If you're like me and not into children's movies of any kind, then good news -- there is a whole library of R-rated Christmas classics that you can put on during the Christmas celebration this year and not have to worry about being subjected to the Dora the Explorer Christmas Special or whatnot. Most of these titles won't come as a surprise, since they are movies you know and love already, but there's nothing wrong with a handy guide, is there?
Die Hard contains all of life's lessons. Who amongst us hasn't been an Argyle, completely oblivious while the storm-clouds of danger were gathering over our head? Or been faced with the choice to walk or not walk across a floor of broken glass (metaphorical, in most cases) in order to meet our stated objectives? That's why it's such a perfect movie for holiday-time reflection. You can sit back with your tumbler of egg nog and your gingerbread man cookies and know that you're watching a true work of art, not just a mindless shoot-em-up. If you're feeling really charitable, you can even place a collect call to the slammer and congratulate John McTiernan on directing one of the best films of the 80s, and one of the few movies to capture the true spirit of Christmas.
I've already had my say about Lethal Weapon, but I can always be persuaded to say more. Here's some food for thought: Is Lethal's status as a Christmas classic tarnished by Martin Rigg's unexpected outburst of homophobic hate speech during the pistol range sequence? I'm talking of course about his off the cuff assertion to Roger -- while drilling bullet holes into a paper target with a maniacal look in his eye -- that Amanda Hunsaker's purported lesbianism with hooker friend Dixie is "disgusting." That's the kind of thing -- like the casual pot smoking in Poltergeist -- that eventually finds itself quietly excised from future release editions. Also, we can assume he became a liberal in time for Lethal Weapon 2, in which he's an anti-apartheid crusader. Go spit, Riggs!
This is the Christmas movie that alerted me to the weird energy of Tim Olyphant. Seriously, is this character supposed to be the creepiest drug dealer of all time? How did he ever close a transaction without his prospective clients fleeing into the hills? Olyphant took what could have been a complete throwaway role and made something really interesting out of it. Anyway, Go is more or less neutral on Christmas as a subject, but it has a lot to offer for Doug Liman completists and those who want to see what kind of choices Katie Holmes used to make before her roles had to be approved by a closed-door meeting of OT5s. If Christmas to you means ecstasy and Pulp Fiction knockoffs, then have a blast.
I'll be saying more on this one later, but I just have to point out that I'm among those who think Frankenheimer never intended us to take this movie seriously for a second. This is a film that has at least quadruple-reversals -- maybe quintuple -- and could not exist in reality any more than the stuff that happens in an Airplane! movie. It's one of my favorite R-rated Christmas comedies, and contains the always-welcome sight of Gary Sinise doing what he does best -- playing the frustrated villain. Ever noticed that in most of Sinise's villain roles, he plays a guy who starts out strong and then gets totally owned about halfway through and has start scrambling? Not that his plan in this one was all that solid to begin with -- ripping off a casino isn't the easiest thing for an ex-con to pull off.
This is one of those movies that's almost too much for most viewers, thanks to a graphic rape scene that's more gut-wrenching than anything you're likely to find in an Eli Roth movie. Yes, Santa Claus rapes Mommy and cuts her throat while Junior watches -- Merry Christmas, America, from your friends at TriStar Pictures. Still, we're talking about R-rated Christmas movies and this film certainly qualifies. Sadly, the rest of the movie isn't quite as compelling and degenerates into a standard 'slasher in Santa suit' kind of thing, but I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my uncle for forcing me to watch the movie in its entirety when I was about ten years old, thus skewing my perspective on life forever.
Live Free or Die Hard was so bad that it's actually tarnished my enjoyment of the earlier sequels, but that's no reason for you to overlook Die Hard 2, the best movie Renny Harlin ever did or ever will make. Favorite scene: no question there, it's John McClane emptying a magazine of fake bullets into Dennis Franz just to make a point. Second only to the General sticking his head out of the plane and thinking he's successfully smuggled himself into America only to get a punch-sandwich. Die Hard 2 has all of the elements that helped to make the first film work so well: the Christmas setting, Bonnie Bedelia and Reginald VelJohnson. When those things were discarded for the next film, the franchise lost something. America lost something.
I stand by my earlier assertion that Christmas is more of a backdrop than anything else here, but that's true of several movies on the list, so just deal with it. And why is Trading Places R-rated? Only for the most celebrated topless scene in the history of motion pictures, that's all. Jamie Lee Curtis redefined movie toplessness in her role as a hooker with heart of gold who looks kindly on Dan Ackroyd after he's thrown out of his job and his home and forced to live on the street. So call that the Christmas spirit if you're looking for a hook here. One demerit to note: Eddie Murphy is funny in the film, which dates it, since we no that Eddie had his sense of humor surgically removed in 1991.