Top photo is a YouTube screenshot
True confession: I have an addiction for the “Die Hard” movies. Bruce Willis as John McClane, saving the day, almost single-handedly. In the first one he did do it alone, with the signature phrase, too naughty to repeat on broadcast and basic cable TV, radio or in polite company, “Yippee ki yay motherfucker!” Man, who doesn’t love that? He saves Nakatomii Tower in Los Angeles, destroys all the bad guys, wins the respect of some local police officers and gets his wife’s approval and admiration (Bonnie Bedelia). When the shit hits the fan I hope John McClane is there to fix it all.
In the second one McClane enlists the help of a couple of airport employees at Dulles just outside of Washington, D.C. to take down an international criminal who has been aided by a couple of elite Army units. They all get blowed up in a Boeing 747 as it is taking off for their escape. Another “Yippee ki yay-yadda-yadda.”
In the third installment, Die Hard With a Vengeance, McClane is pulled out of a suspension to help the police department thwart a terrorist planting bombs all over New York City. McClane must complete tasks that get more difficult as he goes along. He’s helped by a guy named Zeus, played by Samuel L. Jackson, who owns a fix it shop in Harlem. He gets drawn into the plot because Zeus sees McClane standing on the corner, wearing nothing but his skivvies and a very … dangerous … sign. Turns out the terrorists are led by a guy named Simon, played by the incomparable Jeremy Irons. As it turns out Simon is the brother of the top bad guy in the First Die Hard movie, Hans Gruber, played by the incomparable Alan Rickman. He will be missed by movie fans everywhere.
After “Vengeance” came out we didn’t see another “Die Hard” movie for 12 years (2007), until he McClane was pressed into service to deliver a hacker, Matt Farrell, played by Justin Long (who got famous playing the cool nerd in the Apple Macintosh commercials), to federal authorities in Washington, D.C. McClane and Farrell thwart a plot by a disgruntled former federal employee turned cyber terrorist. The best part of the movie was McClane launching a car into the air and colliding with a helicopter full of bad guys, led by some character played by Timothy Olyphant.
The cool thing about that one was all the doomsday scenarios people talk about when it comes to hackers destroying America are deployed by this one terrorist group.
You’d think that after that one Detective John McClane would retire and save all the wear and tear on his tired and aging body … but no, He was back at it, having A Good Day to Die Hard. In that McClanes’s two children have big parts. Lucy, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Jack, played by Jai Courtney. Turns out Jai is a C.I.A. agent and Lucy is … dating the wrong guy, according to dad.
If you saw the previous film Lucy was kidnapped by the bad guy and as it turns out she is a decent martial artist herself. C’mon, it’s a Die Hard movie and she’s the progeny of John McClane so she has to be a bad ass.
Anyway, in the fifth installment, the fifth element, so to speak (alluding to another Willis feature), Lucy drives her dad to the airport so he can fly to Moscow to save his son from prison. So John and Jack McClane go through some father-son bonding while getting shot at, blowed up and otherwise abused by the bad guys. Thankfully they save the day. And the world, it turns out.
They fly back to the U.S. and are picked up on the tarmac by Lucy and all’s well in the McClane Family once again.
So the question I had to ask myself, and I assume many people have asked themselves the same question, is: why do I watch these films every time they are on TV? How many times have I watched the first three? Too many to count. I’ve seen the fourth maybe a half dozen times and the last just once … no, twice. And I would really like to see these last two soon, after watching the first three on HBO, in sequence, once again.
The movies can be ridiculous with their implausible action sequences and clichéd dialogue. Let’s get real. The only way to launch a car into a helicopter that is in the air is to stage it and rehearse, or use CGI. Nobody would try and do it for real, on the fly and think, “Yeah, this will work.”
And the bad guy henchmen, who are all supposed to be highly trained ex-special forces operators from around the world, are the worst shots with their automatic weapons. C’mon man! How hard can it be to kill one or two people when you have ex-special forces guys spraying rounds with automatic fire? And how did John and Zeus survive the exploding ship? It blew up as McClane and Zeus were on the rail and flung them out into the Long Island Sound. And as a Marine who got into his fair share of fights (maybe more than my share), no one walks away from some of the beatings John McClane takes, let alone beats the other guy. In fact, most fights last less than a minute and rarely last as long as three.
For example: There was a bar brawl. I was told it lasted about five minutes, but I was knocked unconscious after about a minute. A member of my platoon went to the next door bar and got our staff NCO’s who dragged us out and back to the barracks, where I came to, stuck to my pillow by the blood. I went to sick bay and they extended my light duty due to a concussion. I got in trouble for that one.
Anyway, I’ll watch the “Die Hard” movies when they come on and I’ve even watched them On Demand. Why, because we love to see Bruce Willis as John McClane whooping ass on very intelligent and colorful bad guys. Lots of them, as it turns out.
We like Bruce Willis and his on screen bad boy ways. The Fifth Element, Pulp Fiction, Unbreakable and Glass (as the same character), Ocean’s Twelve (as himself), The Sixth Sense The Jackal (one of my favorites), and another favorite, In Country. He played a Vietnam vet coming to terms with his life, culminating with a trip to Washington, D.C. to visit The Wall, the Vietnam War Memorial. There are too many more to mention ere, plus his TV appearances (Moonlighting and Friends in particular) plus his stage work.
Bruce Willis will keep us watching — and waiting — for every “Die Hard” movie that comes out. There’s another one planned and let’s hope we get to see it on screen. He’s a very good actor and a great action movie star. Yeah, those movies are nuts, their plots are thin but dammit, we love’em.
Yippee ki yay …
Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the elected government officials and business were so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that.