Thursday, December 19, 2013

Die Hard

It’s a time-honored tradition in the Progressive Cinema Scorecard labs to gather the family around the yule log for our annual Christmas viewing of Die Hard. Probably the greatest action film of the ‘80s (which makes it a pretty strong contender for greatest action film of all time), it was responsible for turning Bruce “Moonlighting” Willis into an upper-echelon movie star overnight. And yet, we’ve always wondered, how would this rip-roaring action juggernaut hold up under the nanobots’ cold, unfeeling gaze? Be of good cheer, gentle readers. The answer awaits below.

  • “Take off your shoes and make fists with your toes”: The worst piece of good advice in film history. = +18pts 
  • Let’s all take a moment to remember the ‘80s, back before the nanny state told us it was “unsafe” to bring a loaded gun onto a plane. = +2pts 
  • Note to the filmmakers behind Die Hard: “Argyle” is not a name that you give to a human character. What was your second choice? Houndstooth? = -5pts 
  • ‘80s tech alert: The limo’s tape deck. = +6pts 
  • Ingredients for a 1980s movie scumbag: 1 part wanting to sleep with someone’s wife, 2 parts narcissism, dash of moustache. = +5pts 
  • Holly makes a healthy parenting decision and tells her daughter that Santa and mommy are working to get her parents back together. In the sequel, the Easter bunny and mommy work to bring her goldfish back from the dead. = -7pts 
  • ‘80s tech alert: It’s a little-known fact that the first model of the iPhone came embedded in a receptionist’s desk. = +9pts 
  • McClane walks in on Ellis rubbing coke into his gums, which was basically the 1980s equivalent of checking your hair in a mirror before joining a party. = +8pts 
  • In true holiday fashion, John and Holly celebrate Christmas by renewing a bitter, resentment-filled argument. = +3pts 
  • Karl’s use of a flash grenade to blind a single guard might be the most spectacular use of overkill in the entire movie (and that’s saying something). = +22pts
  • Director sneaks obligatory boob shot in at the beginning of the terrorist takeover to make the most of their R-rating. = +8pts 
  • Hans Gruber reads from his day planner: “Due to the Nakatomi corporation's legacy of greed around the globe, they're about to be taught a lesson in the real use of power...” So he can mastermind a break-in and memorize every line of Takagi’s resume, but the whole two-sentence explanation of why he’s there is just too much to remember? = -9pts 
  • We want to criticize Karl’s brother for wearing sweat pants to a holiday party, but given his agenda it actually makes more sense than Hans Gruber’s $2000 suit. = +33pts (For practicality.)
  • Random observation: We like to imagine that in the original version, John McClane gives a touching rendition of “The Night Before Christmas,” causing Hans Gruber’s small heart to grow three sizes that day. = +12pts
  • “Was habe ich gesagt?!” For making German 101 totally worth it. = +6pts 
  • Deleted backstory: Old Carl Winslow travels back in time to warn young Carl Winslow about the Hostess Bakery shutdown; young Carl Winslow smartly stockpiles Twinkies from gas stations, earns millions from eBay sales in 2013. = +16pts 
  • Heinrich’s beautifully unnecessary barrel roll onto the board room table during his shoot out with McClane. = +9pt 
  • ‘80s action movie staple: You know who everyone hates? Members of the free press (especially when they’re portrayed by the d-bag EPA officer from Ghostbusters/jerk scientist from Real Genius). = +3pts
  • This. = +100pts
  • ‘80s action movie staple #2: the willfully ignorant police captain (played by the principal from The Breakfast Club, no less). = +8pts 
  • ‘80s action movie staple #3: Al Leong, Hollywood’s go-to Asian terrorist. = -4pts 
  • That time when John McClane jeopardized the entire structure of the Nakatomi building in order to save four cops in a tank. = +65pts 
  • But, ‘80s tech alert: the giant computer monitor he uses to ignite the explosives. = +6pts 
  • ‘80s action movie staple #4: Pompous academic pontificating about his book learnin’ gets made to look like an asshole. = +3pts 
  • FBI shows up and basically proceeds to play right into the terrorist’s hands, which brings us to ‘80s action movie staple #5: Anyone working in law enforcement above the street level is incompetent, sort of evil, or both. = +10pts 
  • Case in point: “I’m totally cool losing 25% of the hostages, as long as we kill all the terrorists,” said no FBI agent ever. = -14pts 
  • ‘80s action movie staple #6: Yelling expletive, jumping away from explosion. = +125pts
  • In memory of Agent Johnson. = +3pts (No, the other one.)
  • After the brutal beating McClane lays on him, Karl wishes he’d kept his day job as an orchestra conductor. = +32pts 
  • The filmmakers avoid a hate crime by having Argyle punch out the black terrorist in the parking garage. = +7pts 
  • Thanks to Always Sunny, we can no longer watch the climactic scene in this film without laughing. = +80pts (It’s still awesome.) 
  • For a guy who had been dangling out of the window for a good minute or two, Hans Gruber seems awfully surprised when he (spoiler alert) finally falls out the window. = +8pts 
  • Carl Winslow shoots terrorist Karl for spelling his name with a K, unrelated to his involvement in terrorist organization. = +14pts
  • For making an action movie with four speaking roles for black characters, and three of them actually survive until the end. In 2013 = +60 pts; In 1988 = -30pts. Net score = +30pts
Total Score = +612pts
Available on: DVD; probably the USA network, only with all the all the swears badly dubbed over.

While its badassticity is unquestionable, Die Hard offers some interesting contradictions in terms of its progressiveness. Sure, it’s rife with blue collar contempt for intellectuals, journalists, and figures of authority, and the ending seems to imply that Holly McClane will be giving up her career as a high-powered executive to tend the children, but the sheer amount of black supporting extras that survive to the end of the movie is basically unheard of in the at the time (hell, it’s not really all that common these days, either). John McClane has since become a Hollywood institution, spawning four sequels, video games, sex toys, and a Broadway musical (we’re assuming on the last two; there are some things you just don’t want to Google). Yet no matter how far the series devolves into farce, it can’t detract an ounce of luster from the heavenly bolt of lightning that John McTiernan, Bruce Willis, and Alan Rickman caught in a bottle with this first Christmassy sock in the jaw.

Score Technician: Amanda Hemmerling, Joe Hemmerling

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