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‘Die Hard’

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 15, 1988


John McTiernan
Bruce Willis;
Alan Rickman;
Bonnie Bedelia;
Alexander Godunov;
Paul Gleason;
William Atherton;
Hart Bochner;
James Shigeta;
Reginald Vel Johnson
Under 17 restricted

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In "Die Hard," New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) is attending a fancy office party in the Nakatomi Corporation's L.A. glass tower. He's come from the Big Apple to reclaim estranged wife Holly, who now works for Nakatomi. Suddenly 13 terrorists burst in with major weaponry and you've got yourself a firepowered, blood-drenched action picture that doesn't let up.

There won't be a whole lot of time to discuss the marriage.

Willis has found the perfect vehicle to careen wildly onto the crowded L.A. freeway of "Lethal Weapons" and "Beverly Hills Cops." And he keeps a respectable grip on the wheel, his only acting requirements being to shift that "Moonlighting" glibspeak into R-rated high-drive and fire his Baretta 92 to heart's content. Never mind that the script is a monument to illogic. This is a yell-participation movie with a few laughs along the way. It's good, dumb fun brought to you by producers Lawrence Gordon, Joel Silver and scriptwriters Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza, who among them have already churned out "48 Hours," "Predator," "Commando" and "Lethal Weapon."

Led by a Mr. Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), a stereotypical German elitist, the invaders have come to this high-rise, not to take hostages, not to issue demands, but to get at Nakatomi's moola -- more than $600 million in a formidable safe. (So why bother invading the party to take hostages? Why not just rob the place at night, trouble-free? And why does it have to be Christmas Eve? And -- oh, forget it.)

McClane is in a bedroom suite when the gunmen burst in. So he hides out in air ducts, above elevators, on the roof, in an attempt to pick them off. And this cat-and-mouse is where director John ("Predator") McTiernan earns his money. McClane takes the bad guys on one by one, the biggest fight being with gunman Karl (Alexander Godunov), a flaxen-haired tough cookie who's real mad at McClane for killing his brother and fellow thug.

By the time all is said and gunned, the building's aflame, an FBI helicopter is downed, and the subplots are piled higher than the ubiquitous debris -- as various "Die Hard" characters literally line up before the camera to complete their respective story lines. Holly McClane (Bonnie Bedelia) has to sew things up with hubby of course. And black police Sgt. Al Powell (Reginald Veljohnson), who has befriended McClane by walkie-talkie, needs to get over his accidental killing of a youth.

Then there's pushy TV reporter Thornburg (William Atherton), who wants a big story no matter what; and McClane's limousine driver Argyle (De'Voreaux White), who got stuck in the building garage waiting for a big tip. And what about the assistant police chief who wants McClane to pay for the building's damages? And then

there's . . .

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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