Rated R for lots of violence and swearing. It's also rated R for nudity and drugs. It's Die Hard. They don't really make movies like this anymore. I mean, we get violent movies, but this level of violence was perfected in the '80s. Like, it's this dynamic that we never really achieve again. It's ridiculously over-the-top violence, with kneecaps exploding and people walking on glass and, somehow, it's a blockbuster action thriller. I don't know how to explain '80s action tentpole movies. They're just violent to the next level. R.
DIRECTOR: John McTiernan
I used to be like you. In college, I was the loudest voice for Die Hard as a Christmas movie. But like the snob that I am, once everyone started jumping on board, I stopped caring. I'm a hipster, through and through. When someone screams about how Die Hard being a Christmas movie, I diffuse it with a low-energy "okay." It works wonders. But all things being equal, I tend to watch Die Hard around the Christmas season. I don't watch it every year. I used to watch it all the time, but I'm glad that I had some time away from this one. I might actually not watch Scrooged this year in hopes that I can get a little bit of a surprise from it in the future. The jury is out, but I'm leaning towards "no" because I don't even know when that would happen.
THE WHOLE THING IS A GIANT SPOILER: It's weird how we never really replicated Die Hard properly. I mean, we have Die Hard with a Vengeance, which is John McClane in an over-the-top action movie. But it really isn't the same animal, is it? Die Hard 2: Die Harder is really enjoyable, but way too much of a carbon copy. You'd think, as Americans, we would have non-stop Die Hard knock offs that are as enjoyable. But the first Die Hard movie is one-of-a-kind. There's a lot of money being thrown at this movie, so I would love to blame the world of Cannon Films for the way this movie is made. But this is almost the product of Cannon because it has every single guilty pleasure in a movie, but with a budget instead. It's like when Netflix makes Hallmark movies, but they actually have some money behind them. The movie might be the product of a combination of a great hero versus a great villain. John McClane is chaotic good. He is the rebel, rogue archetype. Yeah, he's a cop. But there's a line in there that establishes that John often gets in trouble for not following the rules. What makes John McClane work is the fact that he's constantly juxtaposed with annoying characters. We can quickly establish that William Atherton is doing his job once again. That guy plays such a perfect jerk that a guy who is mildly laid back comes off as a messiah throughout the story. William Atherton and Bruce Willis barely have any interaction in this movie, but Atherton just establishes the annoying quality of cinematic LA. It's Paul Gleason's Dwayne T. Robinson who really builds up the McClane mythos to legendary proportions. That guy is the worst. Okay, I was talking about how well set up Home Alone was a while ago. (Oddly, they have similar plots.) But there is always one moment where the writers just decided to give up on their intricate plan and highlight a weakness in the story. In Home Alone, when Catherine O'Hara decides to call the police to report her son as the titular problem, they kind of just scoff like it would be a crank call. It's an odd crank call. Die Hard has the exact same moment with Robinson. Al tells Robinson that McClane needs their help inside and Robinson is so obsessed with getting his point across that McClane is a burden rather than a boon, that he ignores the fact that a body crashed on top of Al's car. He actually writes it off as a suicide. It's a depressed businessman who is overworked during a terrorist attack. That doesn't make a lick of sense.
But a lot of the dynamic of the movie is based around this idea. I'm just realizing as I'm typing this that this movie might just be a discussion of how great New York is and how dumb LA is. I have no opinions on this, but Die Hard definitely seems to have strong feelings about it. John McClane is a New York cop. He does the right thing when no one wants him to. His instincts are mostly right about how to handle this situation, sans shoes. No one really respects him and boy, does he have feelings about that. However, LA is full of rich, stuff shirted morons. There's Ellis, who is too busy snorting cocaine and hitting on his ex-wife. That guy dies a horrible death because he's an LA moron. Dwayne T Robinson, he comes in. He takes away control from Al Powell. Now, this seems like my argument doesn't hold water. After all, Al is from LA. Al, in every shot he's in, seems to have this scorn for LA people. Look how quickly he admires John McClane. I don't blame him. John seems cool. I want to be friends with John. (Not actually true. John seems wildly toxic and I don't need anyone like that in my life.) But Al is so used to hearing nonsense from the privileged guys like Robinson that he instantly sees a kindred spirit in John McClane. Then there are the FBI guys, Johnson and Johnson. (This is a weird joke, right? It's so odd how it doesn't fit in this movie, but we all kind of ignore it.) The FBI guys are LA, right? I know they say "Washington", but they got there way too quickly. I'm not sure if Die Hard is playing fast and loose with transportation times, but that does seem to be the case. (Remember, the FBI guys say that they are bringing in the imprisoned members of all these different factions within the two hour window. There were groups from Canada, Northern Ireland, and Asian Dawn.) I'm not sure if that wasn't what they were communicating, but I don't see how that plays out differently. But if you are working class, you are spiritually New York. If you are making some bills, you are LA. Unless you are working switchboard the night of the Nakatomi attack. Then I have nothing for you.
There's a great bit from some YouTube puppet show, Glove and Boots. It's about Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead not knowing how to use a walkie talkie. I don't that John McTiernan or John McClane also know to use a walkie talkie. They interrupt each other over walkie talkie. How does that work? That shouldn't be happening. This was the first time that I realized that there are a lot of moments that I watched the film and thought, "That's probably not how that works." I'm really okay with Die Hard having plot holes. There are moments where it doesn't really make a lick of sense, but for some reason, it gets a pass. Maybe because the movie is so fun. Having John McClane interrupt people to insult them via walkie talkie is great. John also bandages up his cut foot from the broken glass with his shirt. Why didn't he make shoes out of his shirt so he wouldn't have to walk across the glass? I already mentioned the time and the fact that the police in LA have wildly insane explanations for why they are acting the way they do. Also, that guy who was hanging from the chain? He was dead. I'm sorry. There's no way. But it's cool. But the chain guy reminded me of something that I thought of when I was watching this. Hans Gruber, lovingly played by Alan Rickman, is a great villain. He does some pretty evil things throughout the movie that really kind of stymie my whole idea. But I still want to put it down here because it sounds like something I'd like to make. If Hans Gruber didn't kill Mr. Takagi at the beginning, this might actually work. If Hans didn't kill anyone, I'd love to film this movie as a film about Hans Gruber. Hear me out because I have to earnestly forgive some behavior. Imagine that this was an Ocean's Eleven styled heist. Their plan is pretty intricate, so that part works well. But there's this guy in the building obsessed with bringing them down. You never really see him, except that he's always around you, hiding in the vents like a xenomorph. You keep thinking that you kill the guy, but he comes back like Jason time and time again. He takes more punishment and he shows up again. That scene at the end where McClane has the gun taped to his back? He looks like he's Jason ready for one last fight. The world is burning behind them and Hans is so close to escaping. That's a final showdown if I've ever seen one. It's a shame that there are hostages because it makes John the clear bad guy. But McClane has some Javert qualities to him. He's obsessive. He's never going to let him go. I'd love to flip the script and have it about an Ocean's Eleven style heist horror movie. Golly, I love this idea.
There are a ton of fun little details that I never caught before. I didn't realize how important Holly's Rolex is to the whole film. Ellis goes on this whole rant about it because he's trying to show off how much better LA is to New York. But that Rolex comes into play at the end. Hans Gruber, when he's hanging off the building, I always thought he was holding onto Holly's wrist. Nope. He's hanging onto her wristband of her Rolex. It's when John and she undo the clasp that he slow motion falls to his death. (By the way, the stunt from the long shot? I'm impressed.) I love when movies put this attention to detail in the film. I love that Argyle stays in the story, just as a reminder that he's there so he can put an end to Theo. It's all these little things that are awesome. Agent Johnson's reaction to Vietnam is pretty hilarious. It's weird how dated that reference is now, but it still gets me. Die Hard is just a fun, fun movie that exists nowhere near reality, but I don't care. It's a fun movie. If you want me to stand strong on if its a Christmas movie, I have to say I don't care. I think the first act is pretty Christmas heavy, but the last two acts only touch upon the holiday. Shane Black makes all of his movies at Christmas because it creates greater tension. By that logic, I have to side against it. But if you love this as a Christmas movie...go to town. I don't blame you. Enjoy what you and enjoy and just kind of leave it be.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.