Before 1988, Bruce Willis was known for comedy, especially with the TV show Moonlighting with Cybill Shepherd. Then, in 1988, Willis was reinvented as an action star thanks to a little movie called Die Hard. It’s funny to think now, but back then, no one thought that a guy known for comedy could break out as an action star. In fact, the part was originally offered to many action stars, like Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, and Don Johnson. Little did people know that Willis would go on to lead one of the most successful franchises of all time.
Willis plays New York cop John McClane, who comes to LA to visit his wife Holly, played by Bonnie Bedelia. At an office Christmas party at her company, the Nakatomi Corporation, the two try to reconnect and get back together. As the party’s going on, a group of German thieves led by Hans Gruber, played by the late great Alan Rickman, storm in, start shooting up the place, and take everyone hostage. Armed with a pistol and his wits, McClane must survive the night, stop the thieves, and save the hostages.
Directed by John McTiernan, who previously directed the Schwarzenegger classic Predator, the film is one of the best made/filmed action movies of the 80s. Nowadays, many filmmakers seem to have ADD and usually cut everything so quickly and film too close to the action. Die Hard, however, has all these great sweeping shots that show off the grand spectacle on display, and it’s filmed in a way that puts you right in the action while also letting you see just what’s going on.
While many didn’t think he was right for it, Bruce Willis as John McClane was perfect casting. In a time filled with muscle-bound and indestructible action stars like Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Norris, along comes Willis, who is fit, but not as jacked as Dutch from Predator or Rambo from Rambo: First Blood Part II. Here, he’s just an ordinary guy who’s in a horrible situation and has to make the most of it. As the movie goes on, he gets more and more tired, gets beaten and bruised, and ends up with his feet all cut up with broken glass and limping. Hell, there’s even a scene where he talks to Sgt. Al Powell, played by Reginald VelJohnson, over the radio and tells him what to tell his wife in case he doesn’t make it. It makes him much more relatable, making you wonder what you’d do in that situation.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about Alan Rickman as the villainous Hans Gruber. He is truly one of the greatest bad guys in any movie ever. He’s cold, cunning, and ruthless, but he’s also very suave, charming, and clearly well-educated. He’s not just your average run-of-the-mill bad guy. He has one goal in mind: steal the $640 million in negotiable bearer bonds and make off with it scot-free. It’s also fun to watch him going toe-to-toe with Willis, whether it’s over the radio or when they’re on-screen together.
Die Hard is an important film, not just for the action genre, but for movies in general. It paved the way for many great action movies to come, and it made a superstar out of Bruce Willis. The film went on to have four sequels, some better than others, and began a new era of action films.
Yippe-Ki Yay, MotherF***er!