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When John McClane visits his wife in L.A.,
A skyscraper party for Christmas Eve serves
To strain the pair more at the end of the day,
As terrorists break in and get on their nerves.
The leader, Hans Gruber, takes hostages fast,
And Holly’s boss, Mr. Takagi, is shot,
But John, a policeman, escapes at the last
Into the air shafts and avoids being caught.
From then on, it’s cat and mouse with machine guns
As John picks the baddies off one at a time.
The “terrorists” turn out to be after funds,
Locked up in a safe that protects every dime.
John gets the attention of one cop named Al,
And soon the police have the building surrounded.
Reflecting on life with his radio pal,
John has to save Holly, although he’s still hounded.
John saves all the hostages from a roof blast,
Though choppers and John’s own bare feet pay a price.
Though the thieves breach the safe, the right timing has passed,
And John and Hans are not about to play nice.
When both John and Holly are in Gruber’s sights,
The tables are turned by some clever gun play.
Hans quickly develops a brief fear of heights,
And John is relieved, having now saved the day.
Both Holly and John can relax from such fights,
At least till the next sequel. Yippee ki-yay!

Often cited as one of the best action movies ever, Die Hard sparked a multitude of sequels and imitators and provided Bruce Willis (John McClane) and Alan Rickman (Hans Gruber) with the most memorable roles of their careers. Considering Die Hard’s immense success and Willis’s well-known action hero appeal, it now seems odd that the studio had doubts about his casting, but until this film, he was only known for his comedic role in the show Moonlighting. Just as Big opened up dramatic possibilities for Tom Hanks, Die Hard crafted Willis’ butt-kicking action star persona. Likewise, this was Rickman’s first film, and his calculating ruthlessness and distinctive voice instantly made him an ideal villain. Sure, he’s played more sympathetic roles (Galaxy Quest, Something the Lord Made, Sense and Sensibility), but he’ll always be Hans Gruber.

Of course, action movies that are nothing but mindless explosions fail (if not commercially, then critically). Amid all the gunplay, we get a welcome peek at John’s marital failings, as well as Al’s past regrets, which provide incentive to root for them beyond the fact that we’re just supposed to.

The film may be 26 years old, but its impressive stunts and explosions have allowed it to age quite well. The unusual Christmas setting and some unique musical choices also stand out; the safe-opening scene somehow became one of the film’s most memorable, thanks to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”

The blockbuster fun is sadly hampered by an overabundance of profanity and F-words (including the film’s most iconic line), not to mention the rampant violence, much of it bloody. Nevertheless, Die Hard is an action-packed favorite (best seen cut) that can be enjoyed at Christmastime and any other.

P.S. Though this doesn’t share the high profile of the recent sad losses of Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall, and James Garner, I feel I should include a R.I.P. for James Shigeta, who played Mr. Takagi. He died quietly on July 28th, just a few weeks ago, having lived a nice long life, unlike his character in this film.

Best line (ignoring the obvious): (Holly, seeing a terrorist’s frustration and knowing John must be alive) “Only John can drive somebody that crazy.”

VC’s best line: (John recalling his wife’s invitation) “’Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…’”

Artistry: 7
Characters/Actors: 9
Entertainment: 10
Visual Effects: 9
Originality: 9
Watchability: 10
Other (language, violence): -6
TOTAL: 48 out of 60

Next: #146 – Out of Africa

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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