Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Film Facts 3a: Dying In Die Hard - Part 1

I learned a thing: the theory of quantum immortality. That is the most metal name ever and I'm totally shotgunning it for my cutesy pre-teen boy band. What it suggests is that, in a situation where a person (herein called the "experimenter", because who doesn't love toying with their own mortality for science?) has a 50:50 chance of survival like if you were to fire a half-loaded gun at your head Russian roulette-style, the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics would dictate that "a superposition of the experimenter [would] necessarily exist, regardless of how many iterations [of shooting yourself in the face] or how improbable the outcome [of not being shot in the face]".

Essentially from your own perspective you are incapable of dying, the only universe in which you can continue to experience anything being the one where you didn't die every single time. Sure, you'll have created hundreds of separate universes where your family have to come to terms with the loss of a child who committed suicide because they thought they were Neo but, dude, immortality.

Neo The Matrix 1999 film bullet stop freeze
Sadly we live in a universe where the Wachowski brothers didn't kill themselves after the first movie. Lol, the sequels are so shit.
The coolest thing about this theory though is that it explains why, in action movies, the hero manages to avoid insurmountable odds with nary a scratch on his/her perfectly sculpted sex-abs; we're watching a movie set in that single universe where every bullet and piece of shrapnel and stray throat-sized chicken bone misses, leaving only a trail of epic carnage and passers by to assume that this guy must be the luckiest bastard alive. But if that is true, how many other universes where our good guy gets eviscerated in five minutes by a hailstorm of ass-kick would there be? I aim to find out with the only movie that is fit for the job: Die Hard.

Die Hard Bruce Willis film 1988 air vent lighter scene screenshot
Die Hard!


Die Hard Bruce Willis film 1988 glass feet bathroom scene screenshot
The plan is this: watch Die Hard, then... I forget. Oh yes; we'll look at all of the moments in the film where our hero John McClane might have met his untimely demise and work out how many respawns it took before he finally yippee kiyayed the shit out of Hans Gruber's beautiful face. A quick disclaimer as always: I could either work out how many deaths it would take to get through the film with infinite lives like a German-terrorist-killing super cat or how many deaths it would take to do it in one go, but the odds of the latter would be higher than managing to complete Contra without the Konami code and with your sanity still intact (not to mention the maths I'd have to do) so we're going to go for door number one.

Now, due to my undying love for this film and the myriad ways John (can I call you John?) manages to get himself into bother this article has ended up rather long and hard to research, so I've split it into two. Part two will hopefully arrive before the weekend, but for now if I may begin at the beginning...


Bang! Pow! Dugga dugga dugga! Yeah, guns! Woo! They're awesome in movies, terrifyingly unnecessary everywhere else and strangely more culturally acceptable than their much more adored and harmless cousin: the precious boob. The only reason I think they get more screen time is because it's much more difficult to use boobs to kill bad guys than it is with bullets. I'm sure at least one person has been motorboated to death, but the prevailing evidence appears to be on the side of exploding murder sticks as the most effective method of dispatching your enemies/neighbours/innocent black bystanders *oo, social commentary*. 

In Die Hard, you might remember that the terrorists have guns and John McClane sometimes also has a gun that he stole off of a terrorist and they fire them at each other to try and kill one another but none of the terrorists ever manage to kill John with their guns but he does manage to kill them with guns and also other things like explosions and witty one liners and things. No boobs though, but we've already discussed why that may be.
boobs google search result screenshot
Maybe boobs are more dangerous than I thought; they appear to be stored online in large black boxes.
For our own safety?
I took a look at our source material and cut together all of the occasions when John has a gun fired in his general direction. Here's a gif or four:

Die Hard Bruce Willis film 1988 terrorists gunfire gif
Die Hard Bruce Willis film 1988 terrorists gunfire gif
Die Hard Bruce Willis film 1988 terrorists gunfire gif
Die Hard Bruce Willis film 1988 terrorists gunfire gif
Feel free to add your own sound effects.
For posterity's sake, here's another gif of every time he fires back. Get your best lingerie on, cause shit's about to get sexy:

Die Hard Bruce Willis film 1988 John McClane gunfire gif
Die Hard Bruce Willis film 1988 John McClane gunfire gif
You may now take a moment to clean yourselves up.
Fun fact: in total, there's less than four minutes of gunfire in the whole film. Of that four, about one minute is spent firing at John and just under 40 seconds is him returning the favour. In that one minute, there are seven different gunmen armed with a Steyr AUG, 4 Heckler & Koch MP5s, a Beretta 92 pistol and an M60 mounted machine gun, all pointed at our wise-cracking cop's face.

The Heckler & Koch has up to three settings: semi-automatic, 2-3 round burst and full auto, with a fire rate of 800 rounds/minute on full auto. In our case, the guns change between all three settings depending on the scene, so I've clumped them all together based on rate of fire. There's a total between all of that type of gun of close to 40 seconds of automatic fire (530 rounds) and an estimated 15 burst shots (45 rounds). Plus like 11 single shots; mostly by that guy who couldn't aim at someone directly under him on a very thin table.

Die Hard Bruce Willis film 1988 John McClane table terrorist shooting scene screenshot
What the fuck are you doing? You can literally see your target right there!
The Steyr, wielded by the formidable Karl, has a rate of fire of 650 rounds/minute and, unlike his comrades, he knows only one setting: bullet-fuck. Karl is the trigger-happiest of all the characters in the movie and fires his bang bang stick for an outrageous 55 seconds (595 rounds) but, ironically, he only ever manages to hit John when he fires at him once with the pistol. Talk about wasting ammo.

Die Hard Bruce Willis film 1988 Karl pistol fire scene screenshot
See how much more you can do when you're not worrying about how big your gun is?
Lastly, there's the big fuck-off helicopter mounted M60 machine gun, which has a fire rate of 100 rounds/minute. That's pretty slow compared to the other guns, but lets remember that this one is firing off massive 7.62mm rifle rounds like a fucking bulimic Deku Scrub, so it's allowed to take a little more time about it. In five seconds, that's about 9 rounds. But thems be big rounds. We also have about 4 extra single shots from various characters, usually as they themselves get gunned down.

So, of those 1185+ shots fired (a number which, interestingly, makes the American police force look less homicidal), how many hit the mark? Actual percentage statistics are hard to find for gun accuracies what with the person firing it having a big part to play in whether or not the mouse finds the cheese if you get my drift, but luckily the American police is here to save the day again. What with spending so much time and energy shooting things, there are swathes of (admittedly dubiously recorded) evidence and statistics regarding various shootings and gun battles, so we're going to use this information to see how accurate our terrorists are. I guess it's not all bad that the US police are gun-happy cunt-badgers; no, wait, it definitely is that bad.
hand finger wind speed direction
I'm getting an underlying agenda coming in from the East.
Despite how depressing a read these reports on shooting statistics are, they do provide some handy numbers that we can use for our own nefarious deeds; most importantly hit ratios. This New York Times article and this NYPD firearm discharge review give us some useful info that we can manipulate beyond recognition. Firstly, the report tells us that the average hit rate for an officer (our terrorists) firing on an unarmed subject is around 27-30%; with the subject returning fire, i.e. a gunfight, that goes to 18%. Accuracy is, unsurprisingly, better at close range, dropping off from 37% to 23% over seven yards. I can't be arsed finding out what changes cover makes to the equation (and frankly most cover we see used in movies is useless anyway) or acknowledging the fact that this is mainly pistol fire so we'll just go with these numbers. In Die Hard, most of the firing occurs during a fight with returning fire and at a range beyond 7 yards, so if I smash those two statistics together hard enough we get about 11.2% hit rate: 133 shots on target.

Die Hard Bruce Willis film 1988 John McClane shot by Karl scene screenshot
This article suggests that up to 3 in 7 gunshot wounds can be fatal, so in one given run-through, John would be fatally wounded 57 times and probably incapacitated countless more. Then there's the aforementioned 9 massive head-exploding helicopter rounds which, let's be honest, only missed because the guy firing the gun must have had glaucoma. If we assume there's a 50/50 chance of each shot hitting him, then getting past the helicopter boss, as with any video game ever, will take anywhere between one and 512 attempts. Due to the gambler's fallacy we can't predict where between those two numbers we might lie so I'm going to use the midpoint. That brings the total number of McClane deaths due to gunfire to 313.

So, as we expected, in the real world our good guy would be looking less like a rugged everyman hero and more like a lump of swiss cheese. Made of human flesh and bullets. Like a hole-riddled heap of lead-scented man cheddar. Like a...yeah, let's stop here for now.

swiss cheese
That's the end of part one and so far John McClane has died over 300 times just thanks to gunfire. Stay tuned for the epic conclusion to this most extensive of investigations into action hero deaths, where we'll look at more fun and interesting ways you wouldn't expect were quite so deadly.


  1. Your dedication to your research is fascinating and terrifying.
    You inspire me.

    1. Thank you so much, it's good to hear my anal-retentiveness is put to good use.