This week’s theme is Christmas. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of quality Christmas movies on instant Netflix so we’ll broaden the theme to include those movies that take place during the holidays.
WATCH: Die Hard (1988) – Rated R for brief nudity, graphic language, and graphic violence
“NYPD cop John McClane’s (Bruce Willis) plan to reconcile with his estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), is thrown for a serious loop when minutes after he arrives at her office, the entire building is overtaken by a group of pitiless terrorists. With little help from the LAPD, wisecracking McClane sets out to single-handedly rescue the hostages and bring the bad guys down. This classic John McTiernan actioner launched Willis into superstardom.”
“Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho”
Early in our marriage, my wife and I went on vacation alone. My in-laws graciously offered to watch the children so we could do this. When we returned from vacation, our eldest daughter (7? 8?) told us that she had seen a Santa Claus movie. When we asked her about it, she said that Santa was dead in the elevator! We had a good chuckle when we finally realized what movie she meant and ever since I’ve thought of this as one of my favorite Christmas movies.
In Die Hard, Bruce Willis successfully transitioned from TV star to action movie star. He makes a great reluctant everyman hero. He is athletic without being overly muscled like his action star contemporaries Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger (who both turned down this role). Bonnie Bedelia is quite good as our savvy and pretty fearless damsel in distress.
Every great action movie (and this is one of the all-time best) needs a great villain. Alan Rickman’s debut performance as Hans Gruber is a revelation. Witty, urbane, and comic yet full of menace and unhesitating violence, Rickman is a delight to watch. Alexander Godunov gives a performance that is full of repressed (and not so repressed) rage as the undervillain. Clarence Gilyard Jr. provides some nice comic relief and the other villains are good as well. There’s a wonderful bit of product placement for Nestle Crunch bar.
The script has quite a number of great twists and turns (many not in the source novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorpe) and the action direction is wonderful. The script has a bunch of great quotable one-liners and they are really good in context – unlike the out of place over-the-top groaners we see in later action films. The film is wonderfully paced and leads to a very exciting conclusion (and a less exciting and somewhat ‘huh?’ post-conclusion).
People watch: Okay not a person but the teddy bear that McClane has for his kids is the same teddy bear that Jack Ryan has for his kids in John McTiernan’s The Hunt for Red October. Quintessential butthead William Atherton (Ghostbusters, Real Genius) again plays a butthead in this film and reprises his role in the sequel.