Die Hard, the movie straight men love to mansplain to women at bars, has become something of a Christmas classic. While the film was released in July of 1988, it is set on Christmas Eve. And the action may revolve around NYC cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) taking down West German terrorist Hans Gruber, there are at least some Christmas songs that play in the background as violence ensues. Basically, it’s not the least Christmas-y Christmas movie ever made (That would be The Holiday).
So, does this iconic action movie hold up? Here are some thoughts…
The Copaganda Factor
Die Hard is undeniably copaganda (a piece of entertainment that glorifies police work while glossing over its attendant issues). John McClane is a grizzled NYC cop who single-handedly takes down nine astonishingly well-dressed (therefore likely experienced and successful) European terrorists, led by the dashing Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). McClane (we refer to him by his last name because he’s macho) manages to take all those dudes down without any weapons of his own. In fact, he’s not even wearing shoes! Even Captain America doesn’t go into battle barefoot. John McClane is one tough motherf-cker.
Perhaps the most troubling (and copagandistic) part of the film is this: its moral and emotional centre is Sgt. Powell (Reginald VelJohnson), a man who shot a child while on duty as an LAPD cop. When we meet the loveable police officer who gives McClane pep talks via walkie talkie, is hung up (as he should be) on how he murdered an unarmed thirteen year-old that, whom he claims to have mistaken for an adult with a weapon. The story (and feeble justification) echoes many real-life episodes of police brutality. It’s also copaganda of the worst kind to portray Powell as the kindest, most empathetic character, Sure, Reginalnd VelJohnson the actor is a remarkable (and undeniably loveable) screen presence, but this character is inexcusable. I don’t care that he’s sad about having killed a child, that’s not enough to make someone a standup guy. That the movie asks us to root for Powell is straight up disgusting!
Arguments In Favour
Hans Gruber Is Sort of a Feminist
Mr. Gruber definitely has a feminist streak. He’s so respectful of Holly, an executive Hans Gruber has taken hostage (also John McClane’s wife). He takes the time to compliment her prowess as a finance professional, which is something most people wouldn’t take the time to do while in the process of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars. He even orders his men to stop their thievery to bring out a couch, just so a pregnant hostage can feel a bit more comfortable. I was pregnant for forty whole weeks, and if I had a dollar for every man who gave up his seat on the subway for me, I’d have exactly zero dollars. That Hans Gruber interrupts his heist to find appropriate seating for a pregnant lady makes me swoon. Hans, I salute you!
The Bad Guys Are White (And Not Even Russian)
In Hollywood, movie terrorists are often egregiously written Muslim stereotypes. Not only does this movie not traffic in tropes about Islamic terrorism, it acknowledges what the statistics bear out, terroism is frequently carried out by entitled white guys. Hans Gruber is a West German dude, who uses the tactics of terrorists, but really just wants to get rich. When he takes people hostage and threatens to blow up a building, it’s all because he’s keen to retire on a beach with $640 Million. A lesser movie might have made him a religious fanatic or a disgruntled Soviet. But Die Hard rises above such cheap conceits.
Alan Rickman Is a Stone Cold Fox
Alan Rickman is the sexiest villain ever to grace The Silver Screen. Professor Snape is a consummate hottie in every role. And while Rickman has tragically passed away, his portrayal of Hans Gruber will live on forever…
This is complicated. Die Hard is a fun, action-packed romp. Hans Gruber is still hot AF and the soundtrack contains just enough holiday songs to be festive; however, copaganda is always problematic, no matter how well made it is. Die Hard holds up about as well as my makeup after a Bachelorette party, still cute from far away, but a mess when you get within six feet of my face…