..but as far as nEoFILM is concerned, it’s DIE HARD DAY!

Valentines Day: Not really the date that you would expect a day of the brutality attributed to action movies of the 80’s and 90’s but here we are. Today, we celebrate Die Hard in all its gory glory, as not only is the first classic instalment 25 years old this summer, but today also sees the release of  the latest addition, A Good Day To Die Hard (2013). Die Hard (1988) is one of cinemas success stories, made during the action period which was dominated by Arnie and Stallone during the 1980’s, Bruce Willis took on the role in a pretty close adaptation of a 1970’s follow-up novel to the 1960’s novel The Detective, which was also brought to the screen and starred none other than Frank Sinatra in the McClane role.

Though, The Detective (1968) wasn’t John  McClane by name but he was the same character in many ways. But Die Hard introduced us to a younger, more virile McClane, who, in the source novel, was retired and the Nakatomi Corporation was in fact a Texan Oil Company. The terrorists were real terrorists and not just bank robbers pretending to be so and instead of his wife being in danger, it was his daughter, effectively in Holly McClane’s (Bonnie Bedelia) role. But her fate was much more tragic in the book as he was pulled out of the window to her death by the lead terrorist, unlike Die Hard in which she survives, thanks to her Rolex.

Die Hard 2 (1990), also known as “Die Harder” in some cases though the title card would disagree with this assertion, tries to walk the fine line between giving us more of the same but not copying it’s predecessor too closely. The result of the adaptation of the novel, 58 minutes by Walter Wager, is a broader and less compact tale of McClane trying to save his wife and an airport from terrorist action, but he is not alone and nor is he trapped so his role becomes a little more confused and ill-defined. Still, a cracking sequel which succeeds more than it fails. But the 1988 classic is still hard to beat.

1995 saw Die Hard return after five years With A Vengeance. A more direct sequel to the first film, McClane is on home turf in New York where he must face off against Hans Gruber’s (Alan Rickman) brother, Simon (Jeremy Irons) is supposedly out for revenge for the events of the first film, but as you might expect, there’s a little more to it than that. The fourth in the franchise would come twelve-year after the last movie and 19 years after it all began, with Live Free And Die Hard or Die Hard 4.0 (2007) as it was called here in the U.K. A CGI action fest with an interesting Cyber terrorism plot, ruined by contrivances and lack of insight into what make this franchise tick, this should have been the final act in what had up until this point, been a relatively consistent series.

dieAction movies aren’t primarily my thing, but Die Hard is one that breaks the mould as a witty and smartly written screenplay, tight it both set up and pay off. Fun was a key factor as it was countered with graphic and wincing violence. But the characters are all over the top, whilst Willis, certainly in the first instance, was almost and every man, and coming off his TV career as a comedic actor, famously playing opposite Cybill Shepherd in Moonlighting, he brought something which appealed to a broader audience than those paying to see Commando 2, the original plan for this movie.

So, what will A Good Day To Die Hard bring? I hope that it will offer something more in the vein of the first three and leave 4.0 well alone but after 25 years, is their enough call for Die Hard, or even Die Hard 2, which after 9/11, will probably never have been made at all? I suspect not and that action  has moved on since the 80’s and 90’s and CGI and spectaculars and ever ludicrous set pieces will rule. But the concept of McClane and his son fighting terrorist in Russia, on paper at least, does sound intriguing. I do suspect though, not to prejudge it that the results will be disappointing.


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