Throwback Thursday – A Very Die Hard Christmas
Tis’ the season for gathering around the tree with your loved ones, pouring a glass of eggnog, and putting on a classic Christmas movie. Do you watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation? The 24 hour marathon of A Christmas Story is always a favorite. A Charlie Brown Christmas is probably coming on soon… This year start a new tradition. Take off your ugly Christmas sweater to reveal a stained wife beater, smash your glass of eggnog on the floor then walk across the glass covered floor barefooted, and shoot into your DVD player the definitive Christmas movie of all time Die Hard.
The film takes place on Christmas Eve in Los Angeles. Bruce Willis plays John McClane, a New York street cop who shows up at his estranged wife’s company party in Nakatomi Plaza just in time for Snape, I mean Alan Rickman in his breakout role as Hans Gruber, and his band of terrorists to take over the building and hold everyone hostage. He is the only one to escape their brutal round up, and tries desperately to find help. The terrorist’s motivations are unclear at first, although we soon learn that they wish to break into the companies 7 layer security vault, one layer at a time. They hold the hostages until they can hold the cash. One man versus an entire office building of memorable henchman, working against the ticking time bomb of a hostage situation and a vault break. Part action movie, part heist. All awesome.
The only people John has contact with on the outside are the Twinkie eating cop Sgt. Powell played by the hilarious Reginald VelJohnson (the dad from Family Matters), the vice principle from The Breakfast Club Paul Gleason as the police chief, Argyle the comic relief limo driver, and eventually the completely incompetent FBI agents. With no real backup to speak of, it’s up to John to save the day.
One of the best traits of the movie is that the hero is just a regular guy. He gets through situations with ingenuity (machine gun shoulder strap rappelling, a c4/computer monitor bomb), perseverance, and sheer luck. He can’t knock out people in a single punch or fire unlimited rounds of ammo from his machine gun. If he gets shot, he bleeds. As he walks across the broken glass littering the ground from the hundreds of rounds fired against him, he limps and crawls.
But what does any of this have to do with Christmas, the kids and grandparents will say as they gaze up at you, eyes glazed with coming sleep?
Die Hard is full of Christmas themes and lessons the whole family can get behind.
1. Holidays are all about family
Even though he is hurt and outnumbered, John won’t give up until he can protect his family. Those who have stood in lines for hours at Black Friday and dealt with the war like conditions there just to emerge with the Furby or Lego set their kid wanted will know that perseverance is key. The holidays bring families together no matter how far apart, just like John and his wife. Some might say that on Christmas…
2. Christmas Miracles Can Happen
John gets out of many of the situations through sheer luck. Whether its bullets narrowly missing his face in an air duct or the electromagnetic seal on a bank vault being released by the police, on Christmas magical things can happen.
3. This movie is all about Christmas!
The movie takes place on Christmas Eve.
The company party that got busted up… a Christmas party.
When we first meet Argyle, John asks why they can’t listen to Christmas music. Argyle responds “This is Christmas music!” while the rap version Christmas in Hollis plays by RUN DMC.
“Let it Snow” plays over the ending credits.
Who can forget when John upgrades his weaponry and sends a former henchman down to his comrades with a santa hat and the message, “Now I have a machine gun. Ho Ho Ho”?
Throw in the most memorable one liners of any Christmas, let alone action, movie ever and Christmas Vacation just can’t compete.
- “Does it sound like I’m ordering a pizza?!”
- “Now I know what a TV dinner feels like.”
- “Welcome to the party, pal.”
- “Next time you have the chance to kill someone, don’t hesitate,” “Thanks for the advice”
- “Yippee-ki-yay”… well you know the rest
Unfortunately, the later entries in the series can’t live up to the miraculous foundation set in this film. I made the mistake of seeing the abysmal Live Free or Die Hard in theaters. I believe in the series, and I had hoped a return to the R rating could save it. I was wrong. But what is Christmas if not a time to think upon the past? The family traditions passed down of hanging ornaments or a Christmas dinner. A time filled with snow covered streets and candlelight, workshops with elves and flying reindeer. A time when John McClane wasn’t a superhero destroying helicopters with cars. A simpler time, a better time. Merry Christmas everyone and yippee-ki-yay.