Monday, March 23, 2009

MOVIES: #9 Die Hard I

When Wesley Snipes' movie Passenger 57 came out, the tagline was, "Die Hard on a plane." That says a lot about Die Hard, the 1988 battle between Bruce Willis and some Eurotrash terrorists that begat a franchise ... and not a few imitators.

Die Hard actually produced a very good sequel before the franchise petered out idea-wise. I read the book the second movie was based on last year and thought it felt familiar. Felt compelled to look it up and discovered how right I was. Wish the rest of the series had been based on good books. But enough kvetching.

The original's plot is well known. Alan Rickman's squad of goons and hi-tech flunkies, most with vaguely German accents, take over the Nakitomi building just as its Japanese corporate parents host a Christmas party for the workers there. Included amongst the workers is Bonnie Bedelia's character, who's estranged husband, Willis' John McClane, is on the way to see her. McClaine, a cop when not saving the world from terrorist threats, arrives just in time to slip into the building, just as it's closed up tight.

Once he ascertains who's doing what, Willis conducts a one-man running battle with the bad guys and saves the day, even when the true intentions of Rickman's Hans Gruber are revealed late in the movie. It's the kind of movie that inspired comic books back in the day. In many ways, this movie WAS a comic book, without the longjohns and masks. Very entertaining.

Although this is largely a running battle of wills between the rough and ready McClaine and the snobbish Gruber, other characters had a chance to shine. Reggie VelJohnson played the disbelieving cop, who became McClaine's link to the outside when Willis dropped a body onto his car to get his attention. Great scene. And Hart Bochner had a brief but memorable turn as a weaselly guy.

The movie had more than it's share of memorable scenes and lines. The one that's seems to have outlasted it's original charm was McClaine yelling "Yippie kai yay ..." ending with a sobriquet my mother would rather me not repeat. It's staying power, and that of the original movie, is demonstrated here in the ninth slot on my list.

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