Last night my family gathered together to indulge in our favorite Christmas tradition. Once the last present is wrapped, the last ornament is hung with care, and the last baked good is crammed into the gullet of the pleasantly pickled patriarch (me), we huddle together on the couch and watch the Greatest Christmas Movie Ever.
We aren’t a sentimental bunch, but there’s something purely touching about watching John McClane stumble barefoot through shattered glass to bring the Christmas miracle of sweet justice to deserving terrorists.
Watching this movie again got me thinking. We know what happened to the main characters: John goes back to his New York cop life, Holly climbs the ladder with the Nakatomi Corporation, Sgt. Al Powell stays with the force and ultimately moves in next to Urkel, while Hans Gruber seeps slowly into a Century City sidewalk. Even the asshole reporter shows up in the second movie, still a reporter. But a number of smaller characters’ fates remain unknown. I have a theory: most of them will wake up Christmas morning, the day after the movie’s events take place, to find themselves jobless.
The staggering amount of poor job performance in this film is often overlooked. McClane is the super cop, so maybe the audience is expected to forgive everyone else for their inadequate work. But this is more than just being overshadowed by a go-getter; the number of characters who should be fired immediately after the dust clears around Nakatomi Plaza is formidable. For example:
The 9-1-1 Dispatcher
A Channel-9 call comes in on the radio, with McClane’s frantic voice screaming that terrorists have seized control of a skyscraper. There was a false fire alarm from the same address a few minutes earlier, so she decides that this must be a prank. It never crosses her mind that this *might* be a real call, and that the fire alarm is a logical early warning. It doesn’t even faze her when McClane’s pleas for help are cut off by the loud crack of automatic weapons fire. Without trying to reach McClane again for more information, she issues a Code 2 (proceed with lights and sirens) to one guy. She figures that one fat cop should be enough to scare those crazy kids away from their Christmas Eve CB-Radio pranks. And hey, if it happens to be a legit call, this guy can call for his own backup.
Sgt. Al Powell
Yes, we know he doesn’t get fired – he’s working the precinct’s fax machine at the beginning of Die Hard 2. But he is still pretty damn inept up until the point he advises McClane to “light ‘em if you got ‘em.” He is sent out on a Code 2 (see above), then proceeds to meander down Olympic Blvd. at a leisurely pace: no lights, no sirens, no worries. He even witnesses what is clearly weapons being fired on the roof of the skyscraper before he gets into his car. His investigation of the incident involves looking around the building’s lobby, walking part-way down a small hallway, then heading back to his car. Great police work, Al.
Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson
Al Powell should have been relieved of his duties the moment Dwayne T. shows up at the scene. Instead, Dwayne suspects right away that the guy Al’s been talking to on the radio might not be a cop, but rather one of the terrorists. His response is then to ignore the situation entirely, apart from one attempt to guilt-trip McClane for blowing up the guys who were firing rockets at the police. He has a direct line inside the building and he never uses it. Even if McClane had turned out to be a terrorist just playing around with the cops, isn’t it at least worth the possibility of gathering some intelligence on the situation? Dwayne T. doesn’t think so. He speaks directly with Hans Gruber, who announces himself as the leader of the bad guys, then goes on ignoring the guy who dropped the C4 on the terrorists with the rocket launcher. Even if McClane didn’t survive, Dwayne T. loses his badge Christmas morning, I guarantee it.
Everyone loves Argyle, the affable limo driver who spends most of the film blissfully unaware in the Nakatomi parking lot, chatting up a giant stuffed bear and listening to a lot of Stevie Wonder. And he even turns out to be a hero in the end, knocking out Theo, the techie terrorist, with a single punch. Argyle’s boss, awash with the Christmas spirit, would probably have turned a blind eye to the front-end damage to the limo caused by Argyle slamming into Theo’s stolen ambulance. It was, after all, an act of bravery. But there’s no getting around the fact that Argyle lied to his boss before the movie even starts, telling him he was headed to Vegas so he could spend the night with his woman doing who-knows-what to her in the back of that limo.
Harry Ellis’s Cocaine Dealer
Let’s face it, once you lose this guy as a customer, you may as well just retire.
Theo & The Other Guy
Two of the terrorists survive the night: Theo, the computer guy with some of the best lines in the film (“Oh my god, the quarterback is toast!”), and the guy that McClane hammers with the butt-end of his machine gun just before the final battle with Hans. These guys both lost their jobs in the terrorist industry. Even if they do get out of jail with hopes of returning to their chosen career paths, Theo would be at a tremendous loss when trying to cope with modern technology, which has advanced somewhat since 1988 (“Hey, these screens aren’t green!”).
Capt. Mitchell (The SWAT Team Guy)
The guy who ran the SWAT team – you might remember him for having some of the creepiest lines in the film (“Send in the car… send in the car!”). I’d be surprised if this guy wasn’t fired before the Nakatomi situation is resolved. Standing next to the deputy chief of police – the DEPUTY CHIEF OF POLICE – he takes over and makes a ludicrous number of mistakes in a very brief time. When Dwayne T. insists the tactical team be brought back (“They’re sitting ducks!”), Mitchell ignores him, insisting his team is almost inside. The team is then fired upon and wounded. Mitchell’s response is to send in an armored car, again ignoring the fact that his superior is standing beside him. The bad guys have RPGs, so again Mitchell’s bold call is effective only in harming the police. Fuck this guy.
Why is this guy even on TV? He’s supposedly the anchorman for the local news, but he gets caught in a lengthy sneer at the beginning of a broadcast and is painfully slow to correct himself. Then, he draws further attention to his own stupidity by mistakenly identifying Helsinki as the capital of Sweden. Seriously? In the days of 13-channel TV, would Los Angeles be host to a moron of this caliber to be the face of their news team? Maybe that’s why he’s on Channel 14 (as evidenced above).
Paulina, the maid
When confronted with a TV news reporter and his entourage at the McClain’s front door, Paulina chooses to protect herself (and her status as an illegal immigrant) over protecting the children from being exploited on local television. Her boss, of course, sees this and nearly dies because of it. Christmas or no Christmas, Holly McClane goes home and promptly fired this bitch, no question.
Convenience Store Clerk
Probably no reason to fire him, but the actor who plays him is named Kip Waldo, and he has a rockin’ ‘stache. Just thought he deserves a mention.
The Candy Kiosk Guy
Christmas comes and goes, and then, when a quick inventory is done, it turns out the candy kiosk at Nakatomi is short some chocolate. We know this is because the Asian terrorist has a hankering for some Nestle Crunch, but is the kiosk-guy’s boss really going to believe that? “No, seriously Murray… Christmas Eve, everything checked out. I guess one of those terrorist guys must have stepped away from all those hostages and run down here for a snack.” Yeah, he’s getting fired.
They’re all getting fired. Merry Christmas everyone.
Originally posted Dec. 24, 2010