A formidable presence in the action movie pantheon, the seminal Die Hard remains revered. This 1988 release from John McTiernan is credited with exalting Bruce Willis from that poor bastard nobody’s heard of in festering ballache romantic comedies like Blind Date to that serial kicker of asses festooned in the shitstained vest and old man pants. Quite an accolade. Hairless hero Bruce Willis owes his illustrious cojones to this movie; with the aid of some wanton piss-taking, we’ll see why it’s also a momentous celluloid creation for those of us who don’t presently resemble a pissed-off baked potato.
A proliferation of explosions, excessive ballistics (in both senses in the word. Including the far-superior breast one), shit-tastic German accents and implausible set-pieces abound.
For the uninitiated (which is, we’d venture, unacceptable, and you must sacrifice a wild boar or a worm or something to Thor as penitence to appease his wrath. At the very least, we’d expect you to shave your balls in repentance), Die Hard finds New York cop John McClane visiting his estranged wife in California for the holidays. He arrives at her company’s ostentatious Nakatomi Plaza building (a place of such high caliber they undoubtedly utilize actual toilet paper. As opposed to the kind of terrible seemingly designed to tear in twain under the lightest of pressure at the most inopportune, shitty-fingered moments. Such is our experience of office buildings) during the Christmas party. Simultaneously, a motley menagerie of alleged terrorists commandeer the tower. Having evaded capture as a hostage, McClane must wage a one-man war against these enigmatic aggressors (abetted by sergeant Al Powell, whose aid essentially constitutes fleeting billets doux over a radio. Even so, this is a greater boon than that offered by the Deputy Chief of Police, who contents himself with dicking around on the outskirts of Nakatomi Plaza for an hour or so. Touching himself off camera or something, we’d venture. When feeling particularly vigorous, he’ll spring over to the radio with all the sprightly haste of a young gazelle, to remind our hero that he is, indeed, ‘a little asshole.’ Momentarily glutted on assholery, he then goes for a dump in a nearby hedge), ascertaining their true motives even as he propels numerous bullets into their groins.
As you can surely divine from such a concept, Die Hard flaunts its manly movie credentials before our appreciative vision-glands throughout. The abundance of set-pieces and high noon gun-tacular encounters (“Shoot the glass!”) are superb. One moment, we are dangling precariously in an elevator shaft from a gun hastily wedged into a gap half the size of an asscheek. The next, we are being obdurately pursued by righteously pissed Euro-guys with a ridiculous excess of flowing 80‘s hair apiece (it’s like that bizarre shampoo commercial that aired only in Romania, banned for being too aggressive. Unless that was merely a fleeting, wonderful dream we once had. Even if that were the case, we vehemently maintain that a hair-flip accompanied by a disembodied ‘because hairy bastards with guns are also worth it’ is a fine slogan if ever there was one). The DVD case itself, provided here by free-extras, reinforces one of our grandpa’s old adages: 'When the giant head of Bruce Willis is ON ACTUAL GODDAMN FIRE on the front, you know some top-testicle action business is about to go down.' Such talk, you’ll understand, is why we had to keep hiding the mad old bastard’s gin at the retirement home, but in the case of Die Hard he’s damn right.
So, melodramatic explosions (courtesy, McClane purports, of 'enough plastic explosives to orbit Arnold Schwarzenegger’), gore-infused deaths and other man-tastic shenanigans permeate every second of the movie. But how does it fare in the wanton quip-tastic stakes? Odious puns and other such ballache humor are another bastion of the action movie genre. The more nut-shrivellingly dire the alleged jokes are, the more welcome. Without the aforementioned Arnold (monotone maestro and one-liner machine extraordinaire) at the helm, this effect could be mitigated somewhat. Fortuitously, Willis and Die Hard unleash the cringe with gleeful abandon. Bons mots of choice include the entrenched battle with one opponent, wherein McClane dived for cover under a table; thus his opportunity to strike first diminishes. His foe leaps upon it, and mocks:
“Next time you have a chance to kill someone, don’t hesitate.”
This is met by the startling report of several pistol shots through the table into miscreant-groin, and he collapses in a bloody-meat-mess, limbs akimbo, on the table. The comedic denouement (which is scarcely worthy of this dramatic raconteur-esque retelling) is a fleeting pause, an intrusive close-up, and our protagonist’s acerbic retort:
“Thanks for the advice.” He then added, “How do you like that zinger? My hilarity is boundless. I’m so damn amusing, it makes my balls itch! High five, no-one!”
Except he didn’t.
In sum, then, the quintessential Count Quip-ula endeavors are present and correct. Hilarity also threatens to ensue with the poster of a delectable smorgasbord of topless women, which McClane pauses, while beleaguered by bullet-fury from the haircare product spokesman dudes, to ogle. On two separate occasions. (“I could indeed sustain an impending bullet through the eyeball, but I want to look at some tits.” It would take a special kind of curmudgeon to refute logic like that.)
As such, we’d venture that every crucial element of a great guy’s movie is to be found here. Dancing merrily, with no pants on. The legacy of Die Hard is extraordinary, quite apart from the laughably successful sequels. Its influence on the genre is nigh peerless. Speed is described as Die Hard on a bus, Passenger 57 as Die Hard on a plane, Under Siege as Die Hard on a ship. Such a progeny (of sorts) attests to the great regard the movie held on its inception, and continues to hold. Yippee ki yay indeed (t-shirt design from teetshirts).
For more reminiscence, hit the gallery for some highlights of Die Hard and its vest-erific shenanigans.