*for the purpose of this review and in homage to my cinema companion, Bruce Willis will be referred to as Bruiser throughout.
It was a stroke of genius that caused Cineworld Sheffield to put Die Hard in their schedule of classic movies on a cold, dark Monday night in December, a stroke of genius that caused one screen to be completely sold out and a second overflow screen be half full. As it is Christmas and Die Hard is a Christmas film, it’s no real wonder it brought the fans out into the cold.
My companion for the screening had been excited about seeing this Bruiser epic on the big screen again, having first seen it in the cinema under age the first time around in 1988. My day had been full of statements from him such as
“Question: What is the greatest action movie ever made? Answer: Die Hard.”
There was also the musing that he probably knew the script verbatim, a fact proved by him turning to me in during the opening credits and saying “Fist with your toes”.
The story revolves around New York cop John McClane (Bruiser) who estranged from his wife Holly Gennero (Bonnie Bedelia) is invited to LA to her company’s Christmas party on the thirtieth floor of a partially built tower block. Shortly after arriving at the party, McClane freshens up in a bathroom away from the main office, takes off his shirt and tries the remedy for jet lag recommended to him by a fellow passenger. Walking along a rug making fists with his toes, the gunfire and screaming starts. A band of supposed terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) has invaded the building and McClane’s one man fight against the bad guys begins.
There is so much that is great about this movie. The story is so well paced and the characters build layer upon layer of interest as the plot evolves. Every character is useful in some way in the film. In particular, the triangle between McClane, first police officer on the scene Al Powell and Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T Robinson is an example of good cop/bad cop in the extreme.
As well as lots of shoot ’em up, fight ’em, climb the lift shaft action, the dialogue and situations are very funny, all of the actors in cameo parts giving us lovely nuggets of plot and humourous asides. There is also the constant reminder that it is Christmas, from glowing Santa lamps and jolly snowmen on desks dotted throughout the building to the teddy bear McClane has brought to give to his children. This works brilliantly, as the seige of the building, cold blooded killing and massive explosions are so far removed from the season of goodwill and peace to all men.
And so on to Bruiser. In a step on from his role in Moonlighting, McClane is the David Addison character with profanities and guns. He is super cute in every way and the way Bruiser embodies McClane’s wit, guile and vest/bare feet combo create an action hero icon. Who wouldn’t remember McClane on the rescue trail, with his increasingly grubby vest, smart comments and eventually bleeding feet?
Bruiser combines the comedy and violence of the film seamlessly, and ultimately creates a role that would launch him in to the action movie stratosphere. In all, it’s no wonder that 26 years after its first release Die Hard can still sell out a screening. The film is a Christmas gift to action movie fans everywhere. Merry Christmas.