The Ultimate Christmas Movie

Die Hard

Let’s face it, Puffins. For those of you either still tied to the TV license or have a predilection towards masochism, the broadcasters are going to throw a bucket of cheesy as arse Christmas movies at you this year. Channel 5 will give you a collection of low budget and badly acted romance laden films, where the lead character – for some reason, always a high profile executive – goes through some Scrooge like metamorphosis where not only do they learn the value of Christmas but they fall in love with the man/woman of their dreams.

ITV and the BBC will give you the more high profile Christmas films which, in my opinion, are worse than the low budget films; the latter, you expect bad acting so the former have no excuses. Bad Santa, The Santa Claus, Elf – they’re all shit. I ask you to step away from that and look to Die Hard, one of the best action movies ever (only pipped, in my humble opinion, by Point Break – the original, not the crap remake) and definitely the best Christmas film. For those who’ve never seen it (where have you been?!), it’s about a high scale robbery foiled by an unorthodox New York City cop; a man always in the wrong place at the wrong time – or vice versa, depending on how you look at it.

The question is, is it really a Christmas movie? Well, it wasn’t released at Christmas. It came out in July 1988 for the Summer audiences but it was set at Christmas so bugger it, for me, it’s a Christmas movie, the same as its follow up.

Why is it so good? It has everything you’d want in an action movie, except of course for car chases and foot races. Point Break had the lot, including skydiving, so it rules the roost.

We begin with the introduction of our hero, officer John McClane (Bruce Willis), who has flown from New York to Los Angeles to be with his family at Christmas. As he’s driven towards Nakatomi Tower, where his wife works as a top level executive, we find out he doesn’t have the best relationship with his wife and as the early parts of the film progress, we learn that his wife goes by her maiden name, Gennero. This is a feature of the whole Die Hard series – when she’s safe, she’s Gennero but when she’s in trouble, suddenly, she’s a McClane. Talk about having your cake and eating it! That particular trait goes to their daughter as well who, in Die Hard 4, does the same thing. Women, eh?

Anyway, McClane reunites with his wife before the building is taken over by German mercenaries led by the charismatic Hans Gruber, played brilliantly by Alan Rickman. McClane escapes when they are rounding up hostages and a cat and mouse game ensues, as McClane picks off the mercenaries one by one before his final confrontation with Gruber.

We’re entertained with explosions, gunfights and a host of great characters from the heroic (McClane and Sgt Al Powell who, no surprise, has a back story of his own – it’s an ‘80’s action movie; everyone has a back story) to the villainous (Gruber), the slimy (Gennero’s drug sniffing colleague, Ellis and the grubby journalist, Thornberg) to the useless (the FBI – who else?). It’s the ultimate boy movie and contains a line that has been repeated by fans for years – Yippee Ki-Yay Motherfucker! – the death line for many a Die Hard baddie and seen by many as one of the best one liners in movie history.

Willis plays the part superbly but for an action movie to work well, it needs an equally impressive baddie and the versatile Rickman – God rest his soul – steps up beautifully. We forgive his horrible German accent because it’s Alan Rickman – the guy is just brilliant (except in Love Actually where everyone’s shit). Bonnie Bedelia, who plays Holly, works well as the strong businesswoman, stepping up as the film progresses, to aid her colleagues, and Reginald Veljohnson, as Sgt Powell, provides a useful role in keeping McClane sane, offering up his back story about killing a child and not using his gun since, as McClane is picking glass out of his feet. We get to see Powell use his gun as the movie closes in a slow motion scene, where the criminal gets his comeuppance while Powell gets his own heroic moment.

If what you want from an action movie is guns, explosions, thrills, and maybe a semi romantic backdrop, you get it in this. If what you want from a Christmas movie is to feel good at the end of it, you won’t be disappointed by this. The follow ups were good – except 5 – but the original is far and away the best.

Since this might be the only time I get to use this, go and watch the movie, if you haven’t already, and for those who have, make it your staple Christmas movie.

Yippee ki-yay, motherfuckers!

Featured image: “Bruce Willis/John McClane figure at Madame Tussauds Hollywood” by Castles, Capes & Clones is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

© 39 Pontiac Dream 2020

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