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Face-Off: Martin Riggs vs. John McClane

04.12.2012by: Paul Huffman
Last week, Cloverfield blasted its competition The Blair Witch Project out of the water with a score of 16-9.

This week, I find myself in an action mood. I find myself feeling it's necessary to show some love to two bad asses that hit the scene to close out the 80's. Ladies and gentlemen I'm talking about Martin Riggs and John McClane. Our own John "The Arrow" Fallon would say these two men wore their balls on their sleeves, both saved the day for four movies and had fun cracking wise while doing it. This isn't your typical "who would win in a fight" discussions. We're about to delve a little deeper, time to look behind the badge.
Introduction
What a way to introduce us to the instability of the mind in which Martin Riggs lives by daring a drug dealer to put a hole through his head, then subduing said drug dealer and damn near putting a hole through his. Everything we need to know about Martin Riggs we see in the look on his face as he's regaining his composure from the results of that scene. Now I ask you Hollywood, if you go through with that abomination of a Lethal Weapon remake you mentioned, is anybody going to pull Riggs off but Mel Gibson? Survey says?
You know how every now and then there are men who come along that every woman wants to be with, and every man wants to simply be? Well there is John McClane in a nutshell. We are introduced to John's way with women, his laid back demeanor, his humor. We discover he's having problems with his marriage, but loves her all the same and is trying to set things right. But he's also a men, and what do we men do? We f*ck things up. A mans man indeed.
Cool Factor
Riggs evolves as a character a little more than good old McClane does. I can't imagine he was a joy to have around before he snapped out of his depression. Hey, dude had a hell of a reason to be. He got way more comical as his character progressed, a great drinking partner if you will. Ten point for grace under pressure as he's uh...working. But what is with the way he treated Leo Getz? Granted, he could be an annoying little sh*t, but come on Riggs, dude earned his stripes in the second film. Bad form. Then..there is all that Kung Fu sh*it he does.
Doesn't John just seem like a man among men? His way of sticking it to his rivals with his wisecracks just made him the coolest man on the planet when I watched these films as a kid. His interactions with supporting characters were always great and sometimes touching (looking at you Carl Winslow). Our man McClane doesn't go jumping into the fray the way Riggs does, but when trouble finds him..damn if it isn't nut up or shut up time for him. That was always more fun and bad ass to me. Am I alone?
Villain Disposal
Riggs puts his special forces training to good use, as would I if I had it. The man is surgeon with weapons. Who could ever forget the "only a few men in the world who could have made that shot" speech? But he has no problem throwing the guns aside and giving Jet Li a fatal run for his money. He is in your face, with a grounded style. I loved the angle in the fourth film they played with Riggs' age catching up with him, something they didn't really employ in Live Free or Die Hard. Ironic that in that film he met he's most formidable opponent, no?
Two words comes to mind when I think of John McClane's ass kicking ability: innovation and improvisation. John's ability to employ whatever is around him at the time to dispose of those who dared to f*ck with him was a site to behold. The first Die Hard film had John most comparable to Riggs in terms of a smash mouth, as grounded in reality as possible kind of way when it came to his killing. As the series went on, John got a bit larger than life. No complaining. I wish I could kill terrorist on the wing of a plane, or chuck cars at choppers. But hey, I'm a man of limited ability.
Quotes
-"Now that's a real badge, I'm a real cop, and this is a real fucking gun!" - Lethal Weapon

-"Come on WE'RE BACK, we're bad, you're black, I'm mad!" -Lethal Weapon 2

-" I can't shoot a dog. People okay, but not dogs." - Lethal Weapon 3

-"Private investigator? Yes, Mr. Getz, I was just wondering if you'd be willing to investigate my privates." - Lethal Weapon 4

-"Come out to the coast, we'll get together, have a few laughs..." - Die Hard

-"Oh, we are just up to our ass in terrorists again, John?" - Die Hard 2

-" I threw his little brother off the thirty-second floor of Nakatomi Towers out in L.A. I guess he's a little pissed off about it." - Die Hard 3

-"Yippie-kai-yay motherfucker." - All four

John McClane
So there you have it from my end, it is a close race for me. Riggs and McClane are different in a lot of ways, and similar in a lot of ways. But both are just as memorable for me, the pair of them are attached to two of my favorite action franchises of all time. But that's just me, chime in below.

If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at paulhuffman@joblo.com with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

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