The debate surrounding Bruce Willis actioner Die Hard has been a long and winding one. And it is slightly silly too. The debate is whether the 1988 release is a Christmas movie or not. As far as I am concerned, Die Hard is a holiday movie. After all, more than the violence, the John McTiernan directorial is about overcoming the odds and putting your best foot forward.
For the uninitiated, Die Hard revolves around New York City police detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) who gets caught in the middle of terrorist activity as the bad guys take over a Los Angeles skyscraper. What follows next forms the crux of the narrative. We are taken through insane adventures and are introduced to the strengths and failures of our two main characters — the hero John McClane and the villain Hans Gruber (played by the charismatic Alan Rickman). Based on the novel Nothing Lasts Forever, Die Hard surprised everyone by becoming a box office hit. In fact, it was the biggest action flick of ’88 and was one of the highest-grossing movies of the year. While the critics gave Die Hard mixed reviews, they fell in love with Rickman’s portrayal of the ruthless criminal. Bruce Willis, who had been mainly a television guy until then, became a bankable Hollywood star. If reports are to believed, Willis was one of those rare artistes who was paid the handsome sum of five million dollars for the role of McClane even before he had established his bankability. An unheard thing at the time.
And now, more than three decades later since its release, most of us know about the legacy of Die Hard. It has spawned a whole franchise of movies, as well as merchandise, video games and board games. While there are many loopholes in the plot of Die Hard and it is certainly not masterful storytelling, the film is escapist fun. And an important film for Hollywood as it not only gave us two celebrated actors of our time, but even helped revive 20th Century Fox, which was in dire need of a hit at the time. Die Hard also gave us a new action hero. One that didn’t look chiselled all the time. A man that was fallible, humane and someone who looked a lot like us. What made JohnMcClane so appealing was his nemesis Hans Gruber, who is now considered one of the best bad guys to have ever graced the screen. Gruber was haughty, witty and dynamic. It was hard to ignore him. And to think that Rickman had second thoughts about taking on the character! At the Bafta celebration of his work, Rickman had revealed that he had almost turned down the role of Gruber.
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“I didn’t know anything about LA. I didn’t know anything about the film business. I’d never made a film before, but I was extremely cheap. But after reading the script, I thought, ‘What the hell is this? I’m not doing an action movie,’” he had said. Alan Rickman was 41 when he made his silver screen debut with Die Hard. And thank god he did. So here’s one more reason to be thankful about Die Hard’s existence (I am looking at you Potterheads).
Bottom line: Die Hard is a party, holiday, Sunday afternoon, any-time-of-the-day movie. And for those of you who have not seen it yet, here’s something McClane himself would have said, “Welcome to the party pal!”
Die Hard is streaming on YouTube.
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