Thursday, 10 March 2016

Die Hard

There are two kinds of people in the world. There are those who think Die Hard is a Christmas movie. And apparently there is a second type of person, but I don't associate with people like them.
People say he's gotten big-headed recently.
This movie is awesome and I'm going to spend far too much time explaining why.
The movie opens with our main character, John McClane. He's on a plane travelling to see his estranged wife, Holly.
He's the guy on the left.
The movie quite efficiently explains some major facts about McClane within his first scene, such as that he's scared of flying and that he's a cop. That guy next to him gives him some advice about taking his shoes off after landing, which sets us up for something later.
The scene shifts to introduce Holly and her company, the random Japanese name corporation.
It also introduces Harry Ellis, douchebag extraordinaire.
Holly phones her house and her daughter Lucy answers and she is adorable. 
I want everybody to remember how adorable she was. Just wait a few movies.
After a bit of talk with the nanny Holly hangs up and turns her photo of John face-down.
Back at the airport McClane is picked up by limo driver Argyle, who used to be a taxi driver, so he's more chummy than limo drivers normally are.
Don't expect to sit in the front is all I'm saying.
This is a pretty good plot mechanic, if pulled off well enough. It gives the viewers a chance to get to know the main character from his perspective whilst also giving us a taste of his personality, particularly how he treats people in the customer service industry.
(There is no greater indication of a man's character than how he treats a sales assistant.)
Heck, it works so well that Deadpool copied it.
Argyle takes him to the Nakatomi Tower and drops him off, saying that he'll be in the basement car park. That way if things go well with Holly he can bring his luggage up. If things go bad, he can take McClane to a motel instead.
Argyle is a nice guy.
McClane gets inside the tower and he uses the fancy new self-serve machine to find the floor his wife is on.
This won't date the movie at all.
The movie very subtly uses this to show that Holly's been working under her maiden name instead of his. This may not be unusual now, but back in 1988 it would have been a big deal.
McClane takes the express elevator to the 30th floor and enters the party where he meets Holly's boss, Mr. Takagi.
After chatting for a bit Holly shows up and they enter her office, where Ellis is wiping his nose.
Gee, I wonder what he was doing.
Ellis acts like a colossal jerk towards McClane, tipping McClane off to the fact that Ellis has the hots for Holly.
Him bragging about the Rolex he bought her for her birthday may have also been a clue.
Ellis is an asshole. Just in case you couldn't tell from the suit.
After Ellis and Takagi leave McClane washes his hands. He and Holly get into a little bit of an argument about nothing of any particular consequence, which makes Holly storm off.
Just in time for the terrorists to arrive.
These guys.
That guy's Hans Gruber, played by the late Alan Rickman.
And he is awesome.
They swiftly take out the two security guards that were downstairs and get into the elevator.
When they reach the top McClane's still in the bathroom, having followed the guy's advice about removing his shoes and socks.
The terrorists round up everybody from the party, only missing McClane because they got distracted by the couple having sex in the office next to him.
After escaping McClane runs up the stairs, noticing more terrorists moving equipment on the 31st floor so he heads to the 32nd, which is still under construction.
He tries the phone, but the lines have been cut by one of the terrorists.
Which reminds me of why this movie wouldn't work if it was set in the modern day. A big part of the movie is the isolation of McClane. He can't simply pick up his mobile phone and call his friends, he has to find a radio and jump through some hoops.
But if it was set now? Half of the hostages would have uploaded photos to Twitter and one could live stream to Youtube.
But anyway, having rounded up everybody Hans introduces himself as some form of revolutionary who hates the Nakatomi corporation and asks to speak to Takagi.
And he's very happy to meet him.
As Hans takes Takagi to one of the higher floors McClane also makes his way up there, noticing that the terrorists are very heavily armed. In that they have rocket launchers.
Hans talks to Takagi about the Nakatomi corporation, but it's just make-nice before he drops the bombshell of what he's really after.
The password for the safe.
I'll be honest, I don't like the design of that table.
Takagi points out that the password is only the first key to the safe and that the other six are even harder to crack. Hans still wants the password but Takagi refuses, saying that Hans will just have to shoot him.
So he does.
Ummm, eeewww!
This shocks McClane, who was watching from behind a table (But notably he couldn't see Hans). One of the terrorists chases after McClane while the others get to work on cracking the vault.
McClane manages to get the drop on the terrorist, who attempts to fight back.
It goes well.
While McClane loots the corpse (Thus proving himself to be a D&D character) one of the terrorists (Named Theo) hacks the password. According to his computer screen he entered the English translation of Akagi, the ship Takagi was apparently assigned to during military service.
At least it wasn't swordfish.
This bugged me so I decided to double check. According to Google translate (Which we all know is 100% accurate) the Japanese words for 'Red Castle' are actually 赤い城, which is pronounced as 'Akai Shiro'.
Which doesn't surprise me.
But it means Theo's able to move onto the next set of locks, which can apparently be bypassed using a gigantic frigging drill.
Theo's the smart one, so he uses eye protection.
Back to McClane, who's decided to send the terrorists a message. Using the corpse.
I don't remember McClane picking up any lipstick.
For the longest time I couldn't work out why McClane did this. Surely he could do more damage to the terrorists if he stayed hidden as long as possible? But I think I've finally figured it out.
He was getting a message to Holly.
That message being that he's going to tear through the terrorists one by one until they're all dead.
And apparently gather information whilst hiding on top of the elevator.
As the elevator goes back up and McClane starts sneaking around the roof, Hans tells Karl that his brother has been killed.
He takes it well.
Hans tries to calm him down, since they have a plan which would be put in jeopardy if Karl started firing bullets everywhere.
This plan almost immediately gets altered when McClane uses the looted radio to call for help using an emergency police radio frequency.
Which apparently is staffed by the laziest police officers on the force.
"What's that? Terrorists have taken over 30 people hostage? And you're using a secure emergency line to report it? Clearly this is a prank."
I hope this woman got fired from her job.
Of course, Hans was using the radio to keep tabs on that frequency and he figures out that McClane would be on the roof, so he sends Karl and two others to go hunting.
After McClane argues with the idiot woman some more (Including one of my favourite lines, "What do you think I'm doing lady, ordering a pizza?") Karl shoots at McClane, causing him to drop the radio.
And the woman's response to hearing literal gunfire?
"Send a black and white."
And that's how we're introduced to Alan.
McClane escapes the bad guys by falling down the elevator shaft, losing his assault rifle in the process.
And when I said 'By falling down' I was not using hyperbole.
Fun fact, that scene wasn't entirely planned. The stuntman slipped and missed the ledge he was meant to grab, but caught hold of the next ledge down. The director kept it in because it made McClane seem more human and fallible.
Thinking that he's locked in the elevator shaft Hans calls off the search in order for them to bluff the police to go away.
It seems to work, with Alan deciding that everything seems normal and turning to leave.
As he does so McClane tried to smash a window to get his attention, but only gets the attention of Heinrich, the terrorist in charge of the roof.
So Heinrich and a buddy try to kill McClane.
It goes well for him.
Heinrich catches some bullets to the chest but his buddy, Marco, corners McClane beneath the table and starts gloating. 
That turned out well for him.
McClane spots Alan getting in the car, so he desperately grabs the first thing he can and throws it out the window.
Alan desperately reverses whilst the terrorists start shooting at him until he crashes into a ditch, where he calls for backup.
Back inside Hans tells his men to calm down, since police interference was inevitable anyway.
Meanwhile, elsewhere, a news reporter is listening to the police radio and he gets excited by what he's hearing.
"I've got the weirdest boner right now."
I can't remember his name but he's one of the biggest douches in a movie series containing Ellis and a couple of Gruber's, so that's rather impressive.
Anyway, lots and lots of police show up and surround the building, finally.This makes McClane a little bolder than before, so he decides to use the radio to have a chat with Hans.
"No, we don't have a terrorist named I. P. Freely."
McClane and Hans trade insults for a while, with McClane being likened to a cowboy, which he likes. During the conversation McClane brags about some of the terrorists he's killed, name-dropping Marco, which panics Hans. Especially since Marco and Heinrich had some C4 and a whole bunch of detonators.
And McClane earns his famous catchphrase.
Yippee-Kay-Ay Motherf***er!
As Karl investigates whether Marco's really dead or not, Alan radios through the secure channel. McClane points out that the channel is being listened to and gives as much info as he can.
Afterwards a deputy police chief shows up to take charge and mostly act like a dick.
He may be a dick, but compared to the people who show up later he's downright pleasant.
As Deputy Chief Robinson talks to Alan, Holly goes to talk to Hans. She makes some requests on behalf of the hostages, such as a sofa for the pregnant woman and for a toilet schedule. Hans takes note of her name, which she fortunately gives as Gennero.
Meanwhile the reporter (Whose name is Thornburg apparently) gives his report about the hostage situation, which comes as a surprise to Argyle, who's apparently been sitting in his limo for two hours straight.
So who knows how much he's drunk in that time?
Outside the building Robinson's decided to send in some men. But first, he has to light the whole building up with giant spotlights.
What, does he think Batman's going to show up?
Of course, this tips off the terrorists and gives them ample time to get into defensive positions.
And grab snacks.
The police go in in standard formation, pausing at the glass doors to try and pick the lock. Hans instructs his men to merely wound the police, since he wants them just scared enough to wait outside, but not angry enough to risk the hostages.
After the police all get knee-capped Robinson tries to call them back, but the SWAT guy ups the ante by sending in 'The car', which is an armoured vehicle he plans to use as a battering ram.
But remember those rocket launchers McClane spotted earlier?
This one for example.
They hit the AV, causing it to get stuck out in the open. McClane uses the radio to try and persuade Hans to let the police pull back, but instead Hans orders his men to fire again.
It's at this point that McClane remembers that he has some C4 and a whole bunch of detonators, so he gets creative.
Not exactly MacGuyver, but it gets the job done.
In case you can't tell what happened, McClane strapped the C4 to an office chair and dropped it down the elevator shaft. When it hit the lift, the C4 exploded.
I'm not sure, but I think he got them.
Robinson grabs a radio and starts yelling at McClane for causing the explosion and covering all of his men with glass. To which McClane replies "Who gives a s*** about glass?", which couldn't possibly come back to haunt him later.
Inside the building Ellis has gotten tired of sitting around and has decided that he's going to use his high-end negotiating skills to get himself out of danger.
And by high-end I mean that Ellis is high if he thinks he can end things that way.
Eh? Eh? Ah forget it.
A lot of people enjoy hating on Ellis because he's a massive douche and I think some of it's undeserved.
Well yeah, he is a massive douche, I won't argue against that.
But it's important to note that he doesn't reveal McClane's connection to Holly. Instead he puts his own life on the line by pretending to be McClane's old college buddy.
He tells Hans that he can talk McClane into handing himself in peaceably if he's given a radio.
Of course, considering what happened to Takagi (And Karl's brother), McClane figures that Hans would just kill both of them anyway, so he disavows all knowledge of Ellis.
Hans didn't like hearing that.
Hans finally decides to talk to the police and gives them a list of demands, mostly centred around freeing a bunch of other terrorists from around the world.
None of whom Hans gives a darn about, but he wants the police to think he's an ideologist who'd die for his cause.
More importantly, he wants the FBI to get involved.
Speak of the assholes.
Those guys are FBI agents Johnson and Johnson (No relation), who're now in charge and they have a plan.
That plan is to follow the book by the letter. The same book Hans has apparently been reading from.
Before that though, Hans dispatches Karl to hunt down McClane whilst he checks to see if Heinrich finished his job on the roof.
And he walks straight into McClane.
This may be my favourite expression in the movie.
Hans thinks quickly and pretends to be one of the party guests that escaped, putting on an amazing American accent. McClane falls for it and shares a cigarette before asking his name, which he gives as 'Bill Clay'.
How fortunate that the floor directory was directly next to where they were talking.
McClane hands 'Bill' a gun and asks him to cover his back, since 'Bill' is such a trustable bloke.
How could you ever doubt that face?
Fun fact, this is yet another scene that wasn't originally going to be in the movie, but the director heard Rickman's American accent and asked for a scene just so they could use it.
Well, partly that, but also to have Hans and McClane actually meet, because while they've spoken a lot neither even knew what the other looked like.
Hans orders McClane to give him the detonators, which tips McClane off to the fact that he's got more explosives.
Hans attempts to shoot McClane in the face, but McClane trusted him with a gun, but not any bullets.
"Well, phooey."
Just as McClane is about to shoot Hans though he hears the elevator ding and has to dive for cover as Karl comes out shooting.
After a bit of a shoot-out in which two more of Hans's men die, they find themselves at a bit of a stalemate. Hans however notices some broken glass and instructs Karl to create more, shooting out all of the office windows and covering everywhere with large shards.
Glass. Do you see the problem?
Karl throws a flash grenade out, but McClane spots it and uses it as cover to escape. Karl's frustrated that McClane escaped again, but Hans is happy to have the detonators back.
As they return to the party Hans hands them over to snack-lover, who leaves.
Elsewhere in the building McClane drags himself into a bathroom in order to bandage up his foot, which is bleeding a little.
Walk it off you wimp.
While he pulls glass from a massive gash in his foot (Which you should be grateful I'm not showing) he has a chat with Alan over the radio. Alan explains why he's been sitting behind a desk for the last few years when he used to be a street cop.
Turns out he accidentally shot a child who was holding a toy gun. It was a dark alley and it looked real enough, but Alan's been so guilt-ridden that he hasn't been able to draw his gun ever since.
Back in those days, this was a tragedy. These days it's apparently a daily occurrence.
Away from that though, Hans is very happy to see the FBI cutting the power to the building, because this means that the final lock will be deactivated.
Giving them a chance to get to all of the untraceable valuables inside.
And thanks to McClane they all get a larger cut.
Hans grabs the radio to talk to the FBI and Johnson answers, telling him that they have negotiated the release of the prisoners and that helicopters are on their way. What he doesn't tell Hans is that they're full armed attack helicopters intended to riddle him full of bullets.
It doesn't matter either way though, because what Hans didn't tell Johnson is that he plans to explode the roof anyway so that he and his men can escape unnoticed.
Meanwhile, McClane is continuing his chat with Alan, this time asking Alan to find his wife and pass on a message. Namely that he's sorry for being a jerk.
It's a very well done scene, the camera holding on McClane's face while he talks.
After the discussion though, McClane has an epiphany. Why was Hans on the roof in the first place?
That's why.
McClane grabs his radio and tries to tell Alan what's up, but he gets interrupted.
By Karl.
And his machine gun.
McClane's been in better situations.
Elsewhere, Hans is preparing to shepherd the hostages onto the roof when he spots something on tv. Thornburg, the douchey reporter guy, has gone to McClane's house and is interviewing his kids. Holly notices her daughter on tv and gasps, which causes Hans to notice the face-down photo, which he flips face-up.
To be fair, she's really lucky he never bothered with it until now.
Hans decides to keep Holly alive so that she can be used as leverage later, just in case.
McClane continues his fight against Karl, who's really, really enjoying making McClane suffer instead of just shooting him.
That decision goes well for him.
McClane doesn't stop though, since he has to get to the roof to rescue the hostages. The FBI are closing in with their attack helicopters, even happily mentioning that 25% casualties among the hostages would be something they could live with.
Now you know why I hate these guys even more than Ellis.
McClane gets to the roof and removes snack-lover from the equation.
I didn't even recognise what snack he ate.
McClane tells the hostages about the bomb and they hurriedly leave, but being McClane he also tries to save the helicopters too. By shooting at them.
It may seem dumb, but he didn't have many options.
The helicopter attacks him, so he has to run.
And then, as the roof explodes, he does the most insane stunt in the movie.
He jumps off of the roof.
To be fair, he did tie a fire hose around himself first, but still.
McClane uses the assault rifle to smash the glass and get back into the building before the burning wreckage of the helicopter falls past him.
Meanwhile, Theo is down in the basement getting their escape vehicle ready.
In a stroke of genius, their escape vehicle was an ambulance.
After all, who would stop an ambulance?
(Hans must be a fan of Cannonball Run).
Remember Argyle though? Turns out that the terrorists didn't spot his limo when they entered and he rams Theo. He even punches him out.
Argyle: The original One-Punch Man.
McClane sneaks around until he hears Holly arguing with Hans. He counts the terrorists and his remaining bullets, finding that he's got 2 bullets to deal with 3 terrorists.
And that's when he spots a tape dispenser.
He enters by knocking out Charlie, a terrorist who's barely appeared on screen (He and Theo just got lucky I guess), then he drops his rifle and puts his hands up.
They chat for a bit while Hans holds his gun to Holly's head. When Hans repeats McClane's catchphrase and everybody starts laughing.
That's when McClane grabs the gun he taped to his back and shoots them both.
Boom! Headshot.
Hans staggers backwards and fall out of the window, but he still has a hold of Holly. Holly desperately holds on while Hans does the same, but he's gripping onto her Rolex.
Which McClane helpfully removes.
Hans has left the building.
Yet another fun fact, they told Rickman that they were going to drop him two seconds later than they actually did, so that look of fear on his face wasn't an act.
With all of the terrorists dead or captured McClane and Holly make their way to the ground floor (Via the stairs, since McClane blew up the elevators) where they meet Alan.
Robinson shows up and yells at McClane, but just as he does so Karl wakes up and tries to murderise them.
He's a tad angry.
Luckily though Alan responds quickly and pumps Karl fall of bullets until he finally falls over, properly dead this time.
And so, as Argyle shows up to drive the McClanes home, Robinson decides not to cause them any more stress and Holly punches the reporter in the face live on air.
Giving everybody a happy ending.

So was this movie good? Do I even need to answer that question?
Sure, there are some plot holes (Hans trying to get rid of the police when in fact he needed them to be there. Why he waited so long to talk to the cops.), some things could have been done better (Revealing the bombs on the roof could have waited until McClane discovered it. They could have just referred to it as 'The cover plan' or something). And the effects are dated (Especially Hans falling).
But it's the perfect action movie. It sets up the main character, puts him in a tough spot, then gives him up and downs until he finally overcomes the bad guy at the end.
What set this movie apart from others of its' time though is how fallible McClane was. Other 80s action movies had heroes who never got scratched, despite never using cover. The odds may have seemed against them but they were nigh-invincible. McClane was constantly getting hurt throughout.

I'm going to be mixing things up from now on. The alphabet following idea hasn't really worked and I think it might be best for me to abandon it. Plus I get arc fatigue trying to review an entire series in a row. So now I'm going to write down every movie I own and put them in a hat. This way, even I won't know which movie I'll be reviewing until it's time to review it.

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