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Die Hard (1988)

July 26, 2010

8/10 Shitty Christmases

One of the best one-man-army joints out there, but not quite the greatest action movie ever made.

Die Hard is about a New York City cop who heads out to L.A. for a holiday party at his wife’s office building in the hopes of repairing their already shaky marriage. Then in a total buzzkill move that would make Scrooge think he wasn’t such a bad guy after all, a band of German terrorists crash the festivities, start breaking into the skyscraper’s mega safe, slap the egg nog out of everyone’s hands and hold them all hostage…with the exception of our barefoot enforcer of justice who makes it his business to celebrate Jesus’ birthday by taking these fuckers OUT!

Alright, an 8 out of 10 for Die Hard. Blasphemy, I know. I’m already having visions of the hater comments that are heading my way, but what can I say, the ’80s were some rough years and in one-too-many ways, this was a victim. But let’s take a minute to cool our jets and get into why this bad boy rocks.

Even more so than my man Butch Coolidge, I don’t think Bruce Willis will ever manage to top his role here as the best thing that’s ever happened to the NYPD’s public image, off-duty Officer John McClane. The great thing about McClane – aside from his sense of humor when it comes to chewing out the broads at the LAPD call board and the drawbacks of crawling through ventilation shafts after nearly falling to your death – is that he’s just the real deal. Doesn’t have gadgets like Bond, doesn’t have elite military training like Bourne, he’s just a quick-thinking guy whose only resources against an army of angry Geris that are armed to the teeth are his mitts and his glock. Granted, everyone who’s going after him are all terrible effing shots, but he never really has the upper hand, he’s always vulnerable and he’s the perfect combo of good ol’ braun and brains that this movie needed to drive the plot along.

Yup, McClane’s a total badass and the beautiful thing is that the same goes for Hans Gruber.

I don’t know about you, but I’m of the mindset that Alan Rickman is kinda man. When it comes to smarmy, loathsome and unusually smart sonsabitches, Rickman’s got it down to a science and that’s exactly why he rules as Hans. Man, the way he pops the Nakatomi president like he was swatting a fly was one hell of an intro for a villain and that nonchalant attitude just carries on throughout. This guy’s on a mission, this guy’s not stupid, and even though his American accent is pretty suspect, Hans is a guy that earns our hatred.  Happy trails, indeed.

And, of course, there’s Reginald VelJohnson as the one cop in all of Los Angeles who isn’t a complete jackass or bloodthirsty maniac that’s eager as all hell to relive their days in ‘Nam. Folks, what’s not to love? It’s freakin’ Carl Winslow, the “Big Guy” himself, and I don’t think McClane could have asked for a better right-hand man.

But my issue with Die Hard is that while 90% of it leaves no doubt in my mind why it became the action movie to model your blockbuster after, there’s that other eye-rollingly cliched 10% that totally falls on the other end of the spectrum. When it comes to the dialogue, half of what everyone says is cool as hell and the other half falls flat on its face. For instance, when Carl Winslow points out that “They’re shooting at the lights,” then the Gremans shoot the lights out and Paul Vernon goes, “They’re shooting at the lights,” like it’s his own thought. Well, that’s new. And it is so annoying how every cop other than Carl flat-out refuses to listen to any and all voices of reason. Also wasn’t a big fan of  Karl (the bad one) coming back from the dead at the end only to get offed by Carl (the good one) and his hand cannon when McClane lets his guard down. Ugh, that dude should have stayed dead.

I don’t know, there are just too many things here that just scream “Remember the ’80s!” for me to bump it up to a 9. But this was when William Atherton cemented his place in movie history as The Biggest Douchebag of the Decade (mean that in the best way possible), and that definitely counts for something.

And for the record, Terminator 2 is the best action movie of all-time, then First Blood, then The Professional probably. I’m actually not even sure if this in my Top Five, but as far as one-man-army movies go, Die Hard is a solid number two (unfortunately, John McClane still has nothing on misunderstood psycho-vet John Rambo). But it is the best Christmas movie of all-time, so it’s got that going for it.

All the same, I’m not gonna be That Guy who trashes Die Hard because even though it’s not my #1, it is one of the greats and I ain’t gonna argue with anyone who gives it their top spot. I mean, come on, how about that scene where McClane mistakes Gruber for one of the hostages? McClane’s secret hiding spot for his gun at the end? “Now I have a machine gun. HO! HO! HO?” Unreal. That’s the kind of stuff that more action movies need to borrow from, that’s why this baby stands out and it’s a total blast every time. Just too bad it came out the same year that “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” won the Best Record Grammy.

Love the title though.

27 Comments leave one →
  1. July 26, 2010 2:24 am


    Alright, fine, I see where you’re coming from. The Carl killing Karl (fuck, that’s confusing) thing was a little much, and there was some stuff I could’ve done without, like Argyle telling the bear to shut up. But, there was too much good stuff in it to not give it a ten. Willis’ countless one liners, Johnson and Johnson, that C4 thing he did, HANS GRUBER’S DEATH!

    Then again, I was just a little swimmer in my dad’s balls in the 80’s. My memory of the time is a little iffy, so…

    • July 26, 2010 9:20 am

      Hahaha, good times. Like I said, I can totally understand anyone giving this a 10, after all, that C4 thing was totally awesome.

  2. July 26, 2010 2:52 am

    I have no problem saying that this is my favorite action film of all-time (including war films). I’ve seen it more than any other movie besides maybe Jaws. It’s pure escapist cinema. God knows I’d never want terrorists/thieves to take my family hostage in a skyscraper. However if that were to happen to my family, Die Hard would be a bad-ass way for that scenario to play out (minus the whole Nakatomi getting shot in the face thing). I’m sure that sounds weird. Who knows….

  3. July 26, 2010 3:59 am

    I have to respectfully disagree – it’s probably not “the best” action movie, but it’s up there. It’s certainly the best of the “Die Hard” subgenre it spawned (Under Seige: Die Hard on Boat; Under Seige 2: Die Hard on a Train; and so on).

    But at least we agree it’s the best Christmas movie of all time. Suck it, It’s a Wonderful Life!

    • July 26, 2010 9:22 am

      Hahaha, George Bailey ain’t got SHIT on John McClane. The only Die Hard sub-genre movie I can think of that comes anywhere close to being awesome was Speed (Die Hard on a Bus), but that’s still not quite as good.

  4. July 26, 2010 5:18 am

    Don’t worry dude, Paragraph has your back here! While this IS one of the more enjoyable action films of all time it’s definitely a product of it’s era and so unashamedly laden with 1980s cheese, which will clog up your arteries for sure. Best scene for me was when he’s crawling through the air con “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…” – great delivery.

    I love the film, but it is just a high-budget old balls-to-the-wall, running-on-broken-glass, infinite-bullets, infinite-enemies, commie-undertone 1980s action film.

    Best thing about this was the fricking ace ‘Die Hard Trilogy’ Playstation 1 game!

    • July 26, 2010 7:49 am

      Dude, they really need to remake that game. That thing was so fucking hard, but totally awesome all the same. Glad we’re on the same page here, homey.

      • July 29, 2010 6:25 am

        Playing every single level in the 3rd person shoot-em up is the best! I would JIZZ IN MY PANTS if they made that on a new console.

      • July 29, 2010 6:57 am

        Hahaha. That statement just wouldn’t be the same without the caps lock.

  5. July 26, 2010 5:47 am

    Aiden, you’re right to stick to your guns but I’m saying this knowing full well I’d give Die Hard 10/10. I don’t think the cheesy lines have ever caused me much concern, I’m too wrapped up in the impossible plight of John McClane…and then the ensuing ass kicking! 😉

    • July 26, 2010 9:23 am

      The impossible plight of John McClane is what makes this movie as awesome as it is, but what can I say, I have very little tolerance for the ’80s.

    • July 26, 2010 9:23 am

      The impossible plight of John McClane is what makes this movie as awesome as it is, but what can I say, I have very little tolerance for the ’80s.

  6. July 26, 2010 5:27 pm

    Die Hard is an 80s action/comedy film, that will always be a dude film no matter what.

  7. Johnny permalink
    July 26, 2010 7:34 pm

    Alright I’ll give you the argument between Die Hard and T-2 is debatable but saying The Professional is better than Die Hard is laughable.

    At what point do you say Gary Oldman overacting all over the place is better than Hans Gruber (one of the greatest action movie villains ever)? Or are able to accept how the corrupt cops (or whatever they are in the Professional, they never really do take the time to exposit much in that movie) are so recklessly violent it begs the question of how they have gone unquestioned for so long, but some cops acting stupid in a hostage crisis is too unrealistic?

    With T-2 i’d say, Die Hard has a more empathetic hero (Arnold is a machine after all), better villain, less paradoxical plot/premise, is more fun, and doesn’t drag on like some stretches of T-2 do. But that’s just me.

    • July 27, 2010 8:51 am

      Laughable, huh, Kevin? Complaints are sounding a little nitpicky there, but that’s just me.

  8. July 27, 2010 1:01 am

    Love it and one of the classic action movie of all-time. I still don’t mind watching it on cable from time to time even though I must have seen it 50 times! Agree with you that Leon is better though 🙂

  9. July 28, 2010 5:25 pm

    I get a lot of crap for seeing every Die Hard but the first one. It’s not intentional, but now I have to wait to see with my girlfriend’s family at Christmas.

    • July 28, 2010 6:52 pm

      Sounds like your girlfriend’s family kicks ass. Well done.

  10. July 31, 2010 8:22 pm

    You forgot the limo driver! My favorite part of the whole movie!

    • August 2, 2010 8:30 am

      haha, arguable statement right there, but Argyle did have his moments.

  11. August 2, 2010 3:04 pm

    First off, Aliens > T2. Secondly, I initially had the same problem with the cops but after a few viewings I didn’t see it as much of an issue. If they were competent, John would have no problems to solve.

    I think Die Hard is one of the best constructed action films ever. Each time I see it, I notice a new thread, a tiny little thing they introduce that gets payed off later in the film. Some are obvious, like the photography, but others I didn’t notice until viewings later, like the Rolex. It’s these touches that make Die Hard a great film to me.

    • August 2, 2010 3:07 pm

      What was up with the Rolex?

      • August 4, 2010 11:39 am

        In the beginning, one of the characters makes a big deal about how his wife got a Rolex. At the end of the film, Hans Gruber grabs onto the watch as he falls out of the building., which John then unfastens to save his wife. Yea, it’s a tiny thing but I love how they set it up.

      • August 6, 2010 8:02 am

        haha, never caught that. cool little addition. does that kind of stuff continue on through the next three entries?

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