For all of you dying to know which side I sit on, here is the answer at long last: Die Hard is 100% a Christmas movie. ‘Tis the season, gifts are purchased, “Merry Christmas” is spray painted on the wall, and a workaholic rushes to make it home in time for December 25th. What screams Christmas more than people (hostages, police, terrorists, whatever) coming together around a single beacon of light (a skyscraper with a helipad)?
Die Hard begins innocently enough, with New York police officer, John McClane (Bruce Willis), trying to make it home for Christmas. A limo picks him up at the California airport but, instead of bringing him home, delivers him to his wife’s (Holly Gennaro) office Christmas party. Never one to run away from a good party, John decides to freshen up before joining the other guests. Separated from the party room, with shirt off and shoes discarded, John suddenly becomes the only man overlooked when a group of German “terrorists” take over the building and round up hostages. John switches to New York cop mode in a blink and assumes responsibility for protecting the hostages, signaling the police, and mowing down as many Germans as necessary.
John McClane goes from unsupportive husband to sweaty, filthy cowboy as quickly as cinematically possible. His first move is to prioritize his needs – starting with finding a pair of shoes. When John discovers that the first goon he incapacitates has small feet he immediately abandons all hope of finding footwear and turns his focus to collecting guns instead. From Ready: break-in, to Set: find supplies, to Go: wreak havoc, Die Hard is really just one large, single-player game of Hide-and-Seek with collection points and C-4 explosives.
While Die Hard may be one of the best assemblies of one-liners in Hollywood (“Yippee-kai-yay –”) the majority of John’s dialogue is spoken through walkie talkie, since the goal of his mission is to stay as hidden and alone as possible. This gives John plenty of opportunities to make light of his situation, speaking loudly and clearly, while twelve German gunmen somehow fail to uncover his location. This is on top of the breadcrumb-like trail of blood John leaves around the complex – like a real man.
Next to painting the New York police department in an enchantingly flattering light, Die Hard has the complete opposite effect on California’s police as well as the F.B.I. After California Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson (Paul Gleason) totally massacres his response to the situation, F.B.I. Agent Johnson (Grand L. Bush) and Special F.B.I. Agent Johnson (Robert Davi) saunter in to plant a cherry atop their grand list of mistakes – with government approval. Poor John tries his best not to bleed out all over the building while the local police send in their weakest and dumbest to make everything worse. It’s like throwing matches at a rocket launcher.
In classic 1988 fashion, Die Hard doesn’t gloss over the action with “poof” punch sounds or Krav Maga choreography. For the most part Die Hard is one guy desperately shoving or headlocking another guy until that other guy stays down. This is followed up by a body search, a brief joke, and a check-point conversation over the walkie talkie. Die Hard is deliberately shot on an angle (like the cool-guy cameraman is holding his weapon sideways) but is otherwise classically well crafted (“Ode to Joy” is, after all, the theme song) and fun for the more twisted side of your family. Who wants to watch Elf when we could have gunfights and military choppers? ‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the building, Bruce Willis killed terrorists and did a great job of shooting. 8.5/10.