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Review Die Hard (1988), Die Hard 2 (1990), Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) and Live Free or Die Hard (2007).

Review Die Hard (1988)

Die Hard is one of the best action films ever made. A film so perfect that it has been copied many times but only a few of them have come close to this masterpiece. What makes this a masterpiece? 

The way it is set up. Enough time is taken to establish the characters and the surroundings. It is made sure you care for the main character John McClane (Bruce Willis) especially. McClane is very eager to meet his wife who he has been separated from for six months. Although he does feel a little disgruntled with the current situation since his wife seems to have adapted to life without him in the picture. In truth she feels that he is not supporting her and therefore is under the impression he takes her for granted. I am aware that these dynamics are used a lot in films but often they are effective since flawed people and relationships do make these characters more interesting. Then they get invaded by a group of well organized terrorists and McClane manages to flee from them and does whatever he can to deal with them all on his own. He does get support or at least some appreciation from veteran cop Sgt. Al Powell played by Reginald VelJohnson. Even with multiple viewings it never gets tiresome to see McClane take out these terrorists one by one. He also is not a super hero and gets hurt quite a lot. Him fighting the good fight while having to endure a lot of frustration, exhaustion and pain is what makes you root for him. He is a good guy through and through and you want him to succeed. 

Another factor that makes this a very enjoyable film is Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber. The main villain of the story. He is ruthless yet charming and sympathetic. There is no doubt that he is evil but he is real good in convincing people that he is fair and reasonable. That makes him very dangerous. 

The action itself is very stellar. It's exciting and intense. McClane clearly is outnumbered and is even shown panicking somewhat. Who wouldn't be? But it's what does afterwards that makes him special. He decides that he is the only one who truly can help the hostages (including his wife) and he needs to tough it out. This resolve adds context and impact to the action. 

I must have watched this one over ten times now if not more. And it hasn't lost any of it's strength. Without a doubt an action classic. 

Review Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)

Die Hard 2 is a solid sequel directed by Renny Harlin that upped the ante a little more by making events larger. This Die Hard is set at an airport where McClane is about to pick up his wife Holly (who we got introduced to in the original) played by Bonnie Bedelia. Her character is being referred to in later films but never seen on screen. A bit odd since her relationship with McClane does seem to still have some significant impact on him throughout the film series. Anyway things go awry at the airport since surprise surpise a group of terrorist hijack the airport and therefore also the planes that were to supposed to land. Holly is in one of these planes so immediately the stakes get very high for McClane and again is forced to come into action.

If you watch this for the first time there will be enough suspense to put you on the edge of your seat. However that is not the case with multiple viewings since this part more than others relies on the surprise factor. A lot of plot points are in service of this and are very far fetched, illogical and very convenient to say the least. Once that is gone though there is not that much to focus on than the action. Fortunately the action is exciting and holds up even today. Mostly because the villain and his henchmen are quite ruthless and relentless. There is not a single ounce of compassion in them. And that is awesome for the audience since it is very satisfying to see them get taken out by McClane. 

While this Die Hard is to be taken seriously it's not afraid to make fun of itself by letting it known to the viewer it's a sequel. Especially summarized in these two quotes. "How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice? "Why does this keep happening to us?" In order to enjoy this fully it is asked of you to not be hung up on logic and strong plot and just enjoy it for what it is. 

Review Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)

Director of the original Die Hard, John McTiernan, returns and again puts his mark on this third part in the film series. Now events are set in New York and instead of one location in particular it is the whole city that is held hostage. And our beloved reluctant hero John McClane is put in the middle of it as he is forced to do Simon's bidding. Simon is the designated villain of the story who seems to be McClane's biggest adversary yet. However this time McClane has a reluctant sidekick called Zeus Carver played by Samuel L. Jackson. A very welcome addition since Bruce Willis and he have great chemistry. It is a whole lot of fun to see them going at each other and fighting the odds that are stacked against them. 

You might have guessed that Die Hard with a Vengeance is a lot larger in scale and easily more spectacular than the first two films. But is it also better? No. I'd say at best it's on par with the original the first time you see it. After multiple viewings I would say it's the best sequel in the whole film series. If you never have seen it before you are in for a real treat as right from the start it will put you on the edge of your seat. Naturally knowing how events will play out will remove the suspense considerably. But there is more to this film than tension that makes it interesting. The action is exciting and things to laugh about. At times you are given glimpses of high drama but not given the chance to really think about and surprisingly it helps maintain the fear and dread. Jeremy Irons is a good villain but not nearly as impressive as Alan Rickman was as Hans Gruber. Come to think of it none of the villains in the whole series have been able to come close to him. Now I do have to add that while this part certainly is one of the better action thrillers of all time it does suffers from some pacing issues and not knowing when to quit. Because of this you might even get the impression a big climax (action wise) is coming only to be let down by an ending that seems to be rushed and cut down. Don't worry it's still satisfying but it could have been a nice bonus for the ones who own a copy of the film. BTW I am talking about the events a little before the ending. On my Blu-ray disc there is an alternative ending that is a little more sinister and dark which could have been a nice twist if not for the fact that it tonally is all wrong. It doesn't fit the film nor John McClane. So I am glad that it never got to be.

Review Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

Recent Die Hard clones like London Has Fallen get a lot of criticism for being too ridiculous and over the top. But those people who claim that must have forgotten how the original Die Hard film series got more ridiculous with every sequel. 

Live Free or Die Hard by far is the most over the top spectacle and action wise where events occur that are apocalyptic and dark. It might be a tad too grand in scale then again if it as fun as in this film who could object to that. This part in the franchise clearly relies more on the action than it does on suspense in previous parts however that doesn't exclude it from being thrilling. There are quite a few times where things look quite grim and hopeless. But it's at these moments where John McClane shines. Somebody has got to do the job. Might just as well get to it instead of just complaining and moaning about it. In this part he is getting help from Justin Long as Matthew Farrel. He is a hacker who unwillingly gets sucked into events after an assassination on him fails thanks to John McClane who was asked to pick him up. Matt is overwhelmed by everything but does what he can to aid McClane. Naturally provides some nice banter between the two because as the two couldn't be more different. Other characters like Lucy, McClane's daughter and Maggie Q. were a nice addition to. Lucy for being very similar to her father and Q. for being one of the most ruthless and badass villains. Olyphant was decent but hardly memorable because there is not that much depth to him. They tried but it failed to grab the attention.

Overall Live Free or Die Hard is an excellent action adventure full of thrills and spectacle where once again John McClane has to beat the odds. Very worthy addition in the franchise.

You can't get enough of Die Hard then check out my reviews of Die Hard clones. There is bound to be a movie among them you will like.

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