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[personal profile] innocent_man
Die Hard is, according to some sources, the quintessential American action movie. I'd say that it's a pretty awesome example, possibly the best example, of an 80s action movie. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Bruce Willis plays John McClane, a New York cop in LA to see his estranged wife (Bonnie Bedelia). While he's at the Christmas party at her office (on the 30th floor of an office building), a group of terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman in his film debut!) take the place over. McClane slips aways, and picks off the terrorists slowly, getting more and more wounded in the process, all the time corresponding with the largely incompetent cops on the outside (led by Paul Gleason, though McClane's contact is Reginald VelJohnson).

This movie is really damn 80s. Almost everyone, including McClane, smokes. He's openly carrying a gun on an airplane. The terrorists aren't actually terrorists, they're not seeking to make a political statement, but they play on the fact that everyone assumes that they are, and not only that, that they'll behave a certain way because of their convictions (sound familiar?). McClane pretty much openly embraces his cowboy archetype - the film's tagline, "Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker," is a rallying cry for any 80s cop character who's the only one who can really take the fight to the bad guys.

Of course, the movie is utterly absurd. McClane kills a dozen people over the course of the movie, triggers an explosion that probably should have leveled the building, shoots up a police car and then at the end his wife punches a reporter on camera...and they just drive away like nothin's nothin'. They're both wounded, they're both probably traumatized, but eh. They killed the bad guys, it's all good. Likewise, the only bad guy who makes any stab at showing real emotion is Karl (Alexander Godunov), after his brother dies at McClane's hands (literally), but he manages to seem so psycho that we can't actually feel for him. The bad guys have no motive but money, and no remorse about slaughtering innocent people. Hans Gruber (Rickman) is amazing, cold, and ruthless, but not relatable (though thoroughly entertaining).

I mention this because in the sequel, they raised the bar a bit, and then crashed an airplane full of civilians. And at that point, IMO, it lost the wah-hoo fun of this movie. I mean, yes, in this one Gruber brutally guns people down, but they're all adults and they all see it coming. Crashing plane with families aboard...hard to see that as fun-action. They get it back a little in the third in the series, and I haven't seen Live Free or Die Hard because I refuse to watch a movie in which the hero can't say his catch phrase because they wanted a PG-13.

Ahem. Anyway. The original is the best of the bunch, far and away, and although it's showing its age, it's still fun to watch.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Dirty Dancing

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January 2013

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