The pumped-up, high tech surprise hit of 1988; a triumph of slick direction and lowbrow thrills, marred but not spoiled by a sour aftertaste.

On Christmas Eve, a New York cop (Willis) arrives in Los Angeles to spend the holidays with his estranged wife (Bedelia) and their two young children. The couple separated after the Japanese corporation Bedelia works for promoted her to a powerful position in their brand-new Los Angeles

headquarters, an imposing state-of-the-art office building in Century City. Willis now meets her at a Christmas party thrown on the building's 30th floor. While he is washing up in his wife's executive bathroom, a group of international terrorists seizes the building and takes everyone at the

party hostage, in an attempt to break into the company safe and steal $670 million in negotiable bonds. Barefoot and wearing only a T-shirt and slacks, Willis escapes the terrorists and makes his way to the unfinished upper floors of the building, where he wages a one-man war against the


Tautly directed by McTiernan (PREDATOR), DIE HARD is skillfully shot and consistently thrilling throughout its lengthy running time. The high-rise location, in particular, is cleverly employed to provide an array of unusual and breathtaking action scenes. Unfortunately, the film's script panders

to the audience's worst fears and resentments--suggesting that foreigners are not to be trusted and feminism has destroyed the fabric of the American family, and so on. Despite this distasteful subtext, however, DIE HARD is a well-made, exciting film. A beefed-up Willis fares well in a breezy

mode, but looks uncomfortable when the emoting turns heavy. The talented Bedelia is wasted, while Rickman, as the chief villain, gives an impeccably evil performance which put him on the international map.