WolfmanOz at the Movies #48

Yipee-ki-yay, motherfucker

Was the catchphrase used by New York police detective John McClane in the action thriller Die Hard. Since it’s release back in 1988, Die Hard has stood the test of time to be considered one of the best action thrillers ever made. And because of its’ Christmas setting it has become a favourite Xmas movie; and as Xmas is only a few weeks away . . .

The film follows McClane who is caught up in a terrorist takeover of a Los Angeles skyscraper whilst visiting his estranged wife. McClane is of course played by Bruce Willis in the role that made him into a major film-star and over the years Willis would become a caricature but in all fairness he absolutely nailed this role.

It is sad to read now that Willis has been forced into retirement after being diagnosed with aphasia, a disorder caused by damage to the area of the brain that controls language expression and comprehension.

So what makes Die Hard stand out as arguably the best action thriller of the last 40 years ?

Well, at the time, expectations were quite low, Willis was not a major film star and had made his name as a comedic actor in the TV series Moonlighting.

Before Die Hard most action films of the time often featured an invincible hero (eg. Schwarzenegger and Stallone) whereas Willis’ McClane presents as a fairly normal person with failings and vulnerabilities i.e. he was believably human. Of course the irony is that Willis then made a career playing invincible heroes.

The film also starred an unknown Alan Rickman as the charismatic villain Hans Gruber in what was his film debut . . . but what a debut ! Rickman’s silky voice combined with the totally ruthless nature of his character elevated the role to be one of the great screen villains in cinema history.

Rickman would then form a habit of stealing every movie he appeared in and his death from pancreatic cancer in 2016 robbed the world of one of the finest actors of his generation.

The film also boasts a number of terrific action set-pieces that utilised old-fashioned techniques including practical effects and outstanding stunt work i.e. no CGI.

For me, cinema has not produced a better testosterone inducing adrenaline rollercoaster experience that is still as entertaining today as it was when it was first released.