Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A cop gets trapped in a large building battling a gang of thieves all by himself! And his wife is one of their hostages! And it’s freaking Christmas time! Wait – don’t stop me! Because another entry in the cinema’s best genre of film, the Die Hard genre, is always welcome!
Christmas Rush (also known by the generic action title Breakaway which just screams “cable TV movie no one will ever remember 5 minutes after it airs on TBS”) wisely lifts everything that made the original Die Hard not only the greasiest movie ever made, but frankly one of the crowning achievements of 50,000 years of human civilization, and adds the few cool things that somehow didn’t make it into it – a little religion and go karts! And a forklift! And a kid needing a bone marrow transplant! And most fantastically of all, an insurance company handing out a $200,000 check as a reward for Dean Cain helping to destroy their mall!
Dean plays Lt. Morgan, a tough Chicago cop who just wants to bust the local Asian gang but accidentally shoots a prominent member of the Asian community during the takedown of the gang. You know what Morgan just got for Christmas? Suspended! And you know what else he just found under the tree? A summons for a lawsuit filed against him by that Asian dude! Bonus stocking stuffer? Fight with his wife! At least John McClain’s personal problems were related to his wife being too successful! Morgan’s pissed off wife just works at a jewelry store at the fancy Chicago Place mall!
But what’s the big deal with a marital spat if it can’t be tied in somehow with the theives’ big score? Thankfully it is not only a season of giving and miracles, but even more importantly, a season of spectacular coincidences! At the Christmas concert his kid is performing in, Morgan and his wife run into Jimmy Scalzetti. Scalzetti (Eric Roberts) is a big time thief who Morgan busted years ago, but now he is retired and just enjoying his own kid performing at the concert. Except he needs money for his kid’s bone marrow transplant! And since being a retired thief doesn’t come with health insurance, he needs to knock over a place with a ton of untraceable cash!
It’s Christmas Eve and that means Chicago Place shopping center has a million bazillion dollars in cash from the day’s business just waiting to be stolen, I mean deposited! And guess who pulled the Christmas Eve shift at the mall jewelry store? And guess who also showed up at closing time with some flowers in an attempt to apologize for being such a bad ass cop? It’s the perfect storm of action that could only happen in the mind of a screenwriter whose main artistic influences are Die Hard and maybe Die Hard 2!
Once Morgan happens upon the thieves, the movie plays out so much like you knew it would that it doesn’t seem like you are even watching a movie so much as remembering some stuff that happened to you earlier! “This is where I fought the guy in the sporting goods store with the hockey stick after I crashed to the lower level of the mall on the giant Christmas tree. Next I think I was trading barbs over the walkie-talkie with the head bad guy until he smugly announced he was holding my wife hostage. Finally, I broke more stuff in the mall fighting additional bad guys before my crooked partner showed up to doublecross me. That was a really nice Christmas.”
You know what else was a nice Christmas? That one time when one of the hostages took his wife on safari! In an effort to calm the rest of the hostages down Morgan’s wife asked everyone to open up about their favorite Christmas. All goes well until she asks the black guy named Rasheed and he looks at her like she just took a watery dump all over the floor and says he’s Muslim! Awkward! You just know Morgan’s wife was hoping that Scalzetti would come through the door at that moment to threaten her some more.
But for those who think that Hollywood is always showing Christianity in a negative light, in this movie, she prays for an angel of mercy to rescue them and her prayers are answered by her suspended cop husband! Just like it says in the Bible: And he smote them with a quip and a bow and arrow from a mall store and it was good!
Scalzetti is one of those villains who seems to confuse a complicated plan with a good plan. He has a team of people doing things like setting off bombs in other parts of the city as a diversion, dressing up like armored car drivers to steal the armored car and then pretending it broke down to give himself an hour before anyone realizes the money’s been stolen, has guys blowing up floors to access maintenance tunnels where his getaway go karts are stashed but then is surprised when one of the tunnels is blocked off (how did he get those karts in the tunnels? Didn’t he scout the tunnels before the robbery?), and the ending even suggests there was a getaway boat!
He has a crooked cop on his team and all he is doing is an armored car heist? Does it really require all of that to accomplish? Couldn’t all the resources he devoted to this have been devoted to paying for his son’s medical care instead? Or at least he could have used all the planning prowess to plan a fundraiser.
The uninspired action (I didn’t think a scene involving a forklift could be disappointing until I saw this movie), the seemingly random use of slow motion and pointless technique of rotating the camera around characters talking along with the ever present “action soundtrack” blaring in the background do nothing to elevate Christmas Rush above the disposable cable TV movie Die Hard rip off it is.
The tacked on ending where every single issue the movie presented is magically resolved (bone marrow donor found! Morgan reinstated! And promoted! Lawsuit dropped! And here’s the reward money from the insurance company that’s just enough to pay for the kid’s operation!) is beyond silly and only cements the film as a holiday tradition that much like your overbearing in-laws’ Christmas parties, you will find a reason to skip every year.
© 2017 MonsterHunter