Normally I do some sort of intro for these posts, but considering the potential for mayhem contained within, I think I’ll just shut up and let J.B. introduce it herself.
PS: Visit this talented, cruel, evil and fantastic author at: www.jenniferbrockwell.com
For the Love of God Stop Calling It a Christmas Movie
By J.B. Rockwell
Now before you all flood the comments section with righteous indignation and send an angry mob to my doorstep armed with torches and pitchforks, let me remind you that I love bad movies (well, except for that turd ball Anaconda 3, that movie can die a thousand deaths). That’s the whole point of this series. Got that? Great. Let’s proceed.
Wait, you don’t got that? Fine. Go hear and read my inaugural Bad Movie Review post first, I’ll wait here patiently until you get back.
*whistles tunelessly, rocks back and forth*
Done? Great. Now let me offer one amendment to that original listing. If you remember, I subdivided my beloved bad movies into three big bucket categories: Cheap & Cheesy, SyFy Originals, and Blockbuster Bellyflops. Die Hard doesn’t quite fit into any of them—it’s a Blockbuster but certainly not a Bellyflop—so I’m gonna ad hoc and add a fourth category—Holy Mother of Over-the-Topness!—‘cause that’s where Die Hard fits in.
So. Die Hard. A movie we all know and love.
What’s that? You’ve never heard of it? How large of a rock have you been living under??!! I mean, this movie’s a classic macho man modern western, 2 hours and 12 minutes of big-big ‘splosions and utterly ridiculous plot points threaded together by a series of trite and entertaining one liners, including the eponymous ‘Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker’ we all know and love. What it’s not is a Christmas movie, so stop calling it that. Yes, it takes place at Christmas time (on Christmas Eve, to be exact) but I think we can all agree that there’s nothing Chrismassy about explosions and terrorists dying in a hail of bullets and blood.
Okay, I don’t find that particularly Christmassy, but if you do, have at it. And, yes, I did say ‘western’. John McClane sounds pretty darn close to John Wayne—you don’t think that’s a coincidence, do you? You do? Really. Okay, then how come Alan Rickman’s character keeps calling Bruce Willis ‘cowboy’? Because he’s German? Alright, I’ll give you that—no idea why German’s are so obsessed with calling Americans cowboys, but that’s a fair point—but the movie itself refers to John Wayne, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers more times than I can count and that is most certainly not a coincidence. So there.
Wait…You’re still not on board with this being a bad movie, though, are you? *sigh* Fine. We’ll do this the hard way. Read on and I’ll point out why this movie we all love is, in actuality, a bad-bad-very bad-but-still-quite-enjoyable flick of note. But, first, a little set-up.
John McClane, a NYPD police officer, tries to save his wife Holly Gennaro and several others taken hostage by German terrorists during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles.
Note: I could’ve sworn McClane makes a comment about wishing he was back in Pittsburgh as some point, but NYPD it is.
Bruce Willis (Known for, well this, mostly, and playing this same character in just about every movie he starred in after) as John McClane: a cowboy cop with a cowboy name doing cowboy things to stop the Arian terrorists san save his lady love. Also, he’s barefoot.
Alan Rickman (AKA, Professor Severus Snape from the Harry Potter movies) as Hans Gruber: terrorist mastermind, also, German. Speaks with a distinctly British accent except for every once in a while when he remembers he’s supposed to be German.
Holly Bedelia (Best known for… this, maybe? I don’t know, she was in a lot of 1980s movies and some other things after that but she’s not really what you’d call ‘memorable’ or anything) as Holly Genero McClane: Wayne McClane’s wife, gets taken hostage, otherwise pointless presence in the movie.
Reginald VelJohnson (Best known as Carl Winslow from Family Matters, that show with Urkel) as Sergeant Al Powell: Wayne McClane’s cop friend and CB radio confidant, sharing tender moments with his brother in blue while terrorists take over and the rest of the LA police force stands around being useless.
Budget & Box Office Info:
- Release Date: 20 July 1988
- Budget: $28M
- Box Office Sales: $140M Worldwide. Dude!
Sequels & Crossovers:
LOTS. Sequels to the original include Die Hard 2, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Live Free or Die Hard, A Good Day to Die Hard, and a slew of video games. The movie also inspired a few songs, a line of batteries and a military regiment (I kid you not). I expect someone’s also done a porno homage (c’mon, it’s obvious, right?) but no way am I googling to confirm that suspicion.
The Story (in a Nutshell):
Warning: Spoilers. Proceed with—hold on. REALLY? You’ve NEVER seen this movie. Sheesh. Okay. Proceed with caution.
Ah, the 1980s. A time when a cop could just blithely carry a firearm onto a plane without anyone caring. We open on a plane with our hero, NYPD police officer John Wayne McClane, toting both a gun and a stuffed teddy bear as he touches down in LA to spend Christmas with his wife, Holly.
Their marriage is on the rocks, of course, because if 1980’s era cop movies taught us anything, it’s that every lone wolf, cowboy cop has a marriage in trouble, and an over-achieving wife just waiting for him to woo her back. So, it’s office to the Nakatomi building where his high-flying, corporate wife works and an equally corporate Christmas party, and at some point some terrorists show up.
But, before the terrorists, there’s boredom. A good twenty minutes of stultifying nothing that leaves you wondering if you’re actually watching the right movie…
The Rest of It:
The rest of it starts off with a bang, by which I mean badly, because we jump right into the first many sloppy-bad plot points riddling the Die Hard’s plot like Swiss cheese.
By which I mean the holes in Swiss cheese, not the cheese itself, of course. I’m not really sure cheese can riddle anything, to be honest, unless it’s—
What’s that? Oh, right. Sorry. Those bad things I mentioned…
Bad Plot Point #1: Bad tech and long, drawn out situations to get at one teeny-tiny point that isn’t actually important.
At the Nakatomi building, Wayne McClane spends a good five minutes futzing with the ‘high tech’ (for the 80s) personnel directory, only to have the building’s security guy—one of only two in this 30+ story building, which is hard to believe, and the same person who told Warne McClane to use the stupid directory in the first place—casually inform him that the only people left in the building are at the holiday party on the 30th floor.
What…Why… All that wasted space just so we could find out that Wayne McClane’s wife changed her last name? And you make this big deal out of that teddy bear but he just ditches it in the limo that brought him there from the airport? This isn’t Die Hard, it’s Suck Hard. My god, the first twenty freaking minutes of this movie are a steaming pile of nothing whose sole purpose is to repeatedly smacking us between the eyes with Wayne McClane’s marital problems, the fact that he’s a ‘good guy’ but put-upon and his wife is kind of a bitch.
Okay, okay, I’m sorry, it’s just…this is supposed to be an action movie not a whiny bitch swooning over his disinterested wife movie. There, I said it. The beginning of this movie sucks donkey balls and I’m not backing down from that opinion.
But, it gets better. You just have to suffer for maybe thirty minutes, only half paying attention to what’s going on. And just about when you’re ready to turn the jilted love story off because you’re really truly convinced this is the wrong picture show,
SOMETHING FINALLY HAPPENS.
In this case, terrorists. German terrorists, to be specific, dressed like hair band version of Kraftwerk ready to get their techno-techno sexy times dancing on. Only, they’re not terrorists, they’re bank robbers. But the movie insists they’re terrorists, so…terrorists.
It’s the 1980s. I guess stealing money was considered terrorism back then.
Anywho, hopped up, over-armed, very German bank robb—terrorists, led by the supposedly German but extremely English sounding Hans Gruber (Rickman) somehow managed to get past the Fort Knox level security force of exactly 2 guards in this high tech and purportedly secure building, storm their way to the party on the 30th floor and take everyone hostage.
With the exception of bad-boy, cowboy cop Wayne McClane, of course. He’s a badass cowboy copy from New York City, and badass cowboy cops don’t get taken hostage by no one, especially Germans or silly, foppish Englishmen presenting themselves as German. Nope, nope, nope. It’s off to the rooftops—or the top floor, which is the next best thing, apparently—to call for help.
Never mind that every other phone in the building has been disabled. Apparently Cowboy BeCop thinks phone connectivity rises like heat so up he goes, and ends up pissed off when the upper tier phones still don’t work.
Huh. Who-da thunk it.
Down below, the terror-robbers are busy hacking into the building’s super-duper computer system (which is ridiculously easy since thus is the 80s and no one uses passwords or anything), disabling pretty much everything to make sure the police stay out of their business.
Side Note: Alan Rickman’s role as Hans Gruber really was good practice for his much later appearance in Harry Potter. If you close one eye and look at the screen sort of sidewise like you can hardly tell which movie you’re watching. Unfortunately, he’s crap at German accents.
Yeah, that’s right. Utter shite.
Back at the party, there’s lots of screaming and milling about and pointless discharging of firearms which somehow attracts no attention at all, despite the Nakatomi building being located in close-packed and extremely urbanized LA. Then again, it’s Christmas Eve so I suppose the locals just thought it was fireworks or Christmas crackers or something…Nah, even I’m not going for that one.
Bad Plot Point #2: Despite protracted and egregious amount of gunfire in a densely packed, urban area, no one seems to notice.
Lame, writers. Really, really lame. Also, two security guards? Seriously??
Anyway, back at the part, the terrorists round up all the coked up, half-drunk, half-naked party goers in order to find out which one is Nakatomi. Which brings us to,
Bad Plot Point #3: Bad guys with limitless access to resources and information who somehow don’t happen to have the one thing they need, that is also the simplest and easiest to obtain.
Despite having an extremely detailed resume on Nakatomi, which includes his first words, what he ate for breakfast and his preferred color, size and brand of underwear, the terror robbers—who arrive with tons of guns and a tech wiz who can navigate their computer system as easily as a go-cart track—can’t seem to locate something as simple as a picture of their target. What the fuck? This isn’t the 1800s! This is the 1980s! Pictures are a commodity and every major corporation as a picture of their executives hanging on the wall. Did you think to check the rogues gallery in the fucking lobby?! No, terror robbers. No, you didn’t Instead, you guys rolled up in your sweat pants and John Tesh hair, singing along to Der Kommissar and proceeded to play Marco Polo with all the tippled party-goers until Nakatomi—purportedly out of some sense of chivalry, or decency, or other positive descriptor ending in ‘y’—ratted himself out.
Really? Really? We’re supposed to believe you’re all that stupid and useless, but somehow Uber Gruber the effete English German man is also some kind of Grand Master of Terror Robbery?!
I can’t—I don’t—Are you starting to see the pattern here? Do you understand why I’m telling you this is a bad movie?
No. You’re not, are you? I can tell by the squinchy-faced way you’re staring at your computer screen.
Alright. I’ll lay down a few more breadcrumbs.
At this point in the movie, we’ve had 15 minutes of broody terrorists, random gunfire and screaming, half-naked, coked-up party guests (Side Note: there’s only one set of nipple popping boobies in this movie, which has to be some kind of record), plus twenty minutes of fluff-and-stuff nothingness before that, but we still have zero idea what the terrorists actually want. Also, the whole kill off the guards, round up hostages and hack into the computer system business seems like an overly complicated way to get to a guy who works in the building every damn day and feels safe enough being there to only employ two security guard to watch over 30+ floors. Seems like they could’ve saved themselves a whole lot of trouble—and bullets, and hostages, and henchmen—by waylaying Nakatomi on his way to the tennis club, or aqua aerobics, or whatever corporate bigwigs in the 1980s spent their time on in the mornings.
You know what comes next, don’t you?
Bad Plot Point #4: Overly complicated set-ups to problems which have obvious and much simpler solutions.
You’re not going to like hearing me say this, but there is absolutely no reason for the terror robbers to take hostages. This entire thing could’ve been accomplished without guns, explosives, or—as we later find out—Nakatomi himself.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In a bold movie of surprisingly clear plotting, Uber Gruber finally reveals his terror robbers’ purpose. Evidently, there’s $640 million in bearer bonds locked in a computer controlled vault in the Nakatomi building, and they’re kidnapping Nakatomi—or is it elderlynapping since he’s like 70?—to force him to give up the code. Jokes on them, though, because it turns out he doesn’t know it. So, being German, and terror robbers, and surprisingly ill-prepared, ill-informed, and generally useless, they shoot him dead.
Okay. So, the entire first part of this movie was essentially pointless, and now the bad guys stuck with a bunch of hostages they didn’t really need in the first place, definitely don’t need now that Nakatomi is dead, and yet, for some completely unknown reason, they still insist on keeping all those prying eyes and ears around.
<Insert Bad Plot Point #4 about a thousand times>
So, Nakatomi’s dead and the access code is nowhere to be found. Uber Gruber and his terror robbers are fucked, right? Nope! For once, they actually planned for a contingency they didn’t even know they needed. Remember that guy who hacked the computer system like The Legend of Zelda? Well, turns out he’s got other mad skills. So the terror Germans bust out their resident smart guy—again—and set him to breaking the vault code before drilling his way through seven layers of physical defenses. And while he’s busy safe cracking, the rest of Baron Von Munchhausen’s crew start wiring the building with explosives. For apparently no reason. Other than to keep the German contingent busy while Uber Gruber gets to stealin’, of course.
All this German industriousness finally gives Wayne McClane—whose been hanging out upstairs staring longingly out the windows and desperately trying to attract police attention—something real to do. First, he kills off one Uber Gruber’s henchmen and ships his body downstairs as a present—another cack-handed plot point whose sole purpose is to find a way to draw to sick the terrorists on Wayne McClane who, up until this point, has pretty much hidden out and gone completely unnoticed by the terrors to this point.
In other stupid plot point news, McClane actually gets through to the cops to report a terrorist incursion, only to have them not take it seriously and basically tell him to piss off.
Bad Plot Point #5: Overly dense police.
Alright, I get that it’s the 1980s and we haven’t gone into full terror lockdown mode yet, but I would think the LA police force—who see a good bit of violence on the average day—would at least take the time to look into a report of terrorist activity rather than berating a guy for using a police channel to make a complaint. Also, when they hear gunfire in the background—which they do!—I’m pretty sure they’d send more than one cruiser with a jelly roll desk jockey at the wheel to see what’s going on.
C’mon, people. The police are not this useless. Not even in the 1980s.
Back at the building, Wayne McClane gets caught up in a typical 1980’s gunfight 1980s involving lots of bullets, lots of sparking, and absolutely nothing and no one getting hit. Following said gunfight, Wayne McClane retreats into the bowels of the building, spending the next 10 minutes playing Tomb Raider in the elevator shaft while the German terror robbers run around and half-heartedly pursue him, acting very German and decidedly pissed off.
Meanwhile, the cop car shows up Al Roker at the wheel to follow up on the terrorist report. But the terror robbers are masters of disguise, in addition to being terror robbers and German, and lay on the Southern accent and cowboy boots to convince him they’re all ‘Mericans here and there’s nothing at all wrong.
Happy (and probably hungry—Al Roker looks like he hasn’t eaten a jelly donut in a while) Sergeant Jelly Roll stuffs himself back into his cruiser to get on his way. But Wayne McClane dumps a dead body onto the cop car’s hood and finally, finally someone in the LAPD starts thinking something’s not quite right here.
In a panic—after all, he’s missing out on his pre-dinner jelly donut—Al Roker calls in back-up.
That’s when shit starts to get real.
Enter every cop car the LA police force has anywhere, but when Uber Gruber looks out the windows, he just says, ‘This action was inevitable’.
No. No, it wasn’t. You don’t need hostages, you didn’t need to kidnap Nakatomi from a Christmas party only to kill him. All you had to do was take out two measly guards after hours when no fucking one else was around and the police would’ve been none-the-wiser. You could’ve taken your time, probably stopped for tea and a biscuit, cracked into that safe easy-peasy and taken off with those bearer bonds without anyone even knowing you were ever there. This…shit storm of a plan is the worst idea you could’ve come up with. You are a stupid, worthless bank robber who styles himself as a terrorist who’s actually pretty fucking useless in either capacity and pulls off a crap German accent to boot.
Don’t believe me? Well, right about now they’ve discovered they lost their detonator. WHO FUCKING LOSES A DETONATOR??!! Useless people, that’s who! And it pains me to say this, but Cowboy Besquat isn’t score real high on intellectual meter at the moment either. In the first of many heart-to-hearts he had with Al Roker over the CB radio, he reveals what he’s learned about the terrorists, including the following statement:
McClane: These guys are mostly European judging by their clothing labels and cigarettes.
Really? The fucking German accents didn’t give them away? You’re such a brilliant member of the police community that you completely missed their messed up, mumbly Joe utterances and only honed in on their fashion and fags?
Worthless. All of them—police and terror robbers, both.
Meanwhile, outside, Chief Wiggam reports in and decides to storm the building to take down Wayne McClane in retaliation for calling the police. Despite the dead body dropped on his deputy’s hood, he staunchly refuses there are either terrorists or hostages inside, but damned if he’s gonna let one man get away with clogging up the police airwaves. So, the SWAT teams deployed in an all-out assault on the building, lit up like a bunch of black-clad Christmas by the phalanx of industrial-sized spotlights bathing them in a million watt glow. Surprisingly, Uber Gruber and his Kraftwerk Klowns see them—I know! I couldn’t believe it either!—but, on his orders, shoot to wound the cops, not kill them.
What?! Why! You killed fucking Nakatomi for not having the code you wanted but a bunch of cops show up and suddenly you have a conscience??!!
Amazingly, things get worse from there. With the on-foot cops down, the police send in an armored assault vehicle to bust through the doors and get into the building. So the terror robbers dig into their bag of toys and haul out a couple of rocket launchers to blow the assault vehicle to hell.
Bad Plot Point #6: Inconsistent actions to, once again, set up an unnecessary follow-on plot point.
So…cops on foot good, cops in vehicle bad? If they’d just walked up and knocked politely would the terror robbers have invited them in for tea and crumpets? Unfortunately, we’ll never know, but we do know that Wayne McClane, in retaliation, wires up some C4 he got from…somewhere, straps it to a desk chair with a computer monitor, and chucks the entire thing down an elevator to make a really big boom.
That’s when Chief Wiggam finally starts to suspect that something more might be going on here than just one lone gunman calling in fake emergencies.
Side note: I probably should’ve mentioned this earlier, but there are more F-bombs in this movie than a Spike Lee film. John Wayne’s horse would be embarrassed. The Duke himself would most certainly not approve.
Anyway, shits about to get really, really real, but Wayne McClane and Al Roker pause to share another touching moment on the radio, just to remind us what he’s fighting for. Uber Gruber, meanwhile, contacts Chief Wiggam with a list of political prisoners he wants released in exchange for the hostages, but it’s all just a shame—a crafty way to stall them, and buy more time to for his whiz kid to finish breaking into the vault.
Terror robbers don’t care about political prisoners. Terror robbers care about the cash. And Kraftwerks—they like to get funky after a job.
Blah-blah-blah, more wasted time, and suddenly the FBI appears to take control of the party outside!
Inside, Uber Gruber (have I mentioned1980s Ala Rickman looks amazingly similar to a 2017 version of Dennis Quaid?) goes hunting for his detonators and runs straight into Wayne McClane. He’s a sneaky son of a bitch, though, and acts all terrified and American to get on Wayne Mclane’s good side, so now they have a little heart to heart, share some smokes and stare at each others’ feet.
Oh, right, Wayne McClane’s been barefoot the entire movie, and it’s just a matter of time before he and his bare feet run into a fuck ton of broken glass.
Which happens right after Uber Gruber reveals himself, and calls in his schweinhunds to take Wayne McClayne out.
Another interminable gunfight follows in which approximately 1,836 rounds are expended from the Germans’ magical, never-ending-bullet-supply guns, and yet the only casualty is McClane’s poor piddies, which are much assaulted by many panes of broken glass.
In an effort to waste more time, make this already-too-long movie longer, and try to add some kind of life lesson or deeper meaning (I guess), Wayne McClane and Al Roker have yet another touching moment, this time in the bathroom, while WC picks glass out of his bloody feet.
Meanwhile, the FBI’s doing something with the power in the surrounding area that somehow plays into the terror robbers’ plan by magically opening the vault, which was apparently designed by the Hamburglar and Grimace.
Can I pause at this point to note that no one—not one single person in this movie—has bothered to figure out what these Deutschland Dumbasses want in order to try to get rid of them without violence? No one. Not one. Wayne McClane ain’t got a clue about what’s going on, he’s just rampaging around, blowing shit up and whacking anything that’s German and moves. The LAPD is useless and the FBI are such idiots that when the terror robbers ask for transport for the hostages, they send in fucking gunships, thinking the bad guys somehow won’t notice! Meanwhile, Wayne McClane’s running around sweaty and shirtless, kills a few more terror robbers–including Uber Gruber’s Number 2—and eventually ends up on rooftop where all the hostages except his wife—who’s finally been found put by Uber Gruber way too fucking late in the movie for it to be important and hauled off elsewhere for no other discernible reason than to force a showdown between the Master Terror Robber and a frankly disgustingly sweaty and still barefooted Wayne McClane.
In almost-but-not-quite climactic sequence, Wayne McClane abseils over the edge of the high-rises building using a firehose, narrowly escaping before Uber Gruber blows the roof and the choppers with it. After he shoots his way through some windows and swings inside, he sets off after Uber Gruber to make him dead and save his on and off again lady love while, elsewhere, lots and lots of things go boom.
With just two bullets left, Wayne McClane takes on Ze Germans—bloody, limping, sweaty enough to knock a building flat with his stench. He’s outnumbered and half-naked but, luckily, a badass. Also, he has exactly enough bullets for the terror robbers that are left.
After capping the Germans’ asses, Wayne McClane triumphantly exits the building with his corporate (not-quite-so) hotty wife on his arm as the building behind him burns and tons of copy paper falls like ticker tape from the sky. There he has a touching moment with Al Roker who he’s never met but instantly picks out of the crowd of cops. In a not-at-all-surprising twist, Uber Gruber’s Number 2 chooses that moment to come back from the dead, but Al Roker’s packing and plugs him dead-dead-dead.
Safe at last—and stinky, and dirty—Wayne McClane rides off into the sunset… err, I mean, midnight, on a glossy back hor—limo… there’s a whole sub-plot with a limo driver named Argyle and the parking garage of the Nakatomi building, but frankly I don’t have time to get into that because this is…
So, what message does this movie leave you with? Germans are bad? Terrorists make crap bank robbers? The LAPD are a bunch of competent boobs and wives exist for the sole purpose of being taken hostage? All of these, maybe, plus the key to safe cracking is to just turn off the power. Die Hard’s not what you’d call a ‘deep’ movie, and you don’t really want it to be, you just want entertainment, and that’s what you get. Sure, there’s bad plotting—seriously, terribly bad at times—but Die Hard’s sort of like a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich: mostly you want the bacon, the rest is just filler and garnish. Take away the bread, and you’re left with a hefty handful of cured pork—
Umm…I’m not really sure where the rest of that was going and, frankly, I’m a little scared to find out, so I’ll just leave it there, and add this one last thought:
Die Hard: the best bad movie with dodgy plotting and stupid criminals set at Christmastime. I can’t believe I’m actually going to say this, but sometimes ‘splosions aren’t enough.
- Bad Moving Rating: 5 (out of 5)
- Regular Movie Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)
This movie has a ton of them. I’ll skip the obvious ones, though—everyone knows “Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker”—and point out a few other choice lines:
Police Supervisor: [as McClane tries to call up police] Attention, whoever you are, this channel is reserved for emergency calls only.
John McClane: No fucking shit, lady. Does it sound like I’m ordering a pizza?
Hans Gruber: This time John Wayne does not walk off into the sunset with Grace Kelly.
John McClane: That was Gary Cooper, asshole.
John McClane: You’d have made a pretty good cowboy yourself, Hans.
Hans Gruber: Oh, yes. What was it you said to me before? “Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker.”
Hans Gruber (to Nakatomi): I’m going to count to 3. There will not be a 4.
Now, as soon as you get done yelling at J.B. for her hilarious insults on one of our FAVORITE CHRISTMAS MOVIES, you can check out some of her other fantastic writing. (Covers lead to Amazon.)