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Die Hard (1988)


New York City Police Detective John McLane wants to have a Merry Christmas. He’s travelled to Los Angeles to reconcile with his wife and generally enjoy a lovely office Christmas party there. Unfortunately, a group of international terrorists have other plans, but they’re about to learn a hard lesson: don’t mess with a New York cop’s Christmas.

Yippie-ki-yay.

Die Hard is an action film directed by John McTiernan, based on Roderick Thorp’s novel Nothing Lasts Forever. It stars Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson, and Paul Gleason.

When John McLane arrives in Los Angeles, all he wants to do is relax and make things right with his wife Holly. However, while he’s in her office in Nakatomi Plaza, freshening up for her office Christmas party, a group of terrorists led by Hans Gruber take over the building, taking the other guests hostage, including Holly. McLane’s Spidey senses start tingling almost immediately, and he eludes Gruber’s henchmen as they search for any stragglers. Gruber presents his little band of merry men as working towards various extremist goals, but it is soon revealed that their goal is more local in origin. However, McLane isn’t going to stand for their shenanigans. He might be technically off-duty, but being a cop is in his blood, as Gruber & Co. learn as they find themselves matching wits with this unknown variable.

When this movie was first released, it was innovative for a number of reasons. First, John McLane was more or less an average guy. Yeah, he was a cop, and yeah, he took a lot of punishment, but he got injured. He got tired. Second, up till this point, Bruce Willis had been known as a comedic actor, and the switch to action raised a lot of eyebrows. Fortunately, he took well to the role, offering wisecracks as half the people in the building were trying to hunt him down, in sharp contrast to Rickman’s wily Hans Gruber, who is all business and comes to hate this particular monkey wrench with the burning intensity of a thousand desert suns. McLane is resourceful and crafty in addition to being a trained bruiser; the ability to solve problems with his brains rather than shooting everything to pieces is a skill that not many modern action heroes possess. The other terrorists appeared to only be there to add more menace to McLane’s plight, but Holly Gennaro-McLane had a number of scenes that indicated that either she and her husband were made for each other, or someof his attitude had rubbed off on her.

The plot was well-crafted as well. While Die Hard established a template since used by a number of action movies throughout the 80s and 90s, here it is chock full of twists and turns that keep even seasoned action fans on the edge of their seats, as McLane makes his way through friendly territory turned enemy territory, trying to stay one step ahead of the bad guys who would just as happily kill him as kill any of the hostages, if it would remove more more obstacle from their plan. It’s a simple plot, yes, but a delightfully twisty one.

If you want to see the movie that kicked off Bruce Willis’ long, well-earned journey into badasshood, pick up Die Hard. It’s the movie that kicked off a hundred “Die Hard on Whatever” plots, and it remains the best out of all of them.

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