John McTiernan's Die Hard introduced a type of character that hadn't been seen much in big-budget action films of the 1980s: the working-class hero. Apart from Sylvester Stallone's first Rambo movie and some of the cruder, decidedly low-budget martial arts movies starring Chuck Norris, there wasn't a precedent for Bruce Willis' gruff John McClane. In contrast to its predecessors, Die Hard was such a high-profile production that Willis was suddenly elevated to the status of cultural icon, not unlike Sean Connery and his alter ego, James Bond. Willis and McTiernan can take credit for bringing back the kind of distinctly American, masculine swagger John Wayne used to bring to his roles, albeit with a dirtier lexicon of catchphrases than Wayne ever would have used on camera. The director and his crew of special effects experts could also take credit for a series of explosions that rivaled the firepower and energy expended in Wayne's Hellfighters, Back to Bataan, Sands of Iwo Jima, Chisum, and The Longest Day.
by Bruce Eder review