Die Hard (1988)

I’ve written before about what might be called “comfort food” films, the sort of thing I can watch almost any time, especially when I’m not really in the mood for something new and I just want something kind of old and familiar. To some extent Die Hard is one of those films; it’s not something I’d necessarily go out of my way to watch, I probably wouldn’t think to own or even rent it, but if it’s on TV—as indeed it was tonight—then I’ll most likely watch it, and I know I’ll enjoy it whenever I do. It’s the sort of thing that goes down easily, doesn’t require a lot of brain, and by now I’ve seen it enough times that I know pretty much everything that happens in it. Of course, the fact that it’s made so well is what keeps it eminently rewatchable, and a large part of its success is that it gives a shit about its characters (of whom it has quite a large complement), who are generally played pretty well too; it gave Bruce Willis a pretty iconic big break, plus it didn’t hurt Alan Rickman’s career either (what a good villain he is in this, and doesn’t the now legendary line “yippee ki ay motherfucker” sound even better when he says it), and Reginald VelJohnson as Al, the third primary wheel in the narrative, is good too, there’s such a nice rapport over the radio between him and Bruce. And the whole thing is shot through with some nice humour as well (“Agent Johnson… no, the other one”). But where it really delivers is where it really matters, of course, i.e. the action. Die Hard serves up some pretty extravagant carnage, blood, bodies, shit blowing up… it really is hard to beat this sort of operatic excess (unless you were John Woo around the same period). A classic of its kind, really, the sort of film that lots of other filmmakers will try and knock off but rarely to quite the same effect…

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