‘Die Hard’ Review: Yippee-ki-yay, Motherfucker

Posted in The Screening Room by - December 02, 2014

It has become the snarky asshole’s answer to the question “What is your favorite Christmas movie?”. Die Hard is a Christmas movie in setting only; it has nothing to do with Christmas and it doesn’t feature the jolly bearded man unless you count Alan Rickman. It the first and last time Bruce Willis was relevant, no offense Bruce but you haven’t made a damn good thing since, and it’s a classic. It meshes action and comedy together seamlessly and relies heavily on Willis and Rickman to carry the film. 

The plot of Die Hard has been ripped off a thousand times by now: the good guy is trapped in a building with a squad of baddies who are gunning for a prize of some sort. It’s a bottle episode put to film but it works fantastically because with a skyscraper there is a large amount of space to work with. The film moves into the vents, the elevator shaft, onto the roof, and even into the underground parking garage. The expanse of Nakatomi Tower is fully exploited by the film and even the most banal of locations serve as memorable set pieces in the film. Rarely has dialogue spoken in a air duct been so quotable. 

The reason Die Hard is so memorable and has been such a successful film over twenty years later is due to Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman. Bruce Willis plays John McClane, a out of place NYPD cop coming to visit his separated wife in Los Angeles. Its clearly the 80s with McClane not understanding the new age ways and free spirits of the California folk. His stereotypically New York attitude comes through with each scene: he’s brash, sarcastic, and unapologetic in every scene. He refuses to conform to the California mindset or give in to the euro-trash terrorist threat. He is the prototype witty action hero that so many actors have copied since and will continue to copy as it works so well.

Alan Rickman is the perfect foil for Willis as Hans Gruber, the Euro-trash baddie that set the gold standard. Rickman is as slimy as he is oddly charming as the nasty villain. He chews up the scenery every time he is on screen with his faux-German accent and sleazy suit. He is the lovable shit head that makes the movie much more memorable than it would have been without him. His portrayal of Gruber influenced many villains of 80s and 90s action films and set the bar high for those who came after him. It’s a true master class to see him on screen as Gruber.

Die Hard is to action films as Alien is to science fiction; it shaped and changed the genre in an undeniable way. Before Die Hard action protagonists were not heavy on quips and one liners outside of Schwarzenegger and Bond films now it is a guarantee that they spout them. Villains weren’t cunning before Die Hard, they were one dimensional, lack luster goons who did little to actually warrant screen time. It has stood the test of time as a classic in the genre, even though the subsequent sequels have been beyond derivative, and stands as a near perfect action film.

Final Say: Watch It

This post was written by

Chris Stachiw is the Editor-in-Chief and co-host of the Kulturecast. He’s a native Californian with a penchant for sarcasm and a taste for the cinematic bizarre. You’ll often find him wandering the wasteland of Nebraska searching for the meaning of life and possibly another rare Pokemon.

Comments are closed.