Sunday, July 31, 2011

DIE HARD (1988) - John McTiernan

I first saw Die Hard on a date in July of 1988. Back then, I didn't know anything about the movie, other than it starred the guy from Moonlighting (a show I didn't watch) and had the longest run time of all the movies playing at my local four-plex. This second factor sealed the deal. It was early high school, I didn't drive, and you needed as much time as possible in a darkened theater to weasel your way into your girlfriend's bra before her mother arrived to pick you up in her station wagon. It was a delicate operation that required time and finesse. I guess you could say her Hanes B cups were my Nakatomi Plaza.

By the movie's midpoint, I'd managed to get my grubby little fingers beneath her brassiere and remove it entirely. I vaguely recall swinging it around on my finger, pretending to toss it a few rows over as a joke. I guess this was my idea of courtship in the late '80s. Would Hans Gruber be so bold But something curious happened on my way to second base-- I started to get into the movie. Maybe it was when John McClane is crawling through the air vents in escape from Alexander Godunov. Maybe it was when Sergeant Al Powell showed up on the scene with his twinkies. Maybe it was when the wonderfully sleazy businessman Ellis attempts a coked-up negotiation between Gruber and McClane. Yeah, it must have been the Ellis scene. "John Boy." It still makes me giddy with glee.

Anyway, I was hooked. So much that I completely forgot about my unhooking my high school girlfriend's bra. I was watching something very special, a movie that would be the template for modern action movies for the next decade ("Die Hard on a..." etc). I was watching Bruce Willis beat the shit out of Godunov on a stairwell and yelling that he was going to "cook him and eat him for breakfast." I was turning into a honest-to-goodness film geek, my loser destiny written in stone. Is it any wonder that relationship never made it to the tenth grade?

I've seen Die Hard at least ten times since that date on VHS, cable, DVD. The fun for me is not following the plot. It's trying to keep track of the 12 henchmen, all of Gruber's goons. This movie has some of the best disposable gunmen of all time, an international smorgasbord of toughs, each with their own quirks and shorthand personalities. There's the so-Aryan-it-hurts brothers Karl and Tony. There's Theo, the black computer whiz. There's the henchman who looks like Fabio. The henchman who looks like Chris O'Donnell. The henchman who looks like Huey Lewis. The Asian guy who steals candy bars from the snack bar when no one's looking. There is an embarrassment of henchman riches in the first Die Hard, to the point where I wanted to write them all down on my arm with a Sharpie as John McClane does midway through, cross them off as he snuffs them out. Someone should make that into a drinking game if they already haven't. Call it "Yippie-kie-yay."

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