It was probably inevitable that I see this movie one of these days. This was one of those films that I never saw in the 80s, because it would have had too much bad language and violence to make it past my parents’ rather in-depth censorship back then.
However, there is a sense that this film, like Star Wars, will be received (and remembered) differently depending on what age you arrive at it. I can imagine that when this film came out, it was the coolest action film ever seen at that time.
For those of you who’ve never seen it, the film tells the story of John McLane (Bruce Willis), a cop who goes to LA (is it LA? Forgive me if I’m rusty on the details) to visit his wife. She’s up on the 30th floor of an otherwise empty office building having a Christmas party with the rest of the staff of her big Japanese-run company.
John arrives, has a brief chance to get into a domestic with his wife, and then The Germans arrive. Oddly enough, it’s been a while since I can remember seeing Germans as bad guys in films (outside of the odd World War II flick that Hollywood cranks out). Were they a novelty at the time, considering that the favourite bad guy back then was Russians? Or is there a whole genre of Germans-as-bad-guy films that I never saw?
Anyway, beside the point. The Germans (led by the thoroughly non-German Alan Rickman with a German accent) arrive and hold the building hostage so they can break into the Japanese company owner’s safe. They thought they’d rounded up everyone, but they didn’t realise that McLane was still on the loose . . . and ready to ruin their plans.
Well, that’s the movie in a nutshell. Watching it now, the movie’s actually a little bit on the slow side. It does have some genuinely exciting set pieces, and the whole set up is very good, but there does seem to be a lot of moments of Bruce Willis hiding behind a table on a walkie-talkie. However, I won’t stir up the purists.
If you like your action heavy, improbable and testosterone-fuelled, then of course you already own a copy of this film, and I don’t really have to say a thing. For the rest of you, I’m sure you’ll possibly enjoy watching it at some stage.
I should probably say, by way of a final nod to my parents and their censorship, that the language and violence on this film, even by today’s standards, is quite gratuitous. I’m not sure why, but you just get the feeling that the filmmakers were trying to toughen the film up by having the characters come out with more crude words during the course of the film, as well as having some fairly violent scenes (for the time). So perhaps not one I’ll be showing my daughter in a hurry. But certainly not a boring way to kill an evening.
3 out of 5.