Moviedrome Redux: ‘Die Hard’ (1988)

❉ Nick Clement presents his assessments of cinematic gems and cult oddities. This week, we revisit a festive action classic.

Remains a stone cold classic of American cinema. Masterpiece goes without saying. The very definition of timeless. I find so few flaws – if any – in John McTiernan’s ‘Die Hard’. Many, many imitators and copycats have tried to replicate the brilliance of this film and almost all have failed.

From the air-tight plotting to the muscular direction this was an action movie that literally shattered the genre; Joel Silver would never be the same as a producer and it forever changed the landscape of the Hollywood action picture. Jan De Bont’s silky yet robust 2.35:1 cinematography stretched the frame to the max; his work as a cinematographer was always fantastic.

Bruce Willis was both a credible “every-man” hero and the projection of something more – it’s an underrated performance that he nailed in every single respect. The historic screenplay by Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza stressed narrative economy, logical plotting, and ironic humor that never, ever delivered its jokes with a tongue in cheek vibe.

The first blast of bloody violence doesn’t happen for nearly 40 minutes, and it’s close to 20 minutes before the “plot” kicks in. Instead of immediately clobbering the audience over the head with a sensory blast, McTiernan, ever the craftsman, told a story with actual characters and dialogue that was witty and smart and THEN he let the bullets fly and the explosions rip. He knew that none of the violent mayhem would matter if the audience didn’t care. Alan Rickman delivered an essay on big-screen bad-guy charisma.

‘Die Hard’ also marked the birth of Bruce Saving the Day in a stained undershirt POWER and Look at Bruce Make that Grimaced Face POWER and look at all of the sleazy Hart Bochner POWER. This is an unassailable tour de force of thrilling pop corn entertainment that never, ever gets old. It’s a firm example of what I call Grade A Entertainment.


❉ Nick Clement’s latest venture, Podcasting Them Softly, is a weekly podcast discussing a film of the week, new and notable Blu-ray releases, new films in theatres, top five performances and collectibles. 

❉ He is also a regular contributor for MovieViral.com, a site dedicated to providing the best news and analysis on viral marketing and ARG campaigns for films and other forms of entertainment.

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