Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Survive Hard: All The Times John McClane Should Have Died In The ‘Die Hard’ Series

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist February 13, 2013 at 12:58PM

In 1988, when the first "Die Hard" was released, Bruce Willis' everyday action hero John McClane was something of an anomaly. This was the era of the invincible action superstar – people like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jean-Claude Van Damme, who would waltz through action movies firing machine guns, surviving explosions with the casualness of someone doing laundry or putting up wallpaper. With "Die Hard," McClane was a new kind of hero -- a New York City cop who is afraid of flying, who's deeply insecure about his marriage and who, once bank-robbing terrorists seize a Los Angeles skyscraper, forgets his shoes, embodied by an actor most knew from a primetime comedy. And while there are plenty of instances where he survives against all odds, he also gets cut, bleeds, and screws up – things that these Reagan-era he-men rarely (if ever) did. As the series progressed, things became more and more cartoon-y for John McClane, until, by the fourth film, he was just as undefeatable as the heroes he was once such a refreshing antithesis to.
7

Die Hard With A Vengeance Racist Signage
“Die Hard with a Vengeance”: McClane should died...

When he walked around Harlem with a racist billboard
The first half of "Die Hard with a Vengeance" is pretty ingenious and has John McClane running around New York City trying to outwit a terrorist mastermind who calls himself Simon (a deliciously evil Jeremy Irons), who engages him in a particularly devious game of "Simon Says." The first thing Simon makes McClane do is head up to Harlem wearing a sandwich board that reads "I Hate Niggers." (When they filmed the scene, the neighborhood was so dangerous that the sign read "I Hate Everybody," with the word "Everybody" replaced with "Niggers" digitally. Director John McTiernan also made deals with local gang members, having them promise not to interfere with filming.) Of course, if a white man really did head up to Harlem with a sandwich board proclaiming his hatred towards black folks, he would get killed, and way quicker than the brothers recognize him in the movie. And unlike the movie they wouldn't be threatening and throw a knife into his sandwich board first.

During the subway explosion
This one is particularly ludicrous – Jeremy Irons' evil scheme involves him setting off a bomb in the New York subway system in order to gain access to a federal reserve of gold bricks. So he sends McClane on a wild goose chase to find the bomb, and even though McClane gets there in time, he sets off the bomb anyway. John McClane literally throws the bomb from the back of a subway car and it explodes mid-air, sending the entire subway careening out of control, through a subway platform and everything. It's pretty cool. But the blast literally went off inches away from McClane's face, not to mention the fact that he was in the runaway train car as it careened through the station (something that, at least from the outset, looked incredibly rough). Still: McClane emerges from the subway car, only slightly scratched up, blood loosely dribbling down his forehead.

Die Hard With A Vengeance Willis Jackson
During the bank elevator shootout
In one of the more virtuoso moments of "Die Hard with a Vengeance," John McClane finds himself in a cramped elevator with a bunch of bad guys dressed up as cops (he notices one of them wearing the badge of one of his fallen buddies). In a few quick seconds he somehow manages to kill all of the bad guys in the elevator without getting shot himself, even though there are about a half dozen of them and only one John McClane. It's an amazing little sequence, particularly when one of the bad guy's head gets atomized, dousing our hero in a misty fountain of gore (seconds later he explains to Samuel L. Jackson, "Don't worry, it's not my blood"), but it makes no sense how none of those guys, in such close quarters, couldn't get a bullet in John McClane.

During the flood 
As "Die Hard with a Vengeance" grinds on it gets more and more fucking insane. Case in point: a sequence towards the end of the movie where McClane tours the aqueduct water system, only to be detected by one of Jeremy Irons' goons, who sets off an explosive device that sends hundreds of gallons of water barreling towards McClane. What is a hungover New York City police detective to do? Why "surf" a dump truck, of course. The water then shoots him through some kind of drain (or something), firing him into the air somewhere along the Merritt Parkway. In the reality, McClane would have drowned, but this sequence is totally bonkers and makes very little sense, even in the tenuous world of "Die Hard with a Vengeance."

When he fell while trying to scoot down a wire from a bridge to a boat
This is an instance of over-the-top WTF absurdity that many, many people talked about at the time of the movies release and still scratch their heads bloody trying to figure out today – at some point John McClane and his buddy Zeus (Jackson) realize that the gold that Jeremy Irons has stolen is aboard a giant boat. They are on a bridge and watching the boat pass beneath them. So, naturally, they decide to shimmy on a metal wire (from the truck they've stolen from some other dead bad guys) from the bridge onto the boat. Are you with me so far? So they somehow shimmy towards the boat, and the truck finally gives way, coming off the bridge and sending Zeus and McClane plunging towards the boat. The wire swings back around and cuts a bad guy in half and both Zeus and McClane walk away unscathed. At any point in this episode they should have died – they should have slipped off the wire and fallen into the water, or been cut in half by the swinging wire too, or had all of their bones and vital organs crushed when they fell onto the boat. But none of this happened; there are still like 25 minutes left of movie after this. None of it makes any sense whatsoever.

“Live Free Or Die Hard”: McClane should have died....

Justin Long and Maggie Q in "Live Free or Die Hard"

From the numerous attempts to gun him down with heavy artillery
Ten minutes into the movie he survives nerdy geek Matt’s (Justin Long) apartment getting riddled by bullets from two guys with heavy artillery by simply crawling around on the ground. These guys are apparently smart enough to arm a computer with a C4 bomb that explodes when the delete key is pressed (don't ask), but not smart enough to just...aim lower... Later, in a cop cruiser headed to a secure location, the McClane and Matt are met by a helicopter with major firepower that shoots up their car, manages to kill the driver and hit everything else except McClane in the passenger seat and Matt in the back. These bad guys just can't catch a break! And then there’s the whole jumping-the-car-into-the-helicopter-scene which is just too ridiculous to bother deconstructing.

When Maggie Q had a gun pointed in his face

Live Free Or Die Hard Timothy Olyphant Bruce Willis

And what happens when the bad guys manage to get their hands on McClane? They suddenly hate guns! Maggie Q even manages to turn his own gun around on him and instead of killing him on the spot, she simply drops the clip on the floor, karate chops him until he’s on the ground, and then turns her back on him and walks away. She winds up about five minutes later at the bottom of an elevator shaft (OOH LOOK, WE'RE REFERENCING THE FIRST MOVIE NOW) thanks to McClane being given ample time to recover, find a jeep, drive it up to the fourth floor of power utility building (don't ask) and run her over.

When Thomas Gabriel had a gun pointed at his chest
And then there’s the finale where Timothy Olyphant's bland villain Thomas Gabriel’s (LOL) henchman continues to be terrible at shooting, clipping McClane in the shoulder, but it’s enough to bring to the ground and leave him unarmed. So what does Thomas do? The classic “I’m-gonna-start-rambling-on-until-McClane-gets-an-opportunity-to-kill-me” routine. For a guy that managed to get a fucking fighter jet to shoot missiles at the cop (again, don't ask...and another instance where McClane should’ve been vaporized) his desire to kill him when he easily can, suddenly vanishes all in time for our hero to get the upper hand and save the day. Seriously, just look at the image on right -- just kill him! You've got him...no wait, stop talking..... 

Thoughts? Looking hard to "A Good Day To Die Hard?" It hits theaters, tomorrow, February 14th.
 

This article is related to: Die Hard, Die Hard 5, Bruce Willis, Features, Feature, A Good Day To Die Hard


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates