Die Laughing

Why Die Hard and other dated action films provide more laughs than gasps as the years pass

Die Laughing

The Inlander's Suds and Cinema series has thus relied wholly on comedies, mostly because we figured people would want to laugh while they drank their locally made beer. But what if, we thought, you could laugh at something that wasn't a comedy? What if you could yell out lines like "What kind of terrorists are you?" and "Yippie-ki-yay mother------!" with a bunch of other people also shouting out those lines? And what if we were allowed to collectively remember that the dad from Family Matters was supposed to be taken seriously?

Those possibilities were more than intriguing, and that's why we're showing Die Hard on Sept. 10 at the Bing Crosby Theater.

Die Hard was not a joke when it came out. It was the action movie of the late 1980s, even if the technology-assisted blockbusters of the early '90s made us forget its status. Bruce Willis, already a TV star thanks to his role opposite Cybill Shepherd in Moonlighting, became a certified action god thanks to his role as John McClane, which he'd go on to reprise for four sequels, each more disappointing than the previous one. The original Die Hard, though? That was about as badass as you could get in 1988.

You can't blame the fact that Die Hard is silly when viewed 26 years after it was filmed, because that's how action movies were made in those days, and for a few years to follow. Bad guys were always written just a sliver less evil than Satan, and good guys flirted with invincibility and were seemingly required to provide at least a dozen puns by film's end. Laws of physics were abused and the plot holes, wow, they could swallow you whole (like why did the bad guys have to pretend to be terrorists in Die Hard? Just to cut the power? Why not just cut the power?).

Action movies, with a few exceptions, remain ridiculous even today, and I think you can attribute at least some of that to Die Hard, its sequels and its imitators. That grandiose, explosion-fueled ethos of the 1980s action film never fully died, even if they've found ways to cut down on the cheesiness.

But hey, if they put a shoeless, bleeding, off-duty cop in a ventilation shaft to fight off terrorist bank robbers for the next big holiday blockbuster, people would still lap that stuff up. And they wouldn't laugh a bit. ♦

Suds and Cinema: Die Hard • Wed, Sept. 10 • 6:30 pm doors and beer sales, 7:30 pm movie • $4 entry, $4 pints from 12 String Brewing Co. • Bing Crosby Theatre • 901 W. Sprague

Expo '74: Films from the Vault @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 8
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Mike Bookey

Mike Bookey was the Inlander's culture editor from 2012-2016. He previously held the same position at The Source Weekly in Bend, Oregon.