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USA 1988
Directed by
John McTiernan
131 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Die Hard

The worst thing about this benchmark action movie with its combination of gun play, pyrotechnics and comedic one-liners is that it has spawned  innumerable imitators, including, to date, four sequels with no end in sight (a muscle-bound Bruce Willis also became the benchmark action hero).  The best thing is that as populist entertainment at least it’s well done, the use of the song "Let It Snow" over the end credits nicely summing up the jaunty spirit in which the film is offered.

Bruce Willis plays wise-ass New York cop John McClane who has come to L.A. to visit his estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) for Christmas. She has invited him to the office party at her place of employ, the Nakatomi Corporation.  John barely has time to change into a singlet before whaddya know,  in bursts a gaggle of Euro-trash villains headed up by their psychotically evil boss (Alan Rickman) pretending to be a terrorist but really intending to steal the $640 million dollars in bonds and securities held in a high-tech vault.  It’s up to John to stop them.

The function of action movies is essentially to address the fundamental nation-based good vs evil myth pumped endlessly through the discourse of popular culture.  Thus, good is working class America epitomized by Willis’s everyman (read “superman”)  hero McClane.  Evil is the Japanese invader who (to quote the film) as they didn’t conquer America at Pearl Harbour are doing it with VHS players (this was the 1980s when Japan was busy buying  up America and apparently you could take handguns on airplanes) who in John’s case has broken up his family by giving his wife a better paid job than he has himself and effectively broken up his (so to speak) nuclear family.  More immediately it is a baker’s dozen of German-speaking goons (including one Afro-American IT whizz) arrmed with an arsenal of lethal weaponry including a rocket launcher (ya never know when ya might need one!) led by a supercilious mastermind, all of whom, of course are going to be taken down by John aks Roy (Rogers).  Mix in a couple of sub-plots about a goofy limo driver and an overweight desk cop who could with some redemption (both Afro -Americans) and you’ve got a neatly conceived crowd-pleaser for mouth breathers

Director John McTiernan with the aid of cinematographer Jan De Bont delivers the well-staged action  with McClane tossing off bon mots as he wastes the villains (“welcome to the party, pal” he quips to one of his victims) who, needless to say are collectively or individually unable to best our resourceful protagonist.  Thus, so the film says, is evil conquered.Yipee eye-o ki-a!!




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