Sunday, December 11, 2011

Robert - DIE HARD

Spoiler Alert

Novelist Roderick Thorp decides a Christmas theme would be good for his new book, Die Hard. Hell yeah. That'll be an awesome edge, he says. He crafts a Christmas Eve backdrop that permeates the setting. Yeah, that's good. Eight months later, Thorp finishes his book and then realizes that he's completely forgotten to really incorporate the Christmas theme into the plot in any significant way. "Oh well," says Thorp, and he publishes his book anyway. Here's a synopsis.

The story begins with John McClane on a plane. A stranger advises John to curl his toes up into feet fists when he gets off the plane, to unwind the plane stress. The stranger never appears again. Much later in the movie, John heeds his advice for a slow ten seconds. The scene then immediately moves on and is utterly forgotten, providing no cause or effect on the plot whatsoever.

John arrives in what is eventually revealed to be LA. He is driven around town by a limousine driver, a rambunctious young black male who is given by far the most vivacious spirit of any character and sees plenty of camera time to display this. His role in the movie is first and foremost to get trapped inside the empty parking garage sealed off by Euro-terrorists and do absolutely nothing but sit still when the camera flashes back to him every five minutes or so. This eventually culminates in him punching an unarmed runt terrorist at the end of the movie and smiling goofily.

The terrorists. McClane enters the building, finds his estranged wife and immediately reseduces her just in time for a gang of 12 sophisticated terrorists led by Professor Snape to seal off every exit and entrance and shoot a lot of bullets into the ceiling. Their collective characterization is a hybrid between the heist finesse of Ocean's 11 and the Aryan blood lust of Drago from Rocky IV. After they infiltrate the building, murder countless guards, hack the mainframe, fire rocket launchers at the police, announce their international terrorist ties, wire the entire building with explosives, and demand the release of international prisoners, they finally reveal their ultimate evil plan to nick some money and hang out at the beach.

McClane, having studied guerrilla warfare superheroism in the NYPD's police academy, nonchalantly performs numerous feats that would make Nathan Drake from Uncharted 3 scoff in disbelief en route to stopping the bad guys. His intricate knowledge of elevator shafts, ventilator systems, and Macgyvering multiple grappling hooks out of AK-47s and fire hoses comes right out of Chapter 1 in New York's Intro to Policing textbooks.

McClane gets his hands on a walkie talkie that connects him to the terrorist leader Snape, police sergeant Al Powell, and somehow the limousine driver in the basement of the building. Powell is featured heavily throughout the movie, and he is in constant communications with McClane and continuously tries to counteract the LAPD police chief's recklessness. In the end, his effect on the actual plot itself is literally nothing at all, except to be a megaphone for blatant story exposition and a blank reflector for McClane's own character development. Like the limousine driver, he gets six seconds of limelight when he overcomes his uncommon police fear of excessive force by repeatedly shooting the last standing terrorist.

The plot itself. McClane spends about half of his alone time crawling stealthily through a building whose blueprints he understands startlingly well considering he's never been in it in his entire life. He spends the other half of his alone time screaming at the top of his lungs, throwing chairs through windows, or just shooting guns at nothing, usually managing to do all this without attracting the attention of the terrorists, who repeatedly trickle out assassins to kill him in easily defeatable groups of 1, 2, or in one instance 3. There's about a 15-minute period of brilliant plot where unarmed Professor Snape meets McClane face-to-face and tricks him by pretending to be a hostage, but the excellent dialogue that follows is quickly and smartly drowned out by a one-minute scene of Snape and long-haired Drago shooting about 30 clips of bullets into a panorama of glass panels. They then leave the scene, allowing the very murderable John McClane to meander away from his cornered position with nothing more than cut bare feet.

Soon after, McClane notices that Professor Snape has wired the entire roof with C4 plastic explosives. The purpose of the explosives, it is revealed, is to "make it appear as if the terrorists died so they can escape without being sought after by the government." Yeah okay, director John McTiernan.

What a bold move by the director to include this artful nuance into the film. Yeah that's a helicopter in there.
The movie ends shortly thereafter. McClane reunites with his hostage wife and drops Snape off the side of the building. The scene outside the building is one of jubilation, and we get an odd little world-slows-down, eye-contact-across-a-fast-crowd love moment between McClane and police sergeant Al Powell, who have actually never met before and have no way at all of being able to recognize each other visually. The oft-mentioned limo driver explodes out of the barred parking garage into the crowd, to little or no attention. He swings on over to John and his wife, who is sure to suffer worse injuries later that night than any one of the movie's villains, and he proceeds to drive off into the LA sunset, John Wayne-style, without even the possible thought of dire medical condition or sanctions for millions upon millions of dollars of unnecessary property damage.

Overall, 4.5 stars out of 5. A must-see.


  1. "Now I know what a TV-dinner feels like"

  2. Paul and I have watched "Die Hard" every Christmas eve since 1981. Every family should have its Christmas traditions.