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Die Hard (1988)

Twelve terrorists. One cop. The odds are stacked against John McClane… That’s just the way he likes it.

Rating: 10/10

Running Time: 131 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 18


200 million years ago, the Earth was ruled by the dinosaurs. Skip forward to the late 1980s and their crown had been passed over to a different sort of giant: the action movie star. Your Arnold Schwarzeneggers, your Sylvester Stallones, your Bruce Willises. Their big, blustering action movies reigned supreme at the box office, and this one – the relentlessly testosterone-fuelled ‘Die Hard’ – is big enough and, er, blustery enough to match any of them. Quite simply, anyone who doesn’t like this movie should make an appointment with their GP first thing in the morning to check that they still have a pulse.

The star man in this one is Willis, who hadn’t even finished severing his ties with the small-screen hit ‘Moonlighting’ at this point, but was all set to make the leap to global mega-stardom nonetheless. He’s the vest-loving New York cop John McClane, and he’s just arrived in California in hope of spending Chrimbo with his estranged wife (Bonnie Bedelia) and kids. Unfortunately though, no sooner has he reached the 40-storey Nakatomi building where the missus works, than the place is over-run by a gaggle of terrorists Hell-bent on making off with the entire contents of the vault. To be honest, most of the staff caught in the crossfire are a pretty useless lot, doing close to sod all to save themselves – so it’s up to McClane to save the day all on his lonesome, armed only with a gun, an array of requisite one-liners, and that ever-present vest.

I can’t really think of any possible way that you could improve upon ‘Die Hard’. Sure, it’s maybe a little long, but John McTiernan’s hundred-mile-and-hour direction (like Willis, McTiernan was also a man operating at the very top of his game in 1988, and was making this just off the back of finishing ‘Predator’) ensures that things never grow tiresome for even a second. There’s marvellous support from Alan Rickman making his big screen debut as the ruthless German baddie Hans Gruber, and for Willis this showcases the role that would come to define his entire career – a role which, even now in 2005, he’s once again on the verge of reprising. There has to be an “old habits die hard” joke that fits in there somewhere, but I haven’t quite worked out where to put it yet.

It's Got: A slightly receding hairline.

It Needs: Someone to write the screenplay for ‘Die Hard vs Alien vs Predator’. I know I’d watch it!!

DVD Extras There’s no shortage of different DVD versions of ‘Die Hard’ doing the rounds, but this 2-disc Special Edition is probably the best you’ll get if you don’t fancy buying the entire trilogy. It’s got an audio commentary, a chance to view the film with a deleted scene re-inserted, multi-camera angle shooting, magazine articles, an ad campaign featurette, a look at the entire shooting scipt, an interactive slide show, and three theatrical trailers. You can’t grumble at that lot. Version reviewed: Die Hard (Two Disc Special Edition) also see Die Hard - The Ultimate Collection ( DVD Extras Rating: 8/10


The best action movie ever? You’ll have a Hard job finding a better one.