Playing his iconic role, Bruce Willis is a New York cop who arrives in Los Angeles during Christmas Eve. He’s not exactly in a holiday mood. Although still married, he and his wife Holly have been living separately for months. He goes to her Christmas office party in the 30th floor of the Nakatomi Plaza. Minutes later, a band of terrorists crashes the party and takes over the entire building. Unbeknownst to the German-talking bad guys, there’s a barefoot action hero running amok. His name is John “Yipee-ki-yay” McClane.

John McTiernan’s Die Hard which turns 20 next year and gives birth to its third sequel today, is something of a rarity. It’s not often a blockbuster movie lives beyond its blockbuster (read: fleeting) life span. The film has weathered the test of time and is now considered one of the best action movies ever. It’s not hard to see why. In actuality, the movie is pretty straightforward (a hero, bad guys, and a building) and yet its simplicity is probably its genius. To me, the most common problem that sabotages action movies these days is the overindulgence to go over the top. You name it – complicated plots, overdone action sequences, overblown production, dependence on special effects, and forced I’m-so-witty dialogue. The higher they aim, the farther they fall. Die Hard, on the other hand, sets limits: it takes place in one location in a matter of few hours. And such limitations are the key to the film’s creativity and success.

There’d be no Die Hard if it weren’t for its likable star – Bruce Willis. There is no action hero cooler or better to root for than McClane. Why? Because he’s just a simple guy. No super powers. Just a matter of instinct, street smarts, and casual humor. These are his “weapons” when fighting the terrorists. He’s like Jack Bauer, only funnier and beats the bad guys in less than 24 hours. Particularly memorable is Alan Rickman, who is deliciously cold-blooded as the master criminal. I enjoyed the way he perfectly delivers his lines with supercilious menace. I also like Reginald Veljohnson in a supporting role. He plays a LA cop, who ultimately becomes McClane’s literally distant buddy. Finally, there’s John McTiernan’s highly taut direction. Once the movie surpasses its slow half-hour mark, the movie is pretty thrilling and suspenseful until the end. There you have it, a classic action picture. It ain’t that hard to be a die hard fan.

Grade: A+

Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson, Alan Rickman, and Alexander Godunov
Based on the novel by
Roderick Thorp
Screenplay by
Jeb Stuart
Steven E. De Souza
Directed by
John McTiernan
Rated R