Reviews: Die Hard

Die Hard With a Vengeance: Simon Says, "Boom!"

Die Hard With a Vengeance is, in some ways, not like the previous films. Instead of it being confined to a single location, the action is spread throughout several different areas. The film uses this to its advantage, staging many different types of fights and situations that would be otherwise impossible. This is a different take on the formula, but roll with it, and you'll find it enjoyable.

The threat in this film comes from a mad bomber with a personal grudge for John McClane calling himself Simon and playing a deadly game of Simon Says with him. After Zeus Carver Samuel L. Jackson saves John's life in Simon's first game, he gets roped into the game, too. Amid the escalating threat and Simon's puzzles, McClane can't shake the feeling that Something's Up. He's right, of course (this is a Die Hard movie, after all), but no one has a single clue to the Plan until about halfway through.

For better or worse, the film doesn't have a lot of filigree. In the first two minutes, we're given some establishing shots of New York, a song in the background, lots of people, and BOOM! A department store explodes. The credits start rolling barely a minute after the last fight is finished. Once the immediate danger of a situation is resolved, we cut to another scene with very little of the aftermath shown, if any. While this ensures a fast pace, one specific problem stands out for me: once John has an inkling of the Plan, we are immediately shown the villains carrying it out in full. Half the fun of the first two films was only finding a little out at a time. Once everything's exposed, some of the suspense is lost.

The characterizations, normally not important in an action film, are fairly good and show some surprising subtlety. A cop that holds up Jackson at one point, while never identified as a newbie, is played so well that it's pretty obvious he's a rookie. The interactions between Jackson and John are excellent and some of the best parts of the film. The minor characters aren't all wholly fleshed out, but they've got subtle actions that imply more to them, like staying with a bomb to the end to try and defuse it.

Although not quite as good as the first two, Die Hard With a Vengeance is still enjoyable. It makes some missteps, but remains a solid film for those who like action movies.

Die Hard 1: I supported the bad guys

First off, this is actually really good. Although things like phones in cars and cruddy T Vs are dated this film isn't and even the effects in this film aren't. It's action packed and funny and far more intelligent than you'd expect from a film named Die Hard. Rather than resorting to cheap one liners, everything comes from much more built up characters and where there are one liners they 1. Tell us something about the people speaking to them. 2. Are very good.

And surprisingly enough, I was very rarely laughing at the film. The action, the drama, the love interest hit the tone perfectly. The only undeliberately funny bit is when Hans Gruber tells one of his German henchmen too 'Schiessen im Fenster' [shoot the window] and the bad guy does nothing, and then Hans yells at him 'Shoot the window!' and he does it :D

All the same, I supported the bad guys. The real shame of the film is that Alan Rickman (and his singing cheerful lock expert) can't be allowed to win in the end.This isn't the slur it sounds like. Bruce Willis' character was very likely and did some pretty awesome stuff. He had a cool young chauffeur and a wise ol' street cop who had quite a nice arc overall. But the bad guys were just better. Even this is to the films credit, the films success above all else comes from giving us some really interesting bad guys. Alan Rickman sells his character completely. Whereas Bruce is interesting in a 'don't need the man, lets talk plain and simple', Alan Rickman is a suave intelligent finessed man who will do what it takes to achieve his goals. All the best lines are Alan's and he plays them to the hilt. Somehow he manages to be as overtop as the greatest card-carrying villain whilst staying completely believable and in it for more than just the evil. He brings a sofa to a pregnant hostage and arranges rotas to the toilet but at the same time he'll 'count to three. There will not be a four' and carefully and precisely informs the crowd that their boss 'will not be joining them for the rest of his life'. His plan is the big reveal of the film and it's Oceans 11 genius.

Even his 'Yippee-kay-yay Motherf****'' was better than Bruce Willis'

Die Hard 2: Is a Normal Christmas Too Much to Ask For?

The setting might be larger, the fight scenes might be more elaborate, the terrorists might be more prepared, and John McClane might get beat up even more, but Die Hard 2 stays in the same spirit as the original, and is just as good.

The switch from an office building to an airport immediately opens up new options, and one of the first instances of this occurs in the very first fight scene, set in a baggage handling area. The irregular environment complicates movement, but the passing bags provide plenty of improvised weapons. The suspense of the first film is intact here, even though the area isn't locked up. Even more hostages factor into the situation - any one of the eighteen planes probably carries more than thirty people - but it's presented well enough.

The terrorists in this film are much more straightforward in their intent than Gruber's group, but that doesn't mean their plan is any less complex. Oh, no, they've got a scheme involving old airport blueprints, a fake air traffic control, and even an assault on their base of operations. In fact, things they didn't prepare for that aren't named "John McClane" are basically nullified by the stuff they did plan for. Again, like the first film, this is all believable, if a little bit more strained.

The fights are now bigger and more complex, while still remaining within the bounds of belief. This even includes the climactic fight on the wing of a moving jet: the characters strain a little in the wind and they need to be careful about their footing, as one bad guy shows when he slips onto the engine and pulled into the turbine. Even when McClane gets hurled from the wing, it's a while before he can do much more than deliver his catch phrase.

In spite of everything being bigger and maybe just a little less real, the characters keep everything grounded. They act realistically, are consistent with themselves, and John and Holly McClane both acknowledge the odds of such an incident happening twice. The resident jerk cop who opposes McClane even gets some character development, softening up a bit near the end and tearing up the parking ticket McClane got at the beginning with a "Merry Christmas!"

All in all, Die Hard 2 is an excellent sequel to an excellent movie. It keeps what was good about the first intact while adding stuff of its own.

Die Hard 1: Worst. Christmas. Ever.

It's simple: terrorists have taken over a high rise in the middle of a Christmas party, taken all the people inside hostage, and the only man who can stop them is John McClane, a cop who happened to avoid their sweep. Oh, and his estranged wife is among the hostages. However, Die Hard does so much more with this that it's obvious why it's a classic.

The suspense in this film is amazing; it's obvious the terrorists put a lot of planning into the takeover of Nakatomi Plaza, but they always manage to top themselves. Police called in and surrounded the building? Not only have they prepared for it, it's an important part of the plan. Even when McClane has taken out half of them, they stick to their plan, and come this close to succeeding. However, it's never quite so prepared that you think they have ESP or something; they just have a man with a really good mind on the job. However, they take a while to show up, and then we don't know they're the bad guys apart from menacing music; but once they start doing their thing, the questions start coming.

There's a lot of intensity in the film, even if the scenes aren't action. For example, in one scene, McClane's slowly climbing down a ventilation shaft, using his gun and its strap as rope. As he reaches for a vent, we're treated to several shots of the strap slowly... slipping... out of the gun. Even when he's in the ducts, his troubles aren't over. A Genre Savvy terrorist assumes he's in the vents and perforates a ceiling duct - which just happens to be the one McClane's in. He narrowly misses, but starts feeling if someone's in there, and gets called off just in time. Stuff like this keeps the film rolling until the end.

Part of what keeps everything so tense is our astonishment that McClane's still standing, even after getting beat up numerous times, shot, and even running across broken glass in bare feet. He'd like nothing better than to just sit and wait for the police to solve everything, but by then it'd be too late - it's all up to him to stop the bad guys, so he keeps on truckin'.

Throughout all of this, part of what keeps Die Hard good is the fact that it never goes too over-the-top. Everything stays relatively believable, bringing the action down to earth, or at least the top of an office building.