Then & Now: Die Hard

Geoff Harris

New York City Detective John McClane is invited by his wife, Holly, to “come out to the coast and have a few laughs” at her company’s Christmas party. Holly works at Nakatomi Plaza, a high-scale brokerage firm.  While looking for somewhere to unwind after a long flight, John is separated from the others by the arrival Hans Gruber and a band of heavily armed mercenaries hell bent on robbing the place of 640 million dollars worth of bearer bonds. (As explained in the movie, their value transfers to whomever is currently owning them and they are exchangeable all over the world.) Our hero goes down a rabbit hole of guns, violence, and explosions. One man, against the odds, fights to protect the innocent.


It was a bit of a weird moment seeing Bruce Willis, that funny guy from Moonlighting, in a slam-bang action movie. He just didn’t seem the type. Yes, his character on the show had a bit of a macho streak but not so far as your testosterone fueled musclemen of previous films. I’d watched almost all of those bullet bonanzas like everyone else. Although I must say I was more partial to the martial arts flicks, especially those of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. Die Hard proved itself to be something different. A little less mindless and a tad more plot and character development. It had a nice sense of pacing to it. You felt like you were there with John McClane as he battled his way to a final confrontation with Hans Gruber, masterfully played by Alan Rickman. I was really entertained and left feeling satisfied I hadn’t wasted my money on a clunker. Die Hard would spawn a row of sequels, each chasing the dragon cherry rush of the original. They all failed in their own ways.


In 2018, Die Hard turns 30. It’s aged well. It can still hold the imagination although weary eyes will start seeing the cracks. I could go on and on for a few paragraphs about plot and how it relates to story, but I won’t. Die Hard has several really good bears to it. There’s a formulaic flow to how it moves the narrative. You really come to sympathize with McClane. The guy has very short moments of calm and rest before getting swept along the current and down the river of crazy he has found himself in. One beef I do have is; if he’s an NYC cop, what the holy crap are they feeding those guys back in The Big Apple? He’s a one man army using commando tactics and outlasting wave after wave of physical and mental punishment. Of course we do have the “picking glass out my foot while I express my feels” moment which will become a go to of movies that follow. Real men have feelings too. At some point in a Steven Seagal flick, he’s going to get all preachy and spew some horseshit about equality for (insert x) and then continue ripping people’s arms out their sockets.

Before I get accused of tearing this movie a new one, let me say Bruce Willis was actually really good. He was funny, charming, and held his own fairly well. Having said that, Alan Rickman could read the McDonald’s menu and make people weep. The man was gold and he continued to just get better until his passing. Willis, however, has degenerated into a narcissistic “joe job ham and egger” who phones it in better than a store mannequin brought to life by an Egyptian curse. You hearing me, Bruno? What the hell happened that made you so cold?

Die Hard is a complete fun-fest. I watch it as one of my Sunday afternooners. It’s like an old friend. You’ve heard all his jokes…listened to the same stories…walked the path enough to know where the bumps are…but you welcome them back because they are familiar.


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