by Maria Siragusa, FILM CRITIC
19 December 2017
SIT BACK & RELAX
There’s no doubt that Die Hard and Lethal Weapon are 80’s classics. One involves a man desperate to escape a holiday Christmas party intact during a terrorist attack and the other including an unlikely law enforcement duo working together to stop a band of drug smugglers. Both movies take place during the holiday season and involve some sort of gifts being given, so this gives way to the question: Are they Christmas movies?
There is no right answer to this, but it calls into question the definition of a Christmas movie, if there even is one.
Die Hard and Lethal Weapon are certainly not like It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, or White Christmas.
So what does it really take for a movie to be considered a Christmas movie?
DIE HARD (1988)
Office Christmas parties are where sometimes out of the ordinary moments can take place but attacks by German criminal groups are not on that usual list.
In Die Hard, John McClane (Bruce Willis), a New York cop, travels to California on Christmas to surprise his wife, Holly McClane (Bonnie Bedelia). Though their marriage is the definition of complicated, and she goes by her maiden name, Gennaro. During this seeming usual Christmas party at the shiny and new Nakatomi Plaza, a group of German criminals seizes the building and attempts to steal a large amount of valuables from building owner, Mr. Takagi’s (James Shigeta) heavily armoured safe. As the only party goes that doesn’t get captured by the group, John is forced to fend for himself in order to survive. With the help of LAPD cop Al Powell (Reginald Vel Johnson) and his own cop instincts, John is able to give the attackers a taste of their own medicine on this not so magical Christmas night.
The script of this movie manages to weave together mass destruction, murder, and blurbs of comedy brilliantly together. Screenwriters Steven E de SOuza and Jeb Stuart create a dialogue that is full of wit, even in this highly stressful situation. As McClane steals a villain’s shoes, for example, he quips: “Nine million terrorists in the world and I gotta kill one with feet smaller than my sister.”
John McClane is unstoppable. He takes on a band of professional terrorists starting out in nothing more than a tank top and dress pants. He isn’t even wearing shoes. Somehow he manages to play a cop, a family man, a loving husband, and a terrorist killer all in the same role, displaying all sides of himself flawlessly. Furthermore, this movie also has no shortage of 80’s stereotypes scattered throughout it, most notably an arrogant coke-snorting stock broker Harry Ellis. The band of corrupt Germans, led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) also has annoyingly good hair. At times it looks like a shampoo commercial is happening with their lush blonde locks blowin’ in the wind.
Nonetheless, it’s hard for viewers to tear their eyes away from the screen with the nonstop action. The unfolding of Gruber’s plan and all of the kinks that it encounters makes for an interesting story to be revealed that leaves viewers on the edge of their seats.
This is not the perfect setting and story that most Christmas movies are told in, but its focus is on taking the extra step to be with your loved ones and doing all that you can for them in the most extreme way. John flies across the country just to be with his wife for Christmas. Granted, there are some major bumps interfering with this event as he tries to spend the holidays with the family. This band of thieves will find it harder than they thought to prevent McClane from having a white Christmas.
Die Hard is rated R.
LETHAL WEAPON (1987)
After celebrating his 50th birthday, war veteran and experienced detective Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) receives the unexpected and unwanted present of a new partner: Martin Riggs.
Riggs (Mel Gibson)–distressed and apparently suicidal after the recent death of his wife–is the complete opposite of Murtaugh. Riggs is young, unorthodox in his law practices, and does not have much respect for the rules of others. This unlikely duo puts aside their differences in order to solve the murder of the daughter of a old friend. Though during the process of solving this crime, they run into some much bigger problems involving a deadly drug ring composed of ex-CIA members. As the cop team falls deeper and deeper into this complex crime, they end up learning from each other and even becoming unlikely friends.
This movie is absolutely filled to the brim with action. Director Richard Donner throws actions scenes at us without end, making for a constantly interesting film. It is beautifully constructed and the initial starting scene branches out into a full, complex, and detailed story. Everyone plays their parts well and works together to make a very successful film. Glover’s role as a wiser family man allows him to be the natural mentor for Riggs. His seemingly perfect life embodies what Martin’s could have been, highlighting the importance of being thankful for what you have. Gibson does a fantastic job in his role as a reckless cop. For awhile he is stuck in that strange limbo between what others perceive him as versus how he perceive himself and his life.
On the other hand, the plot tends to unfold rather quickly. Within a 48-hour span, Martin and Roger become partners, solve a crime, and everything in between. A bond like theirs usually takes time to develop. I guess that’s what made theirs so special and essential in creating this iconic film.
This is absolutely a Christmas movie. The final scene alone highlights a key component of the holiday season: gift giving. Though this movie is not the typical cookie cutter interpretation of what Christmas is, it still displays one of the true meanings of the holidays: showing appreciation towards those you care about.
Lethal Weapon is rated R.
Maria Siragusa is a film critic for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the HOWL