I’m a big fan of films involving guns and explosions and, having wathced Die Hard 3 last night, thought I’d give you a run down of the best action films out there.
In my opinion, the movie that defines the genre is Die Hard. The original movie is a spectacular cocktail of explosions, one liners, german-speaking terrorists and profuse bleeding; what more can you ask for in an action film? John McClane is probably the best action character ever, created out of a well established formula of maverick cop who doesn’t always obey the rules but gets the job done. Die hard is so well made though, and the combination of Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman is perfect, making it the ultimate action comfort film (if such a thing exists). Die hard also gave us the immortal line that I’m using as a title, and for that we are eternally greatful.
As for the Die Hard sequels, none of them stand up to the original, but Die Hard with a Vengeance (3) comes pretty close, aided by the work of Samuel L Jackson and the brilliant Jeremy Irons. The two even numbered sequels are not quite up to standard, with Die Hard 2 being a favourite kicking post for critics, but the most recent 4.0 isn’t bad and does have some great moments. The digital plot is just a bit flat, especially since the original is such a classic 80’s movie. McClane just wasn’t built for the digital age.
For me Die Hard is the ultimate action movie, but I know others would argue that Lethal Weapon is the author of the genre. Having only seen the first installment once, I’m not quite qualified to put up a defence, but I’ll come back when I’ve watched it again. What I do remember is that Lethal Weapon is that little bit darker than Die Hard, with an underlying suicide theme which is great for character development but makes it that little bit less fun than watching wise-cracking Willis running around a skyscraper bare foot.
Another contender for ultimate action movie is Speed, a movie in which Keanu Reeves actually acts (almost)! Another great collection of explosions and unhinged psychopaths out for revenge, but this time set on a bus, Speed has some great movements; most famously that jump over the gap in the highway. Reeves is good in the role, supported heavily by Jeff Daniels and Dennis Hopper. The decision to carry Sandra Bullock’s character into a sequel, I think, was a bad one, especially since she’s pretty irritating in the original, but at least Speed 2 has Willem Defoe giving it his creepy best.
The score of Speed is also pretty great, but there is pure genius in the use of Beethoven’s 9th in Die Hard, which keeps coming back in inverted forms throughout the score. A similar idea is used in Die Hard 3, unfortunately I can’t remember what the piece of music is called (please someone comment and help me ‘cos its maddening) but if you ever sang “the animals went in two by two” in primary school you’ll know the tune I’m on about!
All of the above are going into the movies to see before you die, but if you’ve only got time for one, go for Die Hard.