As the years have gone by, the heroes have become less McClane-like and become, again, Ramboesque demigods. This goes for McClane, too. In the first Die Hard film, he looks genuinely terrified as he stares down from the roof of the Nakatomi building, preparing to jump. His wisecrack, which he utters as he climbs atop the balustrade, comes out like a whimper: “I promise I’ll never even think about going up in a tall building again.” When confronted with a similar plunge in the fifth film, however, the now nearly sixty-year-old McClane simply leaps out the window, trusting (quite appropriately, as it turns out) in his own invulnerability.
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If I had to guess, I’d say I’ve seen Die Hard (1988) fifty times in my life. Maybe sixty. I haven’t kept track. The first time was when I was four. The most recent was last week. I don’t fully understand the attraction myself. The movie is filled with clichéd characters, improbable stunts, and overly broad jokes. The plot is patently absurd. Bruce Willis plays John McClane, a New York cop who comes to Los Angeles to reconcile with his estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia). He shows up at her office Christmas party – held in a Century City skyscraper – grabs a drink, and goes to the bathroom to change clothes. Before he can get his shoes back on, a gang of West German terrorists has taken over the building. The baddies are led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), a svelte, sphinxlike sociopath, who reveals their true intention: they aren’t terrorists at all but robbers, using the armed takeover of the building as a distraction so that they can drill into the vault. McClane – shirtless, shoeless, and low on cigarettes – is the only person who can stop them. His methods include machine guns, hand-to-hand combat, throwing C-4 down an elevator shaft, concealing a Beretta handgun on his back using Christmas tape, and leaping from the top of the building tied to a fire hose. In one scene, he dangles in a ventilation shaft, forty floors off the ground. Suddenly, the buckle of his strap breaks, and he falls – one floor, two floors, three floors – before catching the edge of an airshaft with his fingertips. Even as a kid watching this scene I couldn’t help but think: “Bullshit!” But my affection for the film has never wavered. I love it unreservedly, despite its faults, the way a parent loves a child.
That child turns thirty this year – the film premiered on July 12, 1988 – which means that it can now be judged, like any full-grown adult, on serious terms. How does Die Hard look at thirty? Some movies are ageless. Alien (1979), despite all the clunky computer technology on display, looks as fresh and as frightening as though it came out last week. Die Hard is not such a movie. It bears the imprint of the Reagan years as indelibly as Easy Rider (1969) bears the imprint of the Age of Aquarius. The fashion choices scream 1988: bouffants like brier patches on the women, shoulder pads like football gear on all the jackets. Anxiety about Japanese hegemony rears its head in the form of the Nakatomi Corporation, though the filmmakers – no doubt leery of any hint of racism – are careful to make the only major Japanese character, Mr. Takagi (James Shigeta), not just a model minority but a veritable saint. And like every other white movie cop from 48 Hours (1982) to Se7en (1995), McClane has to be given a black partner. The twist in this case is that McClane and his partner, Al (Reginald VelJohnson), don’t actually meet in person until the end of the movie, bonding by CV radio until then. The filmmakers are careful to portray the African American characters in a kindly light. In addition to Al, these include Argyle (De’voreaux White), McClane’s fast-talking limo driver; Theo (Clarence Gilyard Jr.), the terrorists’ wisecracking computer wizard; and FBI Agent Johnson (Grand L. Bush), who also gets to be half of a biracial partnership. The joke is that the white FBI agent is named Johnson, too. It’s the black Johnson, though, who delivers the punch line when they’re first introduced: “I’m Agent Johnson. This is Special Agent Johnson. No relation.”
It’s stray witticisms like that that alert you to the fact that Die Hard is not merely another action movie. The film, unlike its many sequels, is self-aware enough to poke fun at its own clichés, even as it enacts them. It is strewn with scraps of pop culture jargon and littered with references to other movies, particularly Westerns. If the first wide shot of the Nakatomi building – standing alone on the horizon, like a butte in Monument Valley – doesn’t give it away, the dialogue certainly should:
“You know my name, but who are you? Just another American who saw too many movies as a child? Another orphan of a bankrupt culture who thinks he’s John Wayne? Rambo? Marshall Dillon?”
“How about you, cowboy? How many kids you got back on your ranch?”
“Do you really think you have a chance against us, Mr. Cowboy?”
“Happy trails, Hans.”
And, of course:
“Yippee ki yay, motherfucker.”
The story, as you may have already noticed, bears a striking resemblance to the plot of High Noon (1952), the iconic, McCarthy-era Western starring Gary Cooper. Both films have a lone law officer for a hero. Both heroes have an estranged wife whom they have to win back. Both men try, before doing anything else, to seek out the help of others – fellow policemen as well as civilians – only to be spurned by their putative allies. And both films end with the villain holding a gun to the head of the hero’s wife, forcing him to surrender. The parallelism is so obvious by this point that even Hans can’t help commenting on it. “This time John Wayne does not walk off into the sunset with Grace Kelly,” he says. McClane is not about to let such an obvious gaffe go by without remark: “It was Gary Cooper, asshole.” What an unfortunate blunder for Hans to have made. If he’d had a better memory for American Westerns, he would have remembered that in High Noon, Grace Kelly tears herself from the clutches of the outlaw, Frank Miller, thus giving Gary Cooper time to draw his gun and shoot Miller down. This, needless to say, is precisely what happens to Hans barely thirty seconds later, proving that the key to surviving an action movie is a thorough knowledge of other action movies.
In one respect at least, Die Hard improves upon the original: it has an excellent antagonist. The problem with High Noon is that it spends seventy minutes building Frank Miller up to be the most fiendish and frightening creature in the West only to reveal (surprise) that he’s just a guy in a cowboy hat, and not a particularly threatening one – the single indication of his inner odiousness being his scar-covered face. Die Hard, on the other hand, has Alan Rickman, who plays Hans with serpentine relish. Indeed, so successfully did Rickman brand himself as a bad guy that for about the next half decade, Hollywood couldn’t seem to find anything else for him to do. Rickman suffuses Hans with an air of condescension, as if his own preposterous plot (and that of the movie) was beneath his dignity. When he finally gets on the radio with the police and begins negotiating for the release of his “comrades in arms languishing in prison around the world,” he has to cover the mouthpiece to confide to his terrorist colleague, “I read about them in Time Magazine.” You sense that there are any number of places Hans would rather be, and things he’d rather be doing, than robbing the Nakatomi building. He even looks bored firing a machine gun. It is this regal distain that makes Hans such a fun bad guy to watch and, simultaneously, such a good foil for Willis’s smartass cop. If the performance has a flaw, it’s that Hans, with his expensive suit and perfectly clipped beard, seems more like a member of the British aristocracy than a Baader-Meinhof-style terrorist. Rickman can’t always keep ahold of the German accent, for one thing. And how many terrorists do you think really go around quoting Plutarch?
The film’s stroke of genius was to have McClane and Hans talk back and forth via walkie-talkie, while McClane roams the building, eluding Hans’s henchmen. The problem in High Noon wasn’t that Ian MacDonald gave a poor performance as Frank Miller, but that he hardly gave any performance at all. He doesn’t appear onscreen until ten minutes before the movie is over. He’s simply a guy for Gary Cooper to shoot at. By putting McClane and Hans in contact with one another from early on, the creators of Die Hard allow hero and villain to develop a relationship over the course of the movie, fencing with one another verbally, like two chatty chess opponents, while they carry on their battle. This fleshes them out as characters and makes each of them compelling in his own right. One of the strengths of the film is that it convinces you to root for hero and villain at the same time. When Hans finally cracks open the vault, the moment is triumphal, joyous even. Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” swells on the soundtrack, and the camera booms up to Hans’s face. For the first and last time in the movie, he looks positively beatific.
At this point, something should be said about action movies, the knuckle-dragging Neanderthals of the cinematic species. Action movies are, by and large, seen as lowbrow fare – or, at least, lower-brow fare than dramas or comedies – the unspoken consensus being that while drama feeds the intellect and comedy tickles the wit, gunplay and fisticuffs merely stimulate the alligator cortex. But what is an action film? Uncommon Valor (1983) is a war movie, The Terminator (1984) is a science fiction film, Silverado (1985) is a Western, and Die Hard is a cops and robbers movie, but on Netflix they’re all filed under “Action.” In Action Movies: The Cinema of Striking Back, Harvey O’Brien attempts a capsule definition:
[An action movie] allows the audience to perceive the components of action: the struggle to overcome obstacles, to enact motion and to embody the will involved in any given scene or even any given (moving) image … Action heroes respond to mortal threats directed at their weaknesses, overcome obstacles of increasing difficulty, and finally face (and vanquish) their nemesis to transform the world for the better1.
That might easily be mistaken for a précis of Die Hard, so exactly does it describe the movie and its hero. If anything, O’Brien’s definition is too specific to Die Hard and not general enough to cover other commonly accepted action films. For one thing, not all action heroes vanquish their nemeses. William Wallace didn’t vanquish King Edward I in Braveheart (1995); Butch and Sundance defeated neither the Bolivian army nor the American posse that was tracking them; and when Bonnie and Clyde fought the law, the law won. More important, McClane is not a prototypical action hero, at least for his generation. American action stars of the ’80s tended to be superhuman – thus the appeal of both a Terminator and a Robocop – and supersized. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone may have responded to mortal threats, but rarely did they have mortal weaknesses. They were strength personified. Critics derided their acting abilities, but their affectlessness worked to their advantage. Good actors emote, express vulnerability. Audiences in the ’80s wanted invulnerable heroes. The Terminator isn’t merely unfazed by bullets; he’s equally unfazed by emotion. Rambo and the various characters played by Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal, and Jean-Claude Van Damme are barely more human. True, there’s Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford). He, at least, looks as if he knows how to read. But as far as I can tell his single weakness is ophidiophobia, a liability only for someone who falls into a pit of snakes, which, of course, he does.
The trend toward invulnerability really began earlier, though, in the 1970s, with Dirty Harry (Clint Eastwood), a Robocop avant la lettre: a fearless, humorless, semi-fascistic policeman dispensing justice through the barrel of a gun. Cultural historians, seeking to explain this phenomenon, generally trace its origin back to the Vietnam War and the resulting shame that it heaped upon the national psyche. America gets pummeled by a tiny, Asian backwater, and so American culture, the nation’s collective id, responds with a lot of ego-boosting self flattery, showing off how tough and manly Americans can be. (“Remasculization” is the term that academics often use for it.)2 A less common – though certainly not contradictory – explanation is that it was rooted in women’s liberation. That is: replace the words “Vietnam War” with “women’s rights movement” and “national” with “male” a couple sentences above, and you’ll have the source of the anxiety that prompted all that remasculization. Whatever the cause, American action heroes of the ’80s were macho to the point of absurdity.
McClane, refreshingly, isn’t. When the terrorists take over the building, the first thing McClane does is run away, and he keeps running for the rest of the film. The bad guys always bring the battle to him, rather than the other way around, at least until the very end, when McClane has to rescue his wife from Hans. He’s no Terminator. Neither is he Robocop nor Rambo. His hairline is receding; his body size is average; he smokes; he curses when he’s hurt; he stops to check out nudie pictures on the go; and he’s afraid of flying. Knocking off nearly a dozen terrorists single-handed sounds fairly impressive, but by ’80s action standards it was comparatively pacific. This is why Bruce Willis, not some established action star, got the part. “All of these people rejected it,” explains Die Hard’s screenwriter Steven de Souza, “because, remember, this is 1987. You had all these Rambo movies. We’ve had Commando, Predator, and in the wake of all of these, the hero, they said, was like a pussy. The reaction? ‘This guy’s no hero.’ Right? In desperation, they went to Bruce Willis.”3
Willis, however, brought something to the role that had been absent from action movies for a long time: humor. Stallone, Seagal, Norris, and Van Damme are only funny by accident. Schwarzenegger, so far as I can tell, has been genuinely funny once. (It occurs in Terminator 2: Judgment Day . Instructed by the boy he’s protecting to stop killing people, he promptly pulls out his pistol and shoots a security guard. Schwarzenegger’s explanation, delivered in his faultless monotone: “He’ll live.”) McClane, on the other hand, recognizes the humor of his predicament from the start. Early on, he tries to call the police via walkie-talkie, only to have an operator explain to him that he’s dialed into a channel reserved for emergencies. “No fucking shit, lady,” McClane retorts. “Do I sound like I’m ordering a pizza?” His introduction to Hans, after knocking off three of his flunkies, is equally irreverent: “I figured since I waxed Tony and Marco and his friend here, you and Karl and Franco might be a little lonely, so I wanted to give you a call.” Much later, at the end of the movie, when Hans has McClane’s wife prisoner, McClane staggers toward them, blood flowing from a wound on his bicep while he limps from the shards of glass in his feet. “Hi, honey,” he calls out, as though returning from an ordinary day at the office. In this way, McClane is a throwback to earlier action heroes. He’s imperfect and impolite, but he’s always a bit lighthearted. In the ’50s, he probably would have been played by William Holden; in the ’60s, by Burt Lancaster; in the ’70s, by Burt Reynolds. Nobody else in the ’80s, however, could have played him as well as Willis did.
At the time, though, Willis was no one’s first choice for the role. Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Richard Gere, Burt Reynolds, and James Caan all turned it down before it was offered to Willis, who had a single starring film credit to his name, the vapid romantic comedy Blind Date (1987). His sole claim to fame was the television show Moonlighting (1985-1989), in which he acted opposite Cybill Shepherd. Before that, he’d been a bartender. Willis, incredibly, demanded $5 million to appear in Die Hard, more than most major movie stars were receiving at the time. The studio balked, offering first two and a half, then three million dollars. Willis, however, wouldn’t budge. “There was a seminal moment where there was a number on the table,” his agent, Arnold Rifkin recalled. “There were people who thought he should take it, and they got their chance to voice their opinions. Bruce asked me mine. I just said, ‘Look, I’m not going to tell you I know for a fact we’re going to get it. It’s a risk.’ He said, ‘Go for it.’”4 The studio blinked, forking over the money, thus launching star salaries on an upward trajectory that wouldn’t level off for more than a decade. As screenwriter Steven de Souza explains, “Literally, the next day Richard Gere said, ‘How did this guy get $5 million, which is more than I got from my last picture and I’ve been nominated for awards.’”5 Willis maintained an air of nonchalance throughout the production. When a friend wondered aloud whether he would be able to carry such a large action movie, Willis blithely batted his concerns aside. “Oh, Glenn,” he said, “it doesn’t matter. They’re paying me so much money that even if it doesn’t work out I’m okay.”6
The studio, Fox, initially had little more interest in producing the movie than they did in hiring Bruce Willis to act in it. Of course, if they had produced it then, Willis would have been a quarter-century too young for the part. McClane, in the film’s original treatment, submitted in 1978, is forty-eight years old. His name isn’t McClane, either. It’s Joe Leland. Nor is Hans Hans. He’s Anton “Little Tony” Gruber. The treatment was adapted from a bestseller by Roderick Thorp, whose 1966 novel The Detective was made into a film with Frank Sinatra in the Leland role. In it, Leland searches for a murderer in New York’s gay subculture, exposing police corruption and closeted homosexuals, while simultaneously dealing with his own marital woes, mostly resulting from the fact that his wife is a nymphomaniac. The sequel, Nothing Lasts Forever, finds Leland widowed and retired. He comes out to L.A. to visit his daughter, who works for an oil conglomerate in an office tower on Wilshire Boulevard. The rest of the story remains more or less the same: the Christmas party, the terrorists, the barefoot hero, the buddy cop on the outside, and the thrilling finish, with Gruber dangling from the top of the building. Only, in the original treatment, Gruber pulls Leland’s daughter down with him, after which Leland is killed by gunfire. Fox wasn’t thrilled with the story. “Whatever the point of this novel is, it escapes me,” the script analyst wrote in her coverage. “As a theme, it seems rather distasteful. The killings are especially gruesome, particularly those involving two young girls.” The conclusion, nearly shouted in capital letters: “NOT RECOMMENDED.”7
The novel was brought up for consideration again in 1983, and again it was rejected. The problem wasn’t simply the gruesomeness of the ending but that the story itself seemed out of step with the times, a dark ’70s thriller trying to make its way in the more buttoned-down ’80s. (The terrorists of the novel, far from being thieves, are anti-corporatist radicals who storm the high-rise so that they can expose the misdeeds of the Klaxon Oil Corporation and dump millions of dollars in cash out the windows.) The film’s saving grace turned out to be a near accident on the 134 Freeway. After struggling fruitlessly on the script, which had been optioned by Fox in 1986, screenwriter Jeb Stuart came home for dinner one evening, got in a fight with his wife, and stormed out of the house, on his way back to his office. En route, a refrigerator tumbled out of the truck ahead of him, only – to his relief – to flatten when he hit it, instead of cratering his car. “I pulled over to the side of the road, and suddenly I thought, ‘I know what this movie is,’” he remembers. “It’s not about a 65-year-old man whose 40-year-old daughter gets dropped off a building. It’s about a 30-year-old guy who should have said he’s sorry to his wife, and then bad stuff happens. I went down to Disney that night and wrote 35 to 40 pages of the first draft.”8
From there, the project took off. “I turned it in on a Friday and took my family to Carmel,” Stuart recalls. “When I got back on Sunday night, my answering machine was full.”9 Joel Silver wanted to produce it. He also provided the title, either (according to Silver) coining it himself or (according to others) stealing it from Shane Black, who’d used it as the title of another screenplay he’d offered Silver. The hero got a name change, too, becoming, first, John Ford – there was a mural of director John Ford on the Fox lot that Stuart used to pass each day – and then John McClane. It was director John McTiernan, hired by Silver after Paul Verhoeven declined the project, who came up with the last major alteration to the story:
I said, “The central problem here is that terrorism is not entertaining. There’s no fun in this. No one feels good about it.”… I asked, “Is there a way we could make this a robbery?” Everybody likes robbers. They’re good bad guys. They’re fun bad guys. There’s a basic change in the dynamic.10
The film, in the process of being rewritten, had been effectively transformed from a ’70s action movie – steely, cynical, eager to make a social statement – into an ’80s action movie: a slick, jocular piece of brain candy, full of jokes, explosions, and bad guys who can be offed as guiltlessly as gnats. In the final scene, as McClane and Holly embrace in their waiting limo, office paper wafting from the heavens like snow, the camera catches their kiss in radiant silhouette through the back window. It’s schmaltzy enough to make the ending of Pretty Woman (1990) look comparatively hard-edged. Even after the spiffy makeover, though, the film retains some of the dirt of the ’70s under its nails. For all its good cheer, Die Hard has a decidedly anti-authoritarian bent. The early ’80s were full of similarly recusant films – Escape from New York (1981), First Blood (1982), The Road Warrior (1982) – but, by the latter half of the decade, action heroes all seemed to have been co-opted by the establishment. In the second and third Rambo films, Stallone fights for the U.S. government, as does Tom Cruise in Top Gun (1986), Kevin Costner in The Untouchables (1987), and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator (1987). Die Hard, by contrast, takes a sledgehammer – or perhaps just a sharpie marker – to the pillars of American civil society. The police are morons, the newsmen are liars, the business execs are sharks, and the FBI are reckless adrenaline junkies. “Figure we take out the terrorists. Lose twenty, twenty-five percent of the hostages, tops,” white Johnson shouts to black Johnson as they begin their helicopter raid on the Nakatomi building. “I can live with that,” black Johnson replies, as though he’s been given favorable odds at the dog track.
This is the film’s biggest flaw, which is disappointing because the macho nationalism of Rocky lV (1985) and Top Gun (1986) is fairly exasperating in its own right. Die Hard simply swings too far in the other direction, turning its supporting characters into caricatures merely to mock them. The worst offender is Harry Ellis (Hart Bochner), Holly’s coke-snorting coworker. From the moment that hideous, kazoo-like laugh issues from his lips you know that he’s not just going to chew the scenery; he’s going to try to eat the office furniture whole and make a mess doing it. He enunciates every word as though it’s the punch line of a joke, adding a mile-wide grin to make certain you catch his drift. “Hans! Bubbie!,” he exclaims, sauntering up to the terrorist-in-chief as if he were an old yeshiva buddy. “I’m your white knight.” The real fault here lies not with Bochner, nor the other supporting actors, but with John McTiernan, the director, for failing to rein the actors in, and with Steven de Souza and Jeb Stuart, the movie’s screenwriters, for filling the film with so many outlandish idiots in the first place. How many deputy police chiefs, after all, when confronted with a hostage situation, wouldn’t want the help of a cop on the inside? How many limo drivers would blow off their jobs just to sit in a parking garage for hours, on the off chance that their last customer needs a ride to a hotel? Even the most reckless, gung-ho FBI agents in the country would presumably realize that a collateral damage rate of twenty-five percent isn’t going to look great on the evening news.
Yet the film holds up surprisingly well. This, no doubt, is why producers keep trying to remake it. I refer not just to the bona fide sequels, starring Bruce Willis – Die Hard 2 (1990), Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), Live Free or Die Hard (2007), and A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) – but all the ersatz Die Hards that have appeared in the three decades since the original’s release, in which filmmakers try to wrap the same story in a subtly modified package. These include Under Siege (1992) [Die Hard on a ship], Cliffhanger (1993) [Die Hard on a mountain], Speed (1994) [Die Hard on a bus], Sudden Death (1995) [Die Hard in a hockey stadium], Air Force One (1997) [Die Hard on a plane], and White House Down (2013) [Die Hard in the White House]. As the years have gone by, though, the heroes have become less McClane-like and become, again, Ramboesque demigods. This goes for McClane, too. In the first Die Hard film, he looks genuinely terrified as he stares down from the roof of the Nakatomi building, preparing to jump. His wisecrack, which he utters as he climbs atop the balustrade, comes out like a whimper: “I promise I’ll never even think about going up in a tall building again.” When confronted with a similar plunge in the fifth film, however, the now nearly sixty-year-old McClane simply leaps out the window, trusting (quite appropriately, as it turns out) in his own invulnerability.
This is to say that McClane – the older McClane, that is – is a man of our time. Today’s action heroes are even more superhuman than their counterparts in the ’80s. Thus the profusion of comic book movies clogging cinema screens for the last two decades. Since the election of Donald Trump, some critics have contended that the popularity of superhero films foreshadowed the nation’s latent yearning for totalitarianism. “It is tempting to consider the very prevalence of superhero movies,” Richard Brody wrote, on November 10, 2016, “with their apocalyptic dangers thwarted by cults of personality, to be evidence of the widespread craving for a strongman.”11 Perhaps. If so, however, the craving began nearly forty years before the rise of Trump. Richard Donner’s Superman was released in 1978, and was followed by two sequels and a Batman franchise that stretched to four films. Granted, superheroes have become much more abundant in recent years, but that trend began more than fifteen years ago, starting with Spider-Man in 2002.
Others critics have seen the craze as a projection of American military might abroad. “The preponderance of superhero movies contributes more to this country’s self-image as a superpower than does the deployment of U.S. troops around the world,” Aleksander Hemon recently wrote in The New Yorker.12 But this fails to explain why American superheroes score so highly in foreign markets. Captain America: Civil War (2016) earned nearly twice as much overseas as it did in the United States. If superhero movies are, at their core, national ego trips, why are so many non-Americans eager to go along for the ride? Because people everywhere want to identify with superheroes. They appeal to the Manichean in all of us, living as they do in worlds of exquisite moral clarity, while indulging our most primal fantasies – the wish to fly, to become invisible at will, and to never die.
Maybe this is why, thirty years down the road, I still cling to Die Hard. Superheroes always bored me, even as a kid. I prefer my action heroes to be made of flesh and blood. I like them to be funny and fallible and plausibly proportioned, built like tennis players, not linebackers, the way movie stars used to be. There’s something pleasantly old fashioned about Die Hard. Not only does it harken back to High Noon and other shoot ’em ups of the pre-superhero age, but it also conforms to the Aristotelian unities of time, place, and action. It is one of the few American action-adventure movies that could be reimagined as a stage play. Indeed, the film’s director, John McTiernan, has often compared it to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “Die Hard is basically a Shakespearean comedy,” McTiernan explains. “A Midsummer’s Night Dream [sic] literally is a festival night when some weird thing happens and all the princes become asses and all the asses become princes. In the morning, the true lovers are united, and everybody returns to their regular lives and feels better for having this event where the world got turned upside down.”13 I’m not quite sure the Bard would approve of the comparison. Yet McTiernan is on to something. Die Hard has the effervescence of a Shakespearean comedy. It has rather too many asses, but, on the other hand, it has a charming prince and a villain who is as delectably devious as Iago and Richard lll. For all the blood that gets spilled, Die Hard is essentially a joyous film, beginning with a lovers’ quarrel and concluding with their kiss. Sure it’s daft and silly, full of gunfights, explosions, and ’80s pop references. But the pleasure of it is timeless.
Abrams, Brian. Die Hard: An Oral History. Amazon Digital Services. Seattle: 2016.
Brody, Richard. “What the Movies Miss About Trump’s America.” The New Yorker. November 10, 2016.
Hemon, Aleksandar. “Why ‘Phantom Thread’ Is Propaganda for Toxic Masculinity.” The New Yorker. April 7, 2018.
O’Brien, Harvey. Action Movies: The Cinema of Striking Back. Columbia University Press. New York: 2012.
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Unless otherwise noted, all images are screenshots from the film.