We’ve talked a lot over the last few days about Christmas films, but there are a number that are set at Christmas but aren’t particularly about it. They use Christmas as a backdrop for their plot as opposed to the driving force, often using the brightness and positivity of Christmas in a subverted manner, contrasting their quite dark and difficult subject matter.
Shane Black is the purveyor of this storyline format, setting the majority of his most popular films at Christmas. Black is an unashamed fan of Christmas and states this is his primary reason for setting his movies at this time of year, but given the subject matter you can’t help but think that his stylised dark humour and gritty storylines contrast cleverly with the happiness of Christmas.
Black wrote Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3 all of which feature Christmas in a pivotal focal point. Lethal Weapon particularly uses Christmas to unite the two stuck-together-better-work-together cop duo of Riggs and Murtaugh. The dreamy yet unflinchingly difficult opening scene feels bitter against the beauty of Hollywood at night at Christmas.
And on the subject of classic 80’s action films, lets not forget the duo of Die Hard and Die Hard 2: Die Harder. John McClane, NYPD cop, estranged husband and all round grumpy hero visits his wife in LA on Christmas Eve, just as her work is taken over by German terrorists. Again, just like Black’s work, this films’ tense action subverts the joyous feelings of Christmas and puts in its place a kick-ass 80’s action film complete with unbeatable hero in a shredded vest. The success of Die Hard led to Die Hard 2: Die Harder, again set at Christmas in the cattle show airport as John McClane waits for his wife to arrive from LA, terrorists in tow. It all happens again at Christmas amid the bright twinkly lights of the airport. Yippee Ki-Yay, Mother Fucker.
These films have kind of become the anti-Christmas film, chosen by some as alternatives to the smush and sparkle of your standard Christmas film. And I have to agree – for all of the tinsel and titty tassles, its hard not to love a bit of balls-to-the-wall action – machine guns against Christmas trees.
TOMORROW: Christmas Classics: Fred Claus