Gini’s Christmas Classics? | “Die Hard” and “Die Hard 2”

The Two Gay Geeks and our Staff are taking a much needed break from Thanksgiving through the end of the year, but we still wanted to have content for you to read during that time. As such we got busy and watched all of our favorite holiday videos. Some are classics and others are off-beat and loosely associated with the holidays. We hope you enjoy our offerings and that you holiday season is safe, sane, and satisfying.
 

Die Hard and Die Hard 2

By Gini Koch



There are two kinds of people. Those who, when asked to name Christmas movies, come up with things like It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, A Christmas Story, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. And then there are those who immediately say Die Hard and Die Hard 2. Guess which group I fall into?

The Die Hard movies are absolutely action movie classics. But are they Christmas classics? Let’s find out…

In Die Hard, NYPD Det. John McClane (Bruce Willis) arrives in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve to have Christmas with his children and estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) who’s using her maiden name of Gennaro at work. Why? Because McClane didn’t want to give up his life for her career. It’s clear they both still love each other, but something’s going to have to make McClane wake up and smell the feminism.

As his plane is landing, his seat mate – a frequent business traveler – gives him a tip. One he gets to his hotel room, McClane should take off his shoes and socks and scrunch his toes in the carpet, to relieve stress all through his body.

Meanwhile Holly’s company, the Nakatomi Corporation, is throwing its Christmas Eve company party. Holly’s sent a limo to pick McClane up at the airport, because she’s the second highest ranking executive in the Los Angeles office after Mr. Takagi (James Shigeta). The limo driver, Argyle (De’voreaux White) finds out what’s going on in McClane’s life and makes him a deal – he’ll wait in the garage and if Holly’s happy to see McClane, McClane should call and Argyle will take off, but if Holly isn’t thrilled to have McClane around, Argyle will take him to a hotel.

Holly’s actually glad to see McClane, but within five minutes they’re having the “old fight” of him acting like she’s the reason their marriage is in trouble, and her sharing that her job is important to her. So, McClane’s in an office, Holly’s turned the family picture that has McClane in it over and she’s out with the others at the party, and McClane decides that he’s blown it so he might as well try that stress reduction tip, which he does, and it works.

But this means that McClane is barefoot when Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman in his breakout role for American audiences) and his gang of what appear to be terrorists take over the building. McClane hears gunshots and does the smart thing – he gets out of there so he can do something, but he doesn’t have time to put on his shoes.

It doesn’t take McClane long to realize that whoever’s taken over are pros. He witnesses Gruber shooting Takagi in the head when the man won’t open the safe for them – the safe that has millions of dollars in bearer bonds in it. He hears them talking and is clear that they’re Germans with a few Americans tossed in.
Now it’s one “cowboy” against a well-oiled team. McClane manages to get a walkie talkie off of one of the bad guys he’s killed – the brother of Karl (Alexander Godunov) who fills the role of the main bad guy’s even more insane and murderous right hand man.

McClane contacts the LAPD but they’re not really interested and he get shoved off, but after he pulls the fire alarm and dispatch hears some gunfire they send a squad car that’s nearby over, meaning Sgt. Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) is the one investigating.

At first Powell doesn’t spot anything wrong because Gruber’s man down at reception sells the “false alarm” well, which is why he’s alive to leave the building. But McClane solves that by dropping a dead body onto Powell’s car. Which means that Gruber’s men instantly start firing.

Powell gets to safety and calls in backup. But his Chief (Paul Gleason) is a jerk, more interested in looking good to the media and FBI than helping McClane. Powell’s figured out that McClane is a cop and their partnership allows McClane to survive, even though the people in charge tend to ignore what Powell and McClane are telling them.

Speaking of media, Richard Thornburg (William Atherton) is determined to get the scoop and he figures out that McClane’s wife is in there, so he takes his team to their house to interview their children, which, naturally, puts Holly into more danger.

Gruber’s people aren’t actually terrorists, though all of the LAPD, SWAT, and FBI are falling for their story. They’re just really well-trained thieves, with an exit strategy that would work perfectly, except for McClane.

A lot of action and intrigue and gunfire and explosions takes place, Holly gets to be badass in a different way from the men, and ultimately, McClane assisted by Powell and Argyle wins.

Die Hard 2 takes place two years later. McClane – having solved his feminism issues by killing a bunch of German baddies – is now with the LAPD, but he and Holly are visiting her parents for Christmas. She got delayed due to work, so McClane and the kids are there and McClane is spending Christmas Eve at the Dulles International Airport in order to pick her up.

We get to see Col. Stuart (William Sadler) do a kickass martial arts form fully naked – and this scene alone is worth the price of admission for me – while the news is on in the background, discussing a notorious drug kingpin and military overlord, Gen. Esperanza (Franco Nero), who’s finally been caught and is being extradited to the U.S. The news then shifts to the weather, which is bad and getting worse.

Holly’s called McClane from the plane to tell him that they’re delayed another thirty minutes, so he sits to wait, in time to spot a bunch of paramilitary types acting suspicious. McClane follows two into the baggage area and a gun and fistfight ensue. But the airport’s finest aren’t interested. McClane is famous for the Nakatori Plaza incident and they’re resentful, especially the head of the airport police, Carmine Lorenzo (Dennis Franz).

The paramilitary gang, meanwhile, has set up shop in a church that’s set for demolition in the new year that also happens to be extremely close to the airport and has the power boxes for the area on its property. And, as soon as they’re set, they kill the power and communications to the airport.

Their demands are simple – the airport is going to let Esperanza’s plane land where Stuart wants it to, then they’re going to provide a fully fueled 747 for these folks to use to rescue Esperanza.

Air traffic control is able to tell every plane coming in to hold or reroute. But those who can’t reroute have no choice but to circle Dulles Airport and wait to land – hopefully before their fuel runs out. And the weather’s getting worse and worse, making it dangerous even without terrorists having taken over air traffic control.

McClane is able to get into the air traffic control area and, after a few object lessons from Stuart, McClane is able to get the head man, Trudeau (Fred Dalton Thompson) to listen to him. However, it’s the chief engineer, Barnes (Art Evans), and the janitor, Marvin (Tom Bower), McClane runs into in the lower levels of the airport who help him the most.

Every idea that the good guys try has already been anticipated, however, and Stuart causes a transatlantic flight to crash – despite McClane’s efforts – to make the point that those in the airport need to obey him. But McClane is able to take out some of Stuart’s team. But not nearly enough of them.

The airport officials have managed to keep this news from everyone – the media, those waiting in the airport, etc. But once the plane is crashed, they call in for military assistance. Meanwhile, Holly’s discovered that unctuous reporter Richard Thornburg (William Atherton) is on the plane with her. And Thornburg realizes that something’s very wrong with the situation – it looks like a plane parking lot outside of Holly’s window. He gets one of his team to link into the pilot’s channel, and he hears what’s really going on.

The military arrive, led by Maj. Grant (John Amos) who knows and despises Stuart. Or is there another elaborate ruse going on? Once again, it’s a lone “cowboy” assisted by a handful of people who will listen to him, who manages to save the day, and his wife.

Certain things date the movies but don’t detract from them. In both movies McClane smokes like a chimney, but cigarettes and lighters play into the plots so it makes sense. But it really reminds you that no one smokes in movies anymore. And cellular phones are nonexistent – in Die Hard 2, McClane has a pager that Holly uses to reach him, but the airplane phones are quite the big deal.

Both movies were adapted from novels. Roderick Thorp wrote “Nothing Lasts Forever” which became Die Hard, and Walter Wager wrote “58 Minutes”. Throughout the series Thorp gets a writing credit due to having essentially created the McClane character.

One of the great things about this series is the consistency of the characters. Having fixed his marriage, McClane stays in it, and everything he’s doing is to save his beloved wife. Holly has faith in her husband and his heroism, but she’s not a shrinking violet by any means. She’s not the action hero, but she refuses to be the damsel in distress. McClane is pretty much always right but is also pretty much always ignored by those who think they know more about the situation, the players, or how to save the day. And the fact that both movies happen on Christmas Eve isn’t lost on the characters, either. Holly has a great line at the end of Die Hard 2 about this.

McClane’s role is to be the right guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. In Die Hard 2, also called Die Harder, Stuart makes the comment once he thinks they’ve killed McClane that they’ve finally gotten rid of the element of chance.

But, really, it isn’t chance that puts McClane in the position to stop the bad guys – it’s Christmas that does it, cementing these as bonafide Christmas movies.
As action movies go, these are fun, well-acted, well-directed movies with plot twists that can keep surprising you. Just assume that any time John McClane is in a movie that the bad guys have an elaborate ruse in play and you won’t be disappointed.

This year, cuddle up on Christmas Eve with Die Hard and Die Hard 2. Yippie-kai-ay.


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