Day 2: Die Hard

This week’s The Goldbergs episode, titled, Yippee Ki Yay Melon Farmer, reminded its viewers that the 1998 Bruce Willis classic Die Hard is the ultimate Christmas action movie.

Here’s the set-up. NYPD officer John McClane flies to Los Angeles to see his estranged wife, Holly McClane (Bonnie Bedelia) for Christmas. While Willis takes his limo to the newly enshrined Nakatomi Plaza, a team of sophisticated European thieves infiltrates the building. Their goal? $60 million in bearer bonds. Where are the Nakatomi employees? At a Christmas party atop the unfinished complex.

Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber drives his team of thieves playing terrorists toward the codes required to provide access to the bonds. The ruse holds until McClane’s spider-sense tingles. He retreats into the iron beams and unfinished floors of the Nakatomi building. Shortly, he begins dismantling the seemingly well-planned operation.  McClane’s relentless assault on Gruber’s scheme brings new stickiness to the idea of gum-shoe.

Why a Christmas must see?

Because, hey, it starts like all Christmas movies, with a journey, followed by a misunderstanding (Holly is using her maiden name at work), a lot of pretty lights (in the form of C4 explosions and rockets taking out SWAT vehicles). Beautiful crystals fall to the ground, along with a body, as McClane finds a way to “welcome” Sgt. Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) to the “party.”  Even though this Die Hard was set in Los Angeles, director John McTiernan didn’t leave out the snow—it just went up the nose of Nakatomi International Develop lead, Harry Ellis (Hart Bochner) in the form of cocaine (Ellis later rats out McClane to as he attempts to preserve his life with a gift to Grubber. So generous is his holiday spirit). And, let’s see, there are Christmas trees in 911 dispatch, Christmas greetings in the decorated lobby between Powell and Dennis Hayden’s fake security guard Eddie. The credits roll to Vaughn Monroe‘s version of  “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” The film also features an occasional sleigh bell in the soundtrack, as well as a rendition of “Winter Wonderland.”

For all of those who like to see law enforcement in an unfavorable light, Die Hard pokes plenty of fun at LAPD and FBI leadership. A kind of gift, I guess, for a film with such an unconventional sense of giving.

Are you going to snuggle up with your toddlers to watch Die Hard on Christmas eve? Well, I will say yes, if those you are snuggling up with were toddlers in the early 1980s. While the technology feels dated, the Michael Kamen score and the non-stop action continues to keep viewers riveted even when they already know what will happen and when.

Of course, there is nothing like hearing Willis yell, “Yippee Ki Yay Melon Farmer” (hey, it’s the holidays) as he asserts his leverage on Gruber and team. It is also nice to see the late Alan Rickman in one of his iconic roles.

Want More Die Hard?

See our review of the Die Hard 30th Anniversary version here.

Can’t get enough Die Hard and Christmas? Check out the JJ Harrison and Doggie Horner book A Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic.

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