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Die Hard (1988)

4 December 2002 by Gnoll No Comment

DIE HARD


1988, Dir. John McTiernan.

131 min. Rated R.
Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Reginald VelJohnson, Bonnie Bedelia.

Review by Noel Wood

#7 on our list of the Best Christmas Movies Ever!

In choosing the #7 Christmas movie of all time, I decided again to go for something that isn’t always associated with the holiday season: 1988’s action movie extraordinnaire, DIE HARD. Again, we’re talking about a film that’s not your run of the mill Santa Claus and his elves family extravaganza, but one where the events take place during (and partly because of) the Christmas season.

Here’s some meta stuff first, before I talk about the film. Recently my friend and occasional MCFTR contibutor Terry made an observation that lately Movie Criticism for the Retarded has been too much Movie Criticism and not enough For the Retarded. To an extent, I guess I can see his point. This thing has changed quite a bit since its humble origins some five-plus years ago. But change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and this is coming from a guy who hasn’t changed his hairstyle in as long as this site’s been in cyberspace. I mean, after all, this isn’t just a forum for three bored store clerks to bicker amongs themselves, now it’s our chance to shove our opinions down the proverbial throats of a worldwide audience. I mean, we can’t just sit here talking about “The A-Team” while reviewing Audrey Hepburn films or writing poems about Sylvester Stallone heroes, can we? Shit, who knows. Maybe that will help bring in the hits. Or maybe it’ll scare away the handful of folks who may have bookmarked this site to gaze upon whenever they want some real insight to the world of motion pictures in general.

Wait, nevermind. I’m kidding myself. I vow to make more of an effort to retardicize this website whenever possible. Of course, the priority has been to churn stuff out ass fast as possible, so I’ve been shooting less from the hip and more from a straightforward critical point of view. Since nobody gives two shits about what some schmoe thinks about the finest works of Whit Stilman, then I guess the trick is to go back to what made us what we are today.

Retarded.

So anyway, that segues us right into DIE HARD. Not that this film is anywhere near the radar of retardedness by any means. This is one of my favorite action movies of all time. This is the movie that made the mold that no Bruckheimer clone could break. You know all those fast-talking action heroes who make clever little quips whenever their lives are in danger? They all want to be John McClane. You know all those European villains who say profoundly intelligent things before they kill somebody off? They’re all just Hans Gruber wannabes. The older black cop who just doesn’t have it in him anymore? Okay, that was LETHAL WEAPON. But you can still see my point. This movie manages to incorporate all the great action movie cliches before they all got a chance to be cliches. It’s even got the hotshot negotiator, the inept police chief, and the weasly reporter. And of course, a gratuitous tit shot.

You see, it’s the holidays in sunny Los Angeles, where New York City police officer John McClane (the role that thankfully broke Bruce Willis from his “Moonlighting” image forever) is traveling to visit his kids and wife Holly, who moved to L.A. to pursue a career. All hell breaks loose while he’s in her office building. A group of terrorists break in to the building while a Christmas party is going on on the thirtieth floor. Mind you, this was when terrorists still walked in to the buildings rather than fly planes into them. And of course, Alan Rickman appears in what was his breakout role as the evil villain Gruber, who winds up being the coolest bad guy in all of the history of movies. John is all by himself, facing twelve deadly men, and he must rely on the assistance of an unlikely police officer to get him through.

Really, this is just a goddamn cool movie. There’s not other way to describe it. It didn’t win any Oscars or anything like that, but it’s just so cool. Willis apparently did all of his own stunts, and there’s tons of scenes that totally make you cringe with their cliffhanger-style suspense. Sure, it’s all a big fat Hollywood project. Sure, John McTiernan has a real hit-and-miss record (Medicine Man and Rollerball, anyone?) as a big-budget action director. But he and Jan “I made Speed which was great but I also made Speed 2 which sucked monkeys” de Bont as DP made one of my favorite action movies of all time here, the critics be damned.

And it all takes place on Christmas Eve. Yup, this is definitely a qualifier for a Christmas movie, according to the qualifications that I (hey, the domain is registered in my name, so back the hell off) set forth. And over the closing credits? Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

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