Redemption stories are big around the holidays. You’ve got Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, who becomes kind and generous after what is either a string of Christmas Eve night terrors or what most reasonable mental health professionals would categorize as a psychotic break. You’ve got the Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, whose heart almost explodes during a near-death experience on a mountain and who then follows that cardiac episode by eating a feast that includes a full plate of red meat. And you’ve got every single main character in every single Hallmark Christmas movie, a solid 85 percent of whom are high-powered Manhattan marketing executives who get stranded in a small town and catch the holiday spirit from the sweet bumpkins therein.
None of those are the best holiday redemption story, though, because there can be only one “best” holiday redemption story, and that belongs to Dennis Franz’s character in Die Hard 2.
Die Hard 2, in summary: It is Christmas Eve, one year after the events at Nakatomi Plaza from the original. John McClane is at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. waiting for his wife’s plane to land. He notices something amiss in the terminal bing bang boom he kills a guy in the luggage area after a shootout, and he then finds out the guy was working with a rogue American colonel who is organizing an attack slash airborne hostage situation in the hopes of liberating a deposed Central American general slash drug dealer who is paying a handsome fee for his freedom. There are like six shootouts after that. John McClane kills a guy by slamming an icicle into his skull through his eyeball. He saves the day, covered in his own blood and surrounded by fire on a runway. The end.
But the best part of Die Hard 2 — narrowly edging out that icicle thing and the fact that Bruce Willis spends the whole movie running around an airport smoking a cigarette and carrying a gun, because, oh, hello 1990 — is that neither the traitorous colonel or the narcotics-dealing dictator are John McClane’s primary adversary for the first two acts of the movie. His primary adversary is Captain Carmine Lorenzo, the airport’s top cop, who hates John McClane like poison for reasons that are never fully articulated beyond an implied “Ayyy I got an airport to run here!”
Ladies and gentlemen, enter Dennis Franz.