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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Die Hard

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, the resurrection of my old podcast bit where I'd ramble about a favourite movie of mine that I own on DVD.   Going through my old notes, I've reached December of 2010, so we're about to get into a whole spate of Christmas movies, followed by the movies I got for Christmas, ending with the blockbusters of 2010 that I blew my gift cards on.  Today we get into what's always referred to as "the Christmas movie for guys," Die Hard.  This review is originally dated December 17, 2010.

It's become a running gag on various basic cable channels over the past few years about how Die Hard is "the Christmas movie for guys."  I was making that joke around the house long before it became popular.  My mom would always ask me, "What makes Die Hard a Christmas movie?"  I'd reply, "It takes place at Christmastime."  And that's pretty much it.

Can't deny that Die Hard turned out to be a very influential film.  Hell, it created a whole new genre of action film, the "Die Hard in a __________" genre.  And let's not forget what it did for Bruce Willis.  Before he did that film, Willis was still primarily known for starring in Moonlighting, and almost getting typecast as a romantic leading man.  Then he did Die Hard and became an action star.  And it introduced Alan Rickman to the world, in his role as the suave, sophisticated terrorist Hans Gruber. 

It was fun pouring through the DVD bonus materials and learning how it came to be.  The summer of 1988 was coming, and 20th Century Fox realized they had no summer blockbusters on their schedule.  So, they went digging through their vaults, found the script for Die Hard, and gave it to director John McTiernan, fresh off the hit sci-fi film Predator.  

McTiernan liked the script, but felt it was kind of bleak for a summer blockbuster.  So he sat down with the writers to take the script and inject a "sense of joy" into it.  That's where we got most of John MacLane's classic one-liners.  McTiernan changed the villains' motivations from being terrorists seeking to free their brethren to being high-tech robbers, trying to break into the building's vaults and using the terrorism thing as their cover story.  And, in what was one of the film's most novel touches, weaving that great piece of classical music, Ode to Joy, into the score as the villains theme. 

The plot, in case you've forgotten.  John MacLane is a world-weary New York City cop, heading out to LA for the holidays.  His estranged wife now works for a multinational corporation, and works in LA, and who knows, maybe this Christmas, there'll be a chance for a reconciliation.  But, at his wife's office Christmas party, terrorists seize control of the office building, and take the revelers hostage.  MacLane, however, managed to slip away in the confusion, and now uses everything within his power to thwart the terrorists' plans.  Will MacLane be able to save the hostages, defeat the terrorists, and still have a merry Christmas?

This movie gets a lot of love, and has a huge fandom.  I, however, think it's merely a really good movie, and its place in my DVD library represents a dark turn for me.  When I first got my DVD player, I was buying DVDs like a madman.  I would snatch up as many DVDs as I could.  And when I bought the big boxed set of the Die Hard trilogy, that's when I had my moment of awakening.  "Did I buy this because I love the Die Hard movies so much, or because my DVD websites keep raving about it?" I kept asking myself on the drive home.  I never discovered the answer, but the doubt was enough to make me think I should dial back on the DVDs a little.

But all in all, it's a very good action film, and deserving of its place in history. 

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