July 18, 1988 [Die Hard]

I'd had enough of Bruce Willis long ago in Moonlighting: I couldn't shake the feeling that he was riding on Bill Murray's coattails--the American cool wiseguy jerk, the smug pest you tried your best not to like, the seat-of-his-pants friend/lover improvising as he goes along. Bill I liked; Bruce made me uneasy--maybe it's because Bill winked at us, knew he was playing a self-satisfied frat boy--which skewered the jerk, while Bruce seemed more aggressive, almost daring us to get the joke more than he did.

Or maybe it was just because he was bothering Cybill Shepherd. Knock it off, chief.

But something happened--to me, maybe, but definitely to Bruce. Just like his rock star alter ego Bruno, Willis once more attempts parody in Die Hard, yanking the cool cat action hero's tail, at once rolling his eyes that he's in a big-budget bang-bang-em-up and wincing from how much it hurts to be at the heart of such a movie, all that shattered glass and sudden drops, gun-butts and haymakers to the jaw. The longer the movie went on, the wearier John became, wincing and limping, a wreck barely on his feet--powered, of course, by the jet fuel of a summer blockbuster, but as torn up as the Hulk's wardrobe after he gets angry.

With one movie Willis saves himself from terminal cute and shoulders past the bigger boys--and not just Stallone and Schwarzenegger, but the tough guys of yore, Mitchum and Lancaster, who took a beating but kept their hats on straight--until somehow Willis reaches a popcorn-matinee approximation of Brando in On the Waterfront, who literally loses his shirt before winning. Yes, there's a hint of Rocky Balboa in Bruce's bloody-but-unbowed stance--but in Die Hard there's little at stake inside, just fireballs all around. I'll admit that the postmodern cowboy impatient with European villains and cracking wise every five minutes got on my nerves a little; but I'm willing to turn a deaf ear as long as Bruce admits it hurts to laugh.


  1. Oh...this movie is SUCH a guilty pleasure. Did you know that it's growing a following of people who consider it to be a Christmas classic?

  2. @Nathanael: Yippie-ki-yay. (Trivia: In Die Hard he mentions that he's partial to Roy Rogers; previously, he had portrayed Tom Mix.)

    As Peter Stomare's Cosmonaut observes (with one of the movies' great outlandish accents, right up there with Peter S. as Strangelove or Clouseau) in Armageddon, "You Americans are all a bunch of cowboys!"

  3. My favorite Christmas Movie; Rickman is the best Grinch who almost stole the Christmas that almost wasn't. "I could talk of industrialization and men's fashion all day, but alas, business prevents us." Or, " . . . meanwhile, we'll be on the beach, earning 20%."

    The ONLY drawback to the movie is the anti-feminist sub-plot: to free Holly from the villain's clutches at the climax, John has to unclip her Rolex, the symbol of her independence. Boo! Hsssss!

  4. @Anonymous: I guess "anti-feminism" goes with the territory. This is an assertively male series, to say the least.


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