Tag Archives: John McTiernan

Predator (1987) 3.79/5 (2)


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Rating: The Good – 84.3
Genre: Science Fiction, Action
Duration: 107 mins
Director: John McTiernan
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Kevin Peter Hall

As is often the case, the original Predator stands head and shoulders above the sequels even though in the case of Predator 2 and Predators, the sequels are decent fare in their own right. What makes Predator so good is that it has one of the truly great action directors behind the camera (John McTiernan) and the most iconic of all action stars in front of it (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Having a totally original premise, a white hot script, great special effects, a supporting cast full of well known 80′s tough guys, and Joel Silver as a producer didn’t hurt it either! Arnold is immense (in what is easily his second best role) as the leader of the crack special forces unit who are sent into a South American jungle to rescue some political dignitaries only to come under attack by an alien hunter who hides in the trees and can appear and disappear at will. McTiernan handles the action with aplomb as you’d expect but he outdoes even himself in the set piece scenes which are a veritable masterclass in pacing and co-ordination. This is sci-fi action at its very best so just sit down and strap yourself in for two hours of pure entertainment.

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Die Hard (1988) 4.5/5 (2)


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Rating: The Good – 90.8
Genre: Action
Duration: 131 mins
Director: John McTiernen
Stars: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia

The Daddy of all action films, Die Hard has it all. An everyman hero, boo-hissable villains, a fantastic plot, and a scintillating script. Add in some sublime action choreography captured by the top action director (John McTiernen) and cinematographer (Jan DeBont) in the business, give Bruce Willis the lead, and the result is the cleverest, wittiest, and most satisfying action film ever made.

Willis plays John McClane, a New York cop who goes to toe to toe with a group of German terrorists when they take over his estranged wife’s corporate headquarters during their Christmas party. Despite his meticulous planning, the terrorist leader (played with relish by Alan Rickman in his first screen appearance) finds McClane and his abrasive personality to be a consistent pain in the ass as all his plans are systematically foiled by the cop.

Though the action sequences have become the stuff of movie legend, the film’s standout strengths were the charisma of its two leads, either on their own or while sparring with each other and of course, the script which facilitated that charisma. Willis in particular, excels like no action hero before him or since in both charm and grittiness and with the greatest hero dialogue ever written to chew on, he immortalised his character. Rickman, for his part, devours his equally brilliant lines with gargantuan amounts of gusto and, in truth, we’ve never seen a more vigorous or better portrayal of a movie villain. Supported by an array of perfectly rounded characters played by a host of top actors, Willis and Rickman give the film its substance, rendering the action sequences all the more enjoyable.

Of course, given the pedigree of Die Hard’s director and cinematographer, it should come as no surprise that the intelligence and wit demonstrated in front of the camera is matched by that behind it as McTiernen and DeBont produce a tour de force. No other sequence demonstrates this more than when McClane brings patrolman Powell into the fold with a bang – as Arglye the limo driver chills in the parking garage below oblivious to the mayhem going on behind him. “Welcome to the party pal!”

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The Hunt for Red October (1990) 4/5 (1)


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Rating: The Good – 76.8
Genre: Action, Thriller
Duration: 134 mins
Director: John McTiernan
Stars: Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Scott Glenn

John McTiernan was the undisputed daddy of action directors in the late 80′s to early 90′s and The Hunt for Red October shows exactly why. Set in 1984, the original adaptation of Tom Clancy’s “Jack Ryan” novels has Alec Baldwin playing the CIA field analyst who gets wind of a new type of Soviet submarine (the “Red October”) and heads off to Washington to report his suspicions. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Iron Curtain a distinguished Soviet submarine commander Ramius (Sean Connery) ignores the orders of his superiors and takes the new submarine straight for US waters. Ryan is charged with determining if Ramius is intending to attack or defect before the US navy is forced to blow him out of the water. McTiernan doesn’t hang around and before you know it Ryan is being helicoptered onto an aircraft carrier in the middle of the stormy Atlantic and so begins a nail-biting adventure that traverses every corner of that ocean and involves some of the very best naval battles you could wish to see (kudos to legendary action cinematographer Jan DeBont). The tension is handled perfectly by McTiernan and the 134 minutes never lag nor get confusing even though the action is relentlessly switching between three different submarines, an aircraft carrier, a battle cruiser, sonar planes, helicopters, Moscow, and Washington. The impressive cast is uniformly superb and in addition to the excellent turns from the two leads, Scott Glenn, Sam Neil, and James Earl Jones do particularly well in supporting roles. However, the real star is McTiernan, who strikes the perfect balance between writing and action and in sequence after sequence uses the claustrophobic atmosphere to create a permeating tension. Just check out that cat-and-mouse scene wherein Bart Mancuso’s (Scott Glenn) US Dallas silently stalks the Red October as Ramius explains to his first officer (Neil) his perspective on the modern world. Timeless.

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