Friday, 22 March 2013

Rank the Films: Die Hard

As any regular reader of feeling fuzzier will know, lists are pretty darn nifty. We have a profound appreciation for straight-up lists. This is the thinking behind Rank the Films, a regular feature that pulls apart the pros and cons of a series of films, ranking them in order of good to bad. 

With the fifth instalment in the franchise, A Good Day To Die Hard, hitting Australian cinemas this weekend we take a look at the Die Hard franchise, ranking them from worst to best. Give it a read and leave me a comment letting me know what you think!

Be sure to check back again later in the week for my review of A Good Day To Die Hard.

4th - Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)

Rotten Tomatoes: 67%

Following up the original Die Hard with a sequel just as good way never going to be an easy task and so it proved for director Renny Harlin. In my mind the least memorable of the four Die Hard films to date, the second outing for John McClane (Bruce Willis) is simply trying to recreate the original too closely and suffers for it. With a villain that isn't that memorable and an implausible and confusing twist in the final third, the second Die Hard is a little generic to stand-out from the crowd. 

It does have its plus points however; Bruce Willis is still on top form as John McClane and the nail-biting time limit is a nice narrative element that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. On the whole, it is great entertainment but a little too forgettable up against the other entry's in the franchise. 

3rd - Live Free Or Die Hard [Die Hard 4.0] (2007)

A lot older, a lot balder and a lot grouchier, John McClane is back in action alongside Justin Long's nerdy hacker Matt Farrell. A fresh 21st century take on Die Hard, the fourth entry into the franchise turned out to not be the disaster everyone thought it would be. This time the plot doesn't centre around a building or a plane being held hostage; it's a whole country. 

Die Hard 4.0 is big on action and has some really inventive set pieces that are equally entertaining as they are OTT. Overall, I put it ahead of Die Hard 2 because it ups the stakes and doesn't simply try and repeat any old formula. There are some genuinely good action scenes and Bruce Willis has lost none of that essential wit and charm needed to play John McClane. Maggie Q adds some sexy ass-kicking spice and Timothy Olyphant is a decent enough villain.

2nd - Die Hard 3: With A Vengeance (1995)

Rotten Tomatoes: 52%

The franchise's third outing shook up the Die Hard formula by giving John McClane the chance to stretch his legs a little; held to ransom by vicious terrorist Simon Gruber (sounds familiar...), McClane must zig-zag his way across New York City and solve a series of riddles and puzzles laid out for him.

A change of direction for the series, Die Hard 3 was met with mixed reviews back in 1995. For me though, Die Hard 3 is one of the better entry's into the series. It is closer in spirit to the original film and the increased scale is a breath of fresh air after the claustrophobic first two entry's. Also, the addition of Samuel L. Jackson as shop owner/reluctant buddy Zeus is a stroke of genius; he shares some zinging dialogue with McClane that captures so well the mid-90's attitude towards race.

The end result is a sequel that feels like a much better follow-up than the first sequel (it helps that Die Hard 3 is directed by the same guy, John McTiernan, as the original Die Hard) and an all-round superb popcorn munching action-flick.

1st - Die Hard (1988)

They're never better than the original right? In this case, of course not. The original Die Hard is the real-deal, the film that laid out the blueprints for not just four sequels but a whole generation of imitators. Nothing since has really come close to matching its gripping and brutal hour and fifty-four minutes of greatness.

High above the city of Los Angeles, a team of terrorists has a seized a building, taken hostages and declared war. (Yes, I have taken that straight from the poster). It's up to off-duty cop John McClane to stop them, picking them off one by one and rescuing his captured wife in time for Christmas. 

Bruce Willis is at his best in his first outing as John McClane whilst Alan Rickman plays quite possibly one of the greatest (and most memorable) villains of all time. Tense, claustrophobic and most importantly, a whole lot of fun, Die Hard is hard to fault. A must see for any film fanatic!

Previous entry's in this series include the Harry Potter and the Star Wars franchise. Be sure to subscribe and not miss out on Rank the Films #4: Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

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