The first thing I thought was: Where have you gone, Hans?
Watching Die Hard made me miss Alan Rickman.The late British actor was a nobody to movie audiences before he donned the precious suit of Hans Gruber and took over the Nakatomi Plaza on Christmas in 1988.Way before he played a role in Harry Potter’s adventures or broke Emma Thompson’s heart in Love Actually, Rickman was a badass thief masquerading as a terrorist in LA one cold evening nearly three decades ago.
Die Hard was released in the summer, but there are so many elements of Christmas in the movie that to me, it’s the most unconventional Christmas story ever made.
There’s the holiday Christmas party being thrown on the 30th floor where the madness erupts.
There’s the fact that Clarence Gilyard’s Theo uses a Christmas song when describing the SWAT team approaching the building.
Santa Claus mannequins or pictures pop up throughout the film.
The movie is obviously set on Christmas Eve.
There’s the fact that John McClane uses Christmas wrapping paper to hide the Beretta on his back before shooting Hans and his henchman in the end.
Whether you think it’s a Christmas film or not, Die Hard holds up like a brand new penny 28 years later. The movie works as seamlessly as it did the first time. Watching the film at the Hi Pointe Theater on Christmas Eve the other night was a surreal experience. The theater was nearly full, and dialogue was recited before the actors could get around to it. Normally, that would be an annoying experience. On this night, it was great.
1988 featured Bruce Willis before he put on the movie star underwear. He was a nobody back then, acting in a few comedies and TV series. He had to not only get his feet wet but fill them with glass too in order to join Arnold and Sly in the Action Hero penthouse suite.The film opens with the plane landing at LAX and you are counting down the second until the machine gun fire breaks out and Willis put on his “Holy shit let’s dance bad guys” face.
Action movies get a bad rap these days. The hard asses don’t like them as much, and think they are overcooked. The appreciation for a well done action adventure is lost on the average movie fan. Die Hard takes you back to a time where stunt doubles, logistical explosions, scenery chewing bad guys, bloodied good guys, and teddy bear twinkie eating policeman roamed the big screen.
These days, action stars don’t dominate the box office. The Rock may be the highest paid movie star, but his biggest films aren’t old fashioned action flicks. Vin Diesel requires the Fast and Furious crowd to dominate. Jason Statham’s last few films have bombed. Sly and Arnold are getting old. Willis doesn’t even do much action these days, and his face is seen more on direct to DVD productions. Die Hard is a throwback. It’s also a great fucking movie that was ahead of its time.
It was made for 28 million, which was a big budget back then. It grossed 137 million worldwide, which means the USA and one or two other countries. It spawned four sequels, ending with a movie that saw an old and grizzled McClane fight Russian terrorists with his son Jack.
With no offense to William Sadler, Jeremy Irons, Timothy Olyphant and whoever played the bad guy in that last one, neither of them come close to Rickman’s Hans. This was the rare occasion where you liked the bad guy more than what was necessary. You wanted to see him live in the end so there could be more adventures. Rickman took a normal bad guy who loved fashion and couldn’t get his American heroes right, and turned him into a cinematic icon. What if Hans had gotten his damn detonators sooner? Fuck.
The small things with this film make me laugh. Seeing a suave looking McClane go from clean to cut, beaten, and dirtied by the end. Seeing an 80’s hair wielding Bonnie Bedalia. The interaction between Reginald Johnson and McClane is a treat. The gun battles atop the plaza still thrill, and Willis reciting lines that have become synonymous with movie hero glory.
“Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few drinks.”
Join the party pal! This is a bad idea! I’ll fucking kill you!
It gives me a cinematic boner just thinking about it.
Let’s stop making John McClane movies. No more sequels are needed or will ever attain the original’s feel and skill level. It will never be as fresh again. Instead, go back and appreciate the goods that director John McTierian had to offer. In one film, he created one of the best cinematic heroes and villains ever to grace the screen.
Yippie Ki Yay, motherfuckers! Merry Christmas, and thanks for reading.