Kevin: It’s a few days before Christmas, which means last-minute shopping, stressful trips to the airport, and the annual bullshit debate about whether “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie (“bullshit” in the sense that no one is debating this anymore except click-hungry movie bloggers). Yes “Die Hard” is absolutely a Christmas movie, which is why CJ and I recently made our now-traditional holiday pilgrimage to see it on the big screen at the Alamo Drafthouse for the fourth year in a row. It’s hard to think of anything more to say about the film that we didn’t already cover in our two-part “Die Hard” Round Table last Christmas, which is included below, but I will highlight one brief moment from the film that I always look forward to seeing again and again.
Fortunately this moment occurs early on, when John McClane has just had his first experience with the Soddom and Gomorrah-level debauchery that’s otherwise known as the Nakatomi Christmas party (more on that in Part 1). John enters Holly’s office and we get out first introduction to one of the greatest characters in movie history, Holly’s sleazeball co-worker Ellis (Hart Bochner), who for some reason has chosen Holly’s desk to snort some Christmas cocaine (although the fact that he apparently turned the photo of little Jack McClane around at least indicates he feels some shame over this):
Either way, while Ellis has many, many awesomely quotable lines in “Die Hard,” such as …
“I know you’re not a bunch of dumb schmucks up here stealing purses. I’ve watched ‘60 Minutes,’ and I’m saying to myself, they’re motivated, they’re happening; i.e. they want something.”
“Hey babe, I negotiate million-dollar deals for breakfast, I think I can handle this Eurotrash.”
“Haaaans, bubby, I’m your white knight.”
“Hey, sprechen ze talk?”
… for my money his greatest line is a throwaway mention of the brand of watch that Holly was recently gifted by the company for all her hard work. It may not seem like much on the paper, but trust me when I say that if you see “Die Hard” on the big screen with a packed crowd, the way Ellis says “It’s a Rolex” in the clip below never fails to bring down the house:
If nothing else, at least Ellis eventually dies doing what he loved: being hilariously pure ‘80s corporate yuppie scum. And we loved watching him do it, even if he was taken from us way too soon. So Ellis wherever you are now, while we can’t afford a Rolex this year, instead we are re-gifting you with our celebration of both your exploits and some other non-essential character named John McClane as well. Merry Christmas everyone!
(Originally posted Dec. 23, 2016)
Kevin: “Die Hard.” What is there left to say about “Die Hard” that hasn’t already been said? It may be the greatest action movie of all time. It may have the greatest action hero and villain of all time. It turned Bruce Willis from funny TV star to awesome action icon, and proved you can release a future Christmas classic in the middle of the summer.
I saw “Die Hard” twice in the theater in 1988. I’ve seen it two-and-a-half times on the big screen again in the last three years, most recently during a “Die Hard Movie Party” screening in which people were given cap guns and lighters to use during parts of the movie involving shooting or Bruce lighting up another cig. That may sound like fun to some people, but as soon as the movie started and I got immediately engrossed in it for the 137th time, I realized I’d rather go home and put on my Blu-Ray than have the experience sullied by any distractions.
And I can attest that whether it’s 1988 or 2016, whether you are watching it on TV or on the big screen, “Die Hard” holds up as well now as it did back, and it will hold up for as long as people appreciate the kind of cinema that, in the words of its tagline, “will blow you through the back wall of the theater!”
Other thoughts about “Die Hard”:
- Sign this movie was made before 1990: John McClane lights up a cigarette in the baggage claim of LAX and amazingly is not immediately tasered, detained by Homeland Security, and subjected to “Clockwork Orange”-style re-education about the dangers of third-hand smoke on emotional support animals. Not only that, McClane chain smokes throughout the entire movie and this is never seen as unusual or worth noting. By comparison, you can use the “Lethal Weapon” movies to chart the stigmatization of smoking in films as we got into the 90’s: In “Lethal Weapon” (1987) Riggs is an unapologetic smoker with no pushback, by the third in 1992 people are telling him to quit, and by the last in 1998 he doesn’t even go near a pack.
- It may be a toss-up of which hero smokes more in their film, Bruce Willis in “Die Hard” or Patrick Swayze in “Road House.”
- 1988 was a good year for smoking in the airport in movies: In addition to “Die Hard,” Robert De Niro smokes inside a couple of airports in “Midnight Run,” while John Ashton’s rival bounty hunter character smokes at the check-in counter while buying a same-night ticket for a one-way flight (while also carrying a gun in his carry-on bag).
- Also having a good year in 1988: De’Voreaux White, the actor who played limo driver Argyle. Earlier that year he also played the valet driver at Carl Weathers’ apartment building in “Action Jackson” for “Die Hard” producer Joel Silver. He’s barely worked since 1992, but his last credit is as “Uber driver” in “Workaholics.”
- Other “Action Jackson” alums who appear in this include Robert Davi, formerly Jackson’s doomed former partner, as Agent Johnson, Mary Ellen Trainor – former wife of Robert Zemeckis, Riggs’ shrink in the “Lethal Weapons,” and first person to get killed in “Action Jackson” – and the Huey Lewis-looking guy who takes a headshot from Bruce at the end and was also the recipient of Jackson’s legendary “Barbecue huh? How do you like your ribs?” line. This also makes Al Leong’s fourth-straight appearance in a Round Table movie, counting “Action Jackson” which is set for next month.
- While Robert Davi is the more recognizable half of Agents Johnson and Johnson, I’ll always remember Grand L. Bush (who also appeared in “License to Kill” with Davi, as well as “Lethal Weapon 1 and 2” and “Demolition Man” for Joel Silver ) as Ricky Taylor in “Hollywood Shuffle’s” Black Acting School (NSFW):
- I have a hard time believing that the tow-headed moppet with the Prince Valiant haircut we briefly see in the McClane family photo …
… is supposed to someday grow into this meathead by the time of “A Good Day to Die Hard”:
- Another sign of the times: After Al Powell is introduced buying Twinkies at a gas station and goes outside to look at Nakatomi Plaza, the camera pulls back to show the price of gas at the time: 75 cents a gallon.
- Something I never really picked up on until recently was how weird it is that the company is holding its Christmas party on the actual Christmas Eve, as if none of the employees might have had plans with their families that night or would want or need to travel. They apparently also closed a major deal the day before Christmas, which is also highly unlikely.
- Also, when McClane pulls up to the building it’s still light outside. According to the Weather Channel the average time of sunset in Los Angeles this time of year is 4:45 p.m., yet it looks like the party has been in full swing for a while, Ellis is doing coke on Holly’s desk, and that one drunken couple is barging into her office looking for a place to have sex. What time did this thing get going, and why does everybody immediately run to Holly’s office to do their illicit shit?
- Another sign of the times: Even though it not at all necessary to the plot, being an R-rated 1980s action film mandated at least one gratuitous shot of boobs, in this case occurring when the bad guys barge in on the horny couple getting it on in another office.
- Just when things are looking good with the wife, John completely blowing it with his “I guess you didn’t miss my name, except when signing checks” line is the kind of unforced error every guy can relate to.
- Not sure there’s anything new to be said about how great Alan Rickman is as Gruber, so let’s recognize how equally great Alexander Godunov is as Karl, especially in his final showdown with Bruce in one of the most brutal fights ever filmed. Like they seriously look like two guys who want to kill each other. A former ballet dancer peer of Baryshnikov, he appeared in “Witness,” “The Money Pit,” and “Die Hard” and then almost nothing else before he died in 1995, although his final movie co-starred former Agent Johnson Robert Davi. He did spend a good chunk of the 1980s sleeping with Jacqueline Bisset, so good on him for that.
- After fleeing from the guys coming out of the elevator, McClane machine-guns both knee caps of one of them and sends him flying headfirst into a window, one of the most awesomely gruesome deaths in movie history for just a basic henchman who barely had a line.
- I know a lot of people say that if they could go back in time it would be to kill Hitler, but if I could go back in time I’d want to be a regular at whatever establishment was employing Bruce Willis during his days as a legendary New York bartender (allegedly the basis of Tom Cruise in “Cocktail”).
- I still have a hard time believing Argyle was able to knock out Theo cold with that one punch. In reality Theo would have just yelled “Owww” and the two would be slapping at each other through the window for a while.
- By the end of the movie McClane has been shot in the shoulder, had both feet cut up, lost a ton of blood, and sustained several broken ribs and head injuries, yet rather than immediately being put in an ambulance he gets in the limo and apparently goes home, a move that looks badass on film but is unwise medically to say the least. This, “Die Hard 2,” and “Last Boy Scout” mark three movies in close order which end with Bruce walking away from a crime scene without getting proper medical attention.
- Did John McTiernan make some sort of deal with the devil? How else to explain how the same guy who made “Predator,” “Die Hard,” and “Hunt for Red October” all in a row is the same guy who directed “Medicine Man,” “The 13th Warrior,” and “Rollerball”? On that note, director of photography Jan De Bont went on to direct “Speed” as his debut feature, and followed that up with “Speed 2,” “The Haunting,” and “Tomb Raider 2.”
- The Best Picture nominees for 1988, the year “Die Hard” was released, were “Rain Man,” “Mississippi Burning,” “Dangerous Liaisons,” “The Accidental Tourist,” and “Working Girl.” Does anyone want to try and claim that “Die Hard” isn’t better than at least three of those movies? And does anyone want to claim that John McTiernan’s fluid camera work and dynamic staging was less impressive or deserving of recognition than actual Best Director nominees Mike Nichols (“Working Girl”) and Charles Crichton (“A Fish Called Wanda”)? Finally, I admit that I have not seen Best Actor nominee Max von Sydow’s work in “Pelle the Conqueror” or Best Supporting Actor nominee Alec Guinness in “Little Dorrit,” but in hindsight I doubt anyone would be too upset if we swapped them out for Willis and Rickman, respectively.
- Which is the more hilarious edit for television, “Yippe-ky-ya Mr. Falcon” from “Die Hard 2” …
… or changing the sign Bruce is forced to wear in the black neighborhood in “Die Hard with a Vengeance” from “I Hate N—–s” to “I Hate Everybody”? I vote the latter, only because it also makes it even more nonsensical why a bunch of young black men would be so violently enraged at McClane’s vague nihilism toward his fellow man.
So what say you guys, where do you rank “Die Hard” among your top action movies? What are your favorite moments or characters? And seriously what is the deal with the sex- and drug-crazed swingers who collectively make up the workforce of the Nakatomi Corporation?
CLICK HERE for the rest of Part 1 of our “Die Hard” Round Table, in which we:
– Delve even deeper into the godless atmosphere of the Nakatomi Christmas party, as well as question why they are actually having the party on Christmas Eve (guess none of the employees had friends or family they’d rather be with the night before Christmas).
– Wonder what is going on with Argyle considering that this is his first day as a limo driver, he’s supposedly got another pick-up scheduled all the way out in Vegas, and he is both telling McClane he’ll wait for him all night if needed while also telling his girlfriend that of “of course” he’ll be over later. WTF?
– Show some love for “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, ” because someone has to.
– And feel really old knowing Bruce Willis was younger than all of us on the Tough Guy Squad when he filmed this.
And when you are done with Part 1, CLICK HERE for Part 2 in which we:
– Take Karl’s brother to task for wearing his gym clothes to an international heist.
– Enjoy the sociopathic comedy stylings of Agents Johnson and Johnson.
– Ponder whether “Die Hard” is a veiled attempt at forcing women out of the workplace.
– And pay tribute to the late Alan Rickman with an ode set to “Baby Got Back.”