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DIE HARD (director: John McTiernan; screenwriters: Jeb Stuart/Steven E. de Souza/based on the novel “Nothing Lasts Forever” by Roderick Thorp; cinematographer: Jan De Bont; editors: Frank J. Urioste/John F. Link; music: Michael Kamen; cast: Bruce Willis (John McClane), Alan Rickman (Hans Gruber), Bonnie Bedelia (Holly Gennaro McClane), Alexander Godunov (Karl–Terrorist), Paul Gleason (Dwayne T Robinson), Reginald Veljohnson (Sergeant Al Powell), James Shigeta (Takagi), William Atherton (Thornburg), Hart Bochner (Ellis), De’Voreaux White (Argyle), Andreas Wisniewski (Tony), Clarence Gilyard Jr. (Theo), Betty Carvalho (Paulina, nanny), David Ursin (Harvey Johnson, FBI agent), Robert Davi (Big Johnson, FBI agent); Runtime: 131; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Lawrence Gordon/Joel Silver; 20th Century Fox; 1988)
“High-tech cartoonish action thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This is the first in the box office hit series, and it gave a needed adrenaline charge to the action pic in the 1980s. John McTiernan (“Predator”/”Last Action Hero”/”The Hunt for Red October”) in a serviceable way helms this high-tech cartoonish action thriller that goes on for too long and is overblown, but adequately delivers the Rambo-like heroics and there’s enough entertainment in the well-conceived set pieces to yell out Yippee Ki-yay with the hero as he saves the day. It’s written by Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza and is based on the novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp.

John McClane (Bruce Willis) is a tough New York City cop with ‘regular guy’ values visiting Los Angeles on Christmas Eve to see his estranged wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) and his two little ones. Holly’s an ambitious executive working for a Japanese company run by the enterprising and well-educated Takagi (James Shigeta). A limousine picks up John at the airport and he meets his wife, who goes by her maiden name of Gennaro, at the office Christmas party in a high-rise LA office building owned by the thriving Nakotomi company. The chauffeur, Argyle (De’voreaux White), decides to wait in the building’s underground garage while John decides whether he will be spending Christmas with his family or at a hotel.

While John waits in another room a gang of about 12 German terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) invade the building and take it over, and murder the security guard and the CEO at the office party to show they mean business. The gang brings along a black computer whiz (Clarence Gilyard Jr.) and heavy duty explosives and missiles, as they intend robbing the well-protected high-tech vault of its $6 million in untraceable bonds and plan on destroying the glass skyscraper and killing the thirty hostages taken and held on the 30th floor when they open the vault–feeling the destroyed building will lead the police thinking no one escaped and would therefore not chase them down.

It’s up to lone-wolf cop John to act as a one-man police force and bring the machine-gun toting terrorists down, but first he must strip down into an undershirt and later go bare-chested as the action intensifies and the bullets start flying all over the place.

The film has a number of secondary characters playing big assholes, that include: the sniveling, coke-snorting self-absorbed Nakotomi executive Ellis (Hart Bochner), who endangers John’s life by foolishly trying to cut a deal with the ruthless bad guys; the stupid and arrogant LAPD deputy chief Dwayne T Robinson (Paul Gleason), who is in charge of rescuing the hostages but only makes things worse by refusing to listen to the info John is feeding him and thereby endangering the lives of the hostages; the FBI replacements of Robinson, who are just as stupid and arrogant but even more callous about endangering human lives; and the media who are shown to be irresponsible and willing to endanger lives just to get a story, as shown how the pushy but inept TV reporter (William Atherton) allows the terrorists to learn the name of John’s wife. It’s only the man of the people, desk sergeant Al Powell (Reginald Veljohnson), who can communicate with John and understand the seriousness of the situation and how deadly are the terrorists they are dealing with.

It’s Richard Edlund’s special effects that gives this violent, loud and explosion-filled film its kick. Also helpful are the winning performances by the hero and villain: the amiable performance by the gruff wise-cracking Willis, who takes a few slugs for the good of keeping the story suspenseful; while Rickman plays to a tee the hiss-able villain who is suave but always as repulsive as a terrorist is expected to be.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”