Picks and Pans Review: Die Hard

UPDATED 07/25/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/25/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT

You can take your action straight with Eastwood, soulful with De Niro or try it the Bruce Willis way, sprinkled with self-mocking humor. Fox paid the Moonlighting star $5 million to play a cop trying to free 30 hostages, including his wife, held by terrorists in an L.A. high rise on Christmas Eve. He manfully beefed up for the part. Happily, wiseacre Willis doesn't hold the Rambo pose. Prowling around the building, he uses a two-way radio to make cracks to the cops and FBI outside. Inside with the terrorists, he uses his charm on Alan Rickman—late of London and Broadway's Les Liaisons Dangereuses and here in his film debut a hiss-worthy, Eurotrash villain. Willis' jabbing comic riffs, a big improvement on his sleepwalking in Blind Date and Sunset, keep the movie humming. Director John (Predator) McTiernan isn't as much fun, relying on tired Towering lnferno-ish stunts such as raging fires, whirring choppers and what Willis says are enough plastic explosives "to orbit Arnold Schwarzenegger." One in-joke involves using the Fox tower in Century City to portray the besieged high rise. In a final conflagration, $600 million drifts down from the tower to the tune of Let It Snow. Is Fox sending up its own excess? If the film fizzles, the joke may backfire. But Fox has already scored this summer with Big, in which Tom Hanks plays a boy in a man's body. Willis, let's face it, is playing the same role here. When he runs barefoot through shattered window glass, he says "Ouch!" Dirty Harry wouldn't even wince. Willis gleefully strips down the action movie to a pretend game for children who like to fire guns and shoot bad guys. Machismo may never be the same. (R)

 

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