Now I Have a Machine Gun. Ho Ho Ho.
I found myself at a loss on Christmas last year. I felt like I should review a Christmas movie, but I wasn’t really able to think of any Christmas movie that I liked in any real way. So, in lieu of a Christmas movie, last year I reviewed the Harry Potter series. Small parts of those movies take place on Christmas. This year I really thought about it. What is my favorite Christmas movie? I considered the Grinch, I considered Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, and I of course considered Jingle All the Way, but none of those really stood out. And then I thought of it. A movie that takes place on Christmas and always fills my heart with cheer. There could be no greater Christmas movie than Die Hard, based on a novel by Roderick Thorp, written by Steven E. de Souza and Jeb Stuart, directed by John McTiernan, and starring Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson, Paul Gleason, William Atherton, Hart Bochner, Alexander Godunov, De’voreaux White, Robert Davi, Grand L. Bush, and James Shigeta.
On Christmas Eve, NYPD detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) arrives in Los Angeles with hopes of reconciliation with his wife, Holly Gennaro (Bonnie Bedelia). McClane is greeted by a limo driven by Argyle (De’voreaux White) and is taken to Nakatomi Plaza, where Holly is attending an office Christmas party. While McClane changes in Holly’s office, the festivities are interrupted by the arrival of Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his heavily armed group of goons, with intentions to steal $640 million dollars in bearer bonds from the vault. Turns out that there’s only one person in the world oozing with enough badassitude to stop these guys, and he’s shoeless in the building’s duct system. Yippee Kay-Yay, mother fucker.
This movie has well earned its classic status. This is a fantastic Christmas movie. And a fantastic action movie as well. I guess most people would probably be more comfortable calling it an action movie, but it takes place in Christmas times, there’s some Christmas music in it, and McClane writes “Ho Ho Ho” on a corpse in the movie. I think I rest my case. And I don’t think it’s even worth bothering to argue this movie as an action movie. I think I actually appreciate this type of action movie more than most others in some ways just because of the main character. As much as I like a good, over-the-top, superhero action movie, there’s something special to a movie about a regular, everyman kind of character overcoming insurmountable odds with nothing more than some ingenuity and some massive balls. John McClane is just what a man should strive to be. He’ll fight terrorists and walk over glass barefoot just to do what’s right, even if it isn’t technically his problem because he’s way out of his jurisdiction. And he keeps that mentality even if the LAPD that should be helping him is so ridiculously stupid that one should be more surprised that they got their shoes on the right feet when leaving the house in the morning than the fact that they weren’t willing to help McClane. The FBI came off like frat boys that just wanted to shoot something and the Deputy Chief of Police was so dumb that I half expected him to be occupying himself in the background with a paddleball like Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles. The look of the movie worked much better than one might expect from an 80’s movie, even if the look of people getting shot can most closely be compared to someone throwing Jell-O squares at people’s chests. The action is also always enjoyable, and rarely too far away. Once the movie gets started with the action, it doesn’t get sidetracked any more than it has to.
What is there to say about the performances? Bruce Fucking Willis. The end. Bruce Willis is so amazing in this movie that I find it difficult to put it into words. He plays the everyman very well; almost as well as he plays the badass. He seems just as comfortable with a wry comment as he does with an SMG. Alan Rickman could also be well-served with having his middle name replaced with “fucking.” He’s exactly the badass villain to counter the badass hero that is John McClane. He’s charming and intimidating, sometimes simultaneously. Bonnie Bedelia wasn’t the biggest part of the movie, but I found that what she did had some resonance. She seemed like exactly the kind of tough chick that would attract a John McClane, while also being the kind that wouldn’t put up with his shit, and also exactly the kind that would eventually get divorced from a John McClane. Reginald VelJohnson is also very likeable in this movie as the one member of the LAPD with a heart and a brain. They also had two fantastic douche nozzle performances in this movie from Hart Bochner as Harry Ellis, the douche druggie who’s scheming on McClane’s lady, and William Atherton as the piece of shit reporter who doesn’t understand where to draw lines when involving people’s families into stories. I had prior history with Atherton as I already hated him so much from his time in Ghostbusters, but I think Bochner might actually take the douche crown from him in this movie. I was very surprised when anyone in that office was at all a.) surprised that his scheme would eventually get him killed and b.) saddened when he died. My reaction would probably be more along the lines of, “Yeah, well that’ll happen, I suppose.”
I’m well aware of the fact that there is no point in reviewing a movie like Die Hard. Everyone has had more than ample time to find out that this movie is awesome. I really only chose to review it as a Christmas present to myself. The story isn’t the most spectacular thing ever, but it’s probably upper echelon when compared to typical action movies, and there’s not a lot more satisfying than being able to relate to the hero of your movie because he’s just a regular guy, but then choosing not to pay attention to the fact that you would be nowhere near as awesome if you were in the same situations. Great movie. Watch it. Own it. Merry Christmas. Die Hard gets “You throw quite a party” out of “It’s gonna need a paint job and a shit load of screen doors.”
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