Merry Christmas, friends! ’tis the season to enjoy family and friends and watch sentimental slop on TV like “It’s Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story” which warms the heart and makes you feel good to be alive. But there are some of us who find those films anethema to our hard-boiled sensibilities and we need a little action with our Christmas cheer.
Luckily, we have “Die Hard” (1988) and “Lethal Weapon” (1987) to fill the role.
You’re scratching your head right now, but stay with me.
“Die Hard”, with its Christmastime setting, has become popular lately as a film for action buffs to watch during this season. We get Christmas trappings and action. John McClane shouts, “Jesus Christ!” several times during the film, which also fills the spiritual requirement. One of the supporting players in the film, Robert Davi, is on record as saying the film is in no way “Chrsitmas appropriate” because it’s secular. If it reflects Christmas, it refelcts the non-religious aspects that most of America seems to have adopted, and he’d prefer we not look at it as a holiday movie.
As much as I respect Robert Davi for his work, along with his conservative point of view, I must disagree.
One can sum up “Die Hard” as “Tough cop battles terrorists who have taken over a high rise” but let’s dig into the themes a little more. John McClane is on the verge of divorce. He’s come out to Los Angeles to spend time with his wife and family and to try and patch things up. In the midst of this, the building in which his wife works is taken over by the bad guys and she’s among the hostages. McClane, on the loose, must fight the bad guys and save the hostages. However, by the time he done that, he’s also saved his marriage. Let’s sum it up another way: “Tough cop on the verge of divorce battles terrorists and saves his marriage.”
“Die Hard” is not just an action movie, it’s about two people trying to reconnect under extreme circumstances. It’s about the importance of working out marital problems and a father being there for his kids. Sentimenal Christmastime slop? You bet! But we also get stuff blowing up real good. (And this, by the way, is what makes the original better than any of the sequels.)
Now let’s look at “Lethal Weapon”, which stars Mel Gibson as Martin Riggs in the tough cop role. Riggs, still mourning the death of his wife, is on the verge of suicide. It’s Christmastime and he’s not the only one having problems, as exemplified by a jumper he brings down from a building. Prior to that, they talk about how much they’re hurting. Lots of Christmas angst and sour complexions. Riggs teams up with a new partner, a family man, and while the pair chase slimy drug dealers, Riggs breaks out of his shell and, with the help of his partner’s family, learns to love again and breaks free of the isolation he’d placed himself in.
“Tough cop learns to love again” is not the stuff of action movies, but it’s the stuff of a Christmas movie. And things blow up real good too. Riggs shouts “Jesus Christ!” a lot (so do some of the other characters, actually) and we also get boobs. Jesus, boobs, gun battles, stuff blowing up real good. Riggs begins the film bitter and angry; the film ends with him coming to terms with those emotions and eliminating them from his psyche. You bring the widescreen Blu-Ray, I’ll bring the popcorn.
Sometimes you have to look below the surface to find the value of something that, on the surface, appears to have no redeeming value at all. These are but two examples; there are others, I’m sure.
I’d rather watch “Die Hard” and “Lethal
Weapon” rather than listen to Jimmy Stewart shout, “Merry Christmas, movie house!” for the umpteenth time. In one of these alternative Christmas movies, a bell ringing doesn’t mean an angel gets wings, it usually means the hero has shown up to kick some ass.
So, yes, “Die Hard” and “Lethal Weapon” are Christmas movies, and one should not be ashamed of watching them during the season. You may not want to watch when the kids are awake, though. Or maybe you’ll let you son watch with you and start a new father/son Christmas tradition. (But don’t tell Mom!)