When my younger brother was younger, he told me that his idea of a “chick flick” was a movie like Die Hard. I don’t know if many members of the fairer sex would agree with him, and his statement often left me wondering what his idea of a “Die Hard style” movie looked like.
As it turns out, Die Hard is reasonably well-placed in my list of favorite movies. And as the title probably suggests, it’s not a gentle movie with lots of smooching and soft, smooth dialogue. It’s not set in a cabin in a dewey forest with a doe prancing around the windows. And it isn’t a love story.
Die Hard lives up to its R rating with plenty of language you definitely don’t want the children to hear. It’s chock-full of shooting and explosions that you probably wouldn’t want your kids to see. And there’s lots of people getting killed, in generally violent ways, that you don’t want your children exposed to, either. But for adults who can get past these cautions, or if you’re an empty-nester, Die Hard is great escapism.
If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s basically “cops and robbers” in the over-the-top style for which the 1980s is so well known. The cop, John McClane, is played by Bruce Willis, who has a pistol. The robbers are a bunch of German guys (including one guy that looks remarkably like Huey Lewis), armed with automatic assault rifles, C4, missiles, and a computer nerd played by the guy that was Matlock’s assistant. The robbers are trying to steal $640 million in bearer bonds – I have no idea what those are, but they’re apparently worth stealing – from a high-rise bank which will earn them 20% as they sit on an island somewhere.
That’s pretty much the first 30 minutes of the movie.
But McClane’s no “ordinary” cop…he’s an “extraordinary” cop. He’s a bit of a loose cannon, kind of like Dirty Harry, but more impulsive, with more humor in his dialogue and more swear-words in his vocabulary. And he systematically takes out the robbers.
That’s pretty much the rest of the movie.
With the requisite gunfights, explosions, and blood. And there’s an “ordinary” cop (played by Reginald Veljohnson) with a penchant for Twinkies who plays Willis’ “partner from a distance” while working through his sad past. There are some inept police officers (Veljohnson’s bosses) that try to mess up an already bad situation. There’s the even-more-inept FBI that succeeds in opening the vault for the robbers so they can steal the bonds. And then there’s the climatic finish when Willis-McClane kills those two baddies, including the leader, and Veljohnson kills the really bad bad guy, and McClane’s wife gets to punch a newspaper guy who’s been a general nuisance throughout the movie.
If you think about the movie (like I am) while it’s not playing in front of you, you laugh at the complete absurdity of Die Hard. The robbers are a well-oiled machine…hardened criminals with years of experience and an intricate plan. Yet they purchased guns with their aimers set to “miss”, as they waste thousands of rounds of ammunition trying to hit one guy. I’m no Wyatt Earp (though I’m pretty good with Operation Flashpoint on the computer), but even I could hit a man-sized target given unlimited access to bullets.
McClane falls down an elevator shaft (yeow!!) but somehow catches a ventilator duct with his fingertips…even Wyatt Earp couldn’t do that. Our hero head-butts his opponents on numerous occasions, yet still shoots with the precision of…well…Wyatt Earp (when did he pop into my brain?!?). He gets beat to a bloody pulp in nearly every encounter with a much fresher opponent, yet he still wins every time. How is this possible?
Oh yeah…it’s Hollywood.
But the movie resonates with many people not because it’s even remotely true-to-life, but because it awakens the “hero-nature” in us. I don’t really want to be shot at by German guys with big guns, but if I was, I would want to respond like Officer McClane…blow the baddies away with my much smaller gun, then offer up a funny quip to the cameras while resting against the drywall of the unfinished 31st floor.
So many times, we think of the right response after the fact, and we say to ourselves, “I wish I could go back, because I’d say…” or “Next time that happens, I’m going to…“. John McClane never has to say that, and I, for one, am a bit jealous of it. He always has the perfect answer at the perfect time. He always gets the last word, and it’s always just right.
Apparently a bunch of people agreed with me. Die Hard, which made its debut on July 15, 1988, was a huge success. Bruce Willis went from Moonlighting funny-man to box-office superstar in no time. The movie spawned three sequels, all of which were pretty popular. But the original, like most cases, is the best.
Recommended Viewing: Die Hard – You owe it to yourself to see the movie. If bad language gets your goat, watch it with the volume down…and well after the kids are asleep.