A quarter of a century ago a small film was released in the UK called “Die Hard” starring Moonlightling’s lead man Bruce Willis as a man in the wrong place at the wrong time – a feat he went on to repeat four more times in the next 24 years. For many Die Hard was the start of a new and exciting type of film that many have gone on to copy over the years and it also made a huge star of Willis across the world.
Why is it that the original film still has so many fans after all these years and what draws us back to it every time it appears on TV? McClane, despite being a police officer, is effectively an everyman in this film trying to defeat twelve bad guys and save his wife on Christmas Eve – what more could you want? The big trick for me is that we see McClane taking the blows and being showered with glass and it actually has an effect on him both physically and emotionally – which you rarely saw in Bond or other action films of this time; he hurts himself and cuts himself showing he is human and vulnerable un like other actin heroes. The other real key is the use of humour in the film. It’s not the cheesy Roger Moore tongue-in-cheek lines instead there is a real dark, cheeky, working class humour being used so again you can identify with him. It does help that the bad guy, Hans Gruber, is played by the fantastic Alan Rickman – his sneering voice and growling of “McClane” make him a great adversary for our good guy.
The film was the perfect popcorn flick and still is and when one is successful you know there will be a sequel – and there have been four so far – with the second and third instalments being great films on their own never mind as part of a franchise. If the original film is my favourite I’d have number 3, Die Hard with a Vengeance as a close runner up. The combination of the sheer scale of the storyline is impressive, but add to that great dialogue and casting with Samuel L Jackson and Jeremy Irons then it makes a wonderful second sequel. The heart is still there at this point as is the humour and the banter between McClane and Zeus makes it one of the best “buddy” action films ever made. Yes, some of the special effects look a little dated now but he story still works and again is something we have seen in many TV shows and films since.
Third on my list would be Die Hard 2 set one year after the first volume when yet again Holly and John find themselves in the middle of a siege. There are plenty of set pieces in terms of action and Dennis Franz is the perfect foil for Bruce Willis to play off of as Captain Lorenzo trying to sort out the problems in the Airport. It still has that claustrophobic feel of the first film and couple of nice little twists too that make it a good action film. The fourth film is next and and I haven’t seen the fifth film yet but for me the shark was jumped a bit in the 4th when it tried to out Bond, James Bond with the Jet vs. The Truck chase – a little too much but still great fun. You do still get that thrill watching a car crash into a helicopter though!
Without Die Hard we possibly wouldn’t have had the TV series 24 or films like Taken and we should at least recognise that they brought the wise cracking, blue collar hero back into the spotlight for these type o films. With a sixth instalment being penned just now, possibly set in Tokyo under the working title of “Die Hardest”, we could be about to see he final instalment of one of the greatest action franchises. So let’s raise a glass to John McTiernan’s direction and Bruce Willis’s “Yippee kay-ay” as it celebrates its 25th anniversary.