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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 20%
Average: 1.82%
Pretty Bad: 0.91%
Total Crap: 1.82%

4 reviews, 86 user ratings

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Die Hard
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Hasn't lost its violent lustre."
5 stars

'Die Hard,' which turns thirty on July 12, is a big, beautiful, excessive action machine with a thousand moving parts.

It’s a jumbo platter; it was somewhat unusual at the time for a summer action film that was relatively real-world grounded — i.e., didn’t involve spaceships or superheroes — to run north of two hours, and somewhere in the third act, when the hero John McClane (Bruce Willis) has that desolate moment in the bathroom picking shards of glass out of his bare feet, the movie begins to feel its length. For a couple of minutes, the film goes soft, as we witness that hoary exchange “Tell my wife I’m sorry”/“You can tell her yourself.” But it’s only one scene, and soon the tension ratchets up again.

Directed by the ill-starred John McTiernan (probably his peak) from a Swiss-watch script by Steven E. de Souza and Jeb Stuart, Die Hard feels loaded with high points — it’s as though the filmmakers approached each scene (aside from the aforementioned one) by asking themselves how entertaining they could make it. So many little bits of business have later payoffs (the Rolex! fists with your toes!) that the movie has inspired tons of internet theories (why does McClane pause so long on the line “These guys are mostly European judging by their clothing labels and their [eternal pause] …cigarettes”?). Almost every character with dialogue has something to add to the overall tapestry — Die Hard is full of strictly unnecessary but wholly enjoyable personality.

It helps, of course, that the movie offers Willis (in only his third movie, aside from a couple of early bit parts) at his most vulnerable, relatable, and hungry. Willis has something to prove, that he can be a credible action hero while keeping sight of McClane’s humanity. In opposition to McClane, the meat-and-potatoes cop from New York, Die Hard gives us a cosmopolitan villain — Alan Rickman in his first film, as failed terrorist turned “exceptional thief” Hans Gruber. I generally preferred Rickman when he was able to shoot other, gentler arrows in his quiver, as in Sense and Sensibility or Truly, Madly, Deeply; but there’s no denying the craft, wit, and sheer fun of this, his unofficial Bond villain, a cold-blooded reptile except for when he smiles disdainfully to himself. One of those grins, a quiet response to a bit of snark by team member Theo (Clarence Gilyard), almost seems like a tribute rendered generously by Rickman — if Theo can make this suave scorpion chuckle on the job, he must be funny.

And that’s how it is with everyone in the cast; people constantly pair off and grouse or commiserate. (For a movie with such a rep for brutal action, it derives a lot of its juice from little actor moments.) At times, Die Hard is an L.A. movie the way, say, Taking of Pelham 123 is a New York movie, in that it expresses the soul of the city — many of the supporting characters are out for themselves, capitalizing on the growing crisis at Nakatomi Plaza, where Hans and his polyglot posse invade and take hostages as a cover for stealing hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of bearer bonds. The movie features not one but two iconic ‘80s assholes, William Atherton as a jackal TV reporter and Paul Gleason as a deputy police chief who stomps onto the scene and immediately gets everything wrong. In the middle of all this is the moron cokehead Ellis (the great Hart Bochner), who swaggers into a meeting with Gruber thinking he’s gonna set all this Eurotrash straight. He won’t. Essentially it’s all down to McClane, the working stiff in a dirty tank top.

The FBI are represented by two combative idiots both named Johnson. The Huey Lewis lookalike on Gruber’s team has the same bland L.A. look as the Nakatomi front desk receptionist he’s replacing. McClane’s estranged wife, Holly Gennaro (Bonnie Bedelia), is written and played as a strong woman who doesn’t scare easily (even though the ending strips her of her Rolex and reasserts her identity as wife). Die Hard has so many little throwaways it could qualify as a comedy as easily as an action bonanza or, as many fans insist, a Christmas movie. It generously writes a redemption-through-violence for desk cop Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson), but also includes a smaller one for good ol’ limo driver Argyle (De’voreaux White). I’ve used the word “generously” twice now, and that seems to sum up Die Hard as much as any word can. It’s larger than it needs to be (considering it’s practically a one-location thriller), funnier, louder (Michael Kamen’s score bites off big chunks of Beethoven), more human, and sometimes more painful.

People get shot and blown up all over the place here and it’s spectacle, nothing to do with us, but we all know what a piece of glass in our flesh feels like.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 07/10/18 08:52:46
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Trilogy Starters: For more in the Trilogy Starters series, click here.

User Comments

7/16/18 morris campbell classic action flick with a great villian 4 stars
12/24/13 Michelle O 'Yippie Kai Yay" all the way!!! 5 stars
12/21/11 jcar a very good action movie with a great lead in bruce, yippy!! 4 stars
12/21/11 jcar a awesome action movie with great lead in bruce, good movie fun! 4 stars
9/03/10 S. West One of my favourite films EVER, and so funny! Yippee-ki-yay! 5 stars
1/01/10 Dane Youssef Perhaps the first of it's kind. Willis was made for the role. Worth seeing again and again. 5 stars
12/20/09 IndyX If you hate this movie, you hate life. Please kill yourself Now. 5 stars
12/07/09 JPA Classic, brilliant film that never loses its appeal 5 stars
8/20/09 Jeff Wilder The greatest action movie ever? You bet! Action, humor and a heartbeat. Works perfectly. 5 stars
4/13/09 Dane Youssef One of the hallmarks of the whole action genre. The definitive movie of Willis' career. 5 stars
12/04/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome Story! 5 stars
9/22/08 don fun 4 stars
2/08/08 Anthony Feor It's awesome! 5 stars
12/18/07 MP Bartley The greatest action film to ever come out of America. 5 stars
12/06/07 Pamela White Great action and great effects firm plot and bruce is macho 5 stars
10/01/07 J GREAT! Tons of action, omg 5 stars
6/28/07 --- The coolest action movie ever made 5 stars
6/15/07 Vincent Ebriega This is what action flicks are, and should be. 5/5. 5 stars
6/04/07 Quigley Bruce Willis is awesome. This movie totally rocks. An action masterpiece 5 stars
4/18/07 Stevo UK Plot: willis plays american who shoots germans. germans die. willis wins. 5 stars
3/09/07 johnnyfog Cool villain, I actually hoped he would win. Really good movie! 5 stars
2/27/07 key Prick flick rubbish. 1 stars
2/14/07 johnnyfog Rickman's german accent sucks. Otherwise, no complaints 5 stars
12/25/06 William Goss Possibly the pinnacle of the genre. Relentlessly entertaining. 5 stars
12/16/06 David Pollastrini great fx 3 stars
10/20/06 MP Bartley I literally don't know what to add...aprt from the full five fat stars 5 stars
9/22/06 Booksworm This movie FUCKING ROCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
5/11/06 rabdalas Mercy, this is a nail-biter. Non-stop adrenaline ride. 5 stars
2/24/06 ES Best action movie ever- McClane is one cool mo-fo 5 stars
11/22/05 Stefan Halka It's been said before and I will say it again: one of the best action movies. Period. 5 stars
10/26/05 cooler Fuck This is the best action movie ever.FUCK YEAH WILLIS KICKS ASS 5 stars
9/02/05 Eden Probably the best action film ever made 5 stars
8/07/05 Movielover Screw Roger Ebert, this movie is awesome!!! 5 stars
8/03/05 Brandy Harrington iT'S FUN ASS SHIITE! 5 stars
7/26/05 Jake The Citizen Kane of Action movies 5 stars
5/28/05 tony great movie! Action movie lovers watch out because this is the best cop movie in its time 5 stars
5/15/05 Indrid Cold OK on the action, but the characters are fantastic, unforgettable. 4 stars
4/01/05 Richard Box Forget The Matrix . This is the best action movie ever ! 5 stars
2/28/05 Jeff Anderson A great action film & Willis' TERRIFIC! Gleason & Atherton's characters are really STUPID!! 4 stars
1/10/05 keithers.. A hero with realism...and great action 5 stars
10/31/04 G-man great plot, and action.....excellent 5 stars
10/15/04 dave yi pee ki yay mother fucker 5 stars
8/17/04 Herolder Action classic from the 80ies 4 stars
7/25/04 Ron Newbold This is a fun action packed film 4 stars
7/24/04 Jack Reynolds Die Hard is simply my favourite film, although it is serious , it's also very funny! 5 stars
7/24/04 Sandy Turynowicz Have to see 5 stars
7/21/04 arctic Best one of trilogy with great execution 5 stars
7/20/04 godan Great plot, great story, great action! What more can ya ask for? 5 stars
7/19/04 twilliams606 One of the best action movies I have seen. 4 stars
7/18/04 Richard totally awesome - years best 5 stars
7/18/04 Onyeabo Monago Great stuff. So many action movies have bit off of it over the years - with good reason. 4 stars
7/17/04 legend One of the best action films ever. 5 stars
7/17/04 Raymond Lee wow! Love this movie 5 stars
7/15/04 Daveman Gotta love it. You get the feeling everyone had fun making this. 5 stars
5/11/04 J.Peckerfoot The benchmark for all action movies since.Even my mum likes it. 5 stars
4/07/04 Sig An Instant Classic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
12/05/03 Ray I dont feel like writing anything 5 stars
11/27/03 John still the one to beat as far as great action movies go 5 stars
5/11/03 123 great funny action film! 5 stars
2/03/03 Turtle This is the best pure action flick you're ever gonna find. Anywhere. 5 stars
1/13/03 Timothy Dineen BEST CHRISTMAS ACTION FLICK EVER! 5 stars
1/01/03 Britishlover Wow, do I love Alan Rickman! Why oh why couldn't Gruber have won? 4 stars
9/01/02 Charles Tatum Better than part 2 5 stars
8/01/02 Kyle Well then fuck you, Andrew. Who WAS right for the role? 5 stars
7/25/02 CVJ Bloody brilliant one of the best action movies 5 stars
6/04/02 Film Dude Dayum. 5 stars
1/25/02 murat great action you will not sit at your seat! 5 stars
11/24/01 Shams Huque An action pioneering film. Alan Rickman is superb. 5 stars
11/01/01 Andrew Carden Pretty Good Actiomn Movie With Great Visuals, but Bruce Isn't Right For This Role. 4 stars
9/15/01 Monster W. Kung Pure entertainment, but a really good film at that. 4 stars
8/09/01 E-Funk The best shoot-em-up action vehicle. Others try...none achieve. 5 stars
8/07/01 Joe Zappa One of the best action movies. Halliwell can kiss my black ass even though I'm white! 5 stars
7/28/01 Henry Ginsberg Best action movie ever made . 5 stars
6/28/01 Geebo Extremely entertaining. Great performance by both Rickman and Willis. 5 stars
6/06/01 Race Bannon One of the standard-setters of modern action movies 5 stars
5/31/01 Ben Donnelly Magnificent actions scenes, definetely an awesome movie 5 stars
4/12/01 fifu the greatest old style action movie ever. 4 stars
1/07/01 R.W. Welch Unusually good flat-out action flick that manages to retain a degree of believability. 4 stars
12/29/00 EvilDead-Ash THE GREATIST MOVIE EVER WITH 2 and 3 and The Matrix 5 stars
11/14/00 The EVIL Penguin Not the best, but still good 3 stars
10/22/00 YOUR Movie Expert The Unbeatable Original.....Intense and Very Funny. 5 stars
9/22/00 White Rabbit The most influential action movie of all time, but NOT the best 4 stars
8/17/00 Elvisfan Willis was great? Adjust your medication or see a real movie for a fucking change 1 stars
6/24/00 Naushad Khanji a one of a kind action movie that takes your breath away. 5 stars
12/01/99 Trip Changed the face of action movies. A true classic.. 5 stars
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  15-Jul-1988 (R)
  DVD: 07-Sep-2004



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