A classic Christmas tale, “Die Hard” tells the story of a family in crisis. Holly Gennaro McClane (Bonnie Bedelia) has taken a job with a wealthy international corporation and John McClane (Bruce Willis), a New York City police detective, flies to Los Angeles to attend the corporation’s Christmas party with the hope of patching up his strained commuter marriage.
Evil enters the picture when a group of terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Allan Rickman) storms the corporation’s headquarters with the goal of holding the employees hostage to trade for political prisoners. ‘Tis the season....
With the help of an angel — Los Angeles police officer Sergeant Art Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) — and the resolute Holly, John takes on the terrorists. Heroic and action-packed tests of his skill, resourcefulness, bravery bordering on madness, and his love of family ensue. A happy Christmas story ending? You decide.
Perhaps not the typical Christmas film you have seen before, “Die Hard” serves as a vehicle for Willis to demonstrate his action-hero chops with a twist, and it shines brightly in the sky (poor pun intended). Throughout the film John McClane never fails to add a measure of humor — gallows humor, mostly — to his battle against the evil-doers. McClane is a hard-working regular guy, dedicated to doing what’s right. Imagine an extremely mouthy Harry Callaghan.
Known primarily for his comedic roles on television (including an Emmy for his role of David Addison opposite former super-model Cybill Shepherd in “Moonlighting”) “Die Hard” was Willis’s first starring role on film. He received $5 million to play McClane — an unheard amount for an essentially untested film actor. Rumor has it that Frank Sinatra (Frank Sinatra?), Arnold Schwarzenegger, Richard Gere, Burt Reynolds (Burt Reynolds?), and Harrison Ford all turned down the role of McClane.
For Alan Rickman — Harry Potter’s Professor Severus Snape — “Die Hard” served as his breakout film role. It also began his film persona as an arch villain, unfortunately. Although never superstars, both Bedelia and VelJohnson have had long and successful careers in film and television.
A box office hit (earning $140.7 million worldwide) “Die Hard” was the first of a five-film franchise and the film’s title has become a short-hand for describing the basic plot of many other action-hero films. These films were often set in a single location, and pitted a lone hero against a gang (usually) of evil-doers. Think of “Speed” (“Die Hard on a Bus”), “Air Force One” (”Die Hard” on the president’s airplane), and even an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (“Die Hard” on a spaceship). “Die Hard” received critical acclaim, garnering four Academy Award nominations, including Best Film Editing, although Roger Ebert gave the film only two out of four stars.
So, sit back and enjoy some rootin’ tootin’ action (you’ll get it when you see the movie) at a scale and pace that will leave you exhausted and satisfied that this lone American hero — our modern-day cowboy -- can take on a whole passel of bad guys while keeping his sense of humor. Merry Christmas and Yippee-ki-yay, movie fan(s) (you’ll get this when you see the movie, too).