was not exactly their strongest asset. Now here comes John McClane...he's strong and asskicking, yes, but he hurts very badly, too. He's alone, very tired and has no desire to be a hero or to be in the violent situation he's in. He's been thrown into it and realizes he has a job to do or else people will die. He won't, however, enjoy any of it. I should also point out that I've always been very touched by the friendship and support that is developed over the cb radio between McClane and the L.A. cop outside on the street, Sgt. Al Powell (played by Reginal VelJohnson). One look at their long embrace and laughter at the end of the film and you know these two guys will be friends forever. Awww!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Police Supervisor: "Attention, whoever you are, this channel is reserved for emergency calls only."
John McClane: "No fucking shit, lady! Does it sound like I'm ordering a pizza!!?"