Where Have You Gone, Mr. Takagi?
First some business…
I am not:
b) the head of a multinational corporation
c) the victim of a brutal execution at the hands of a snarky, German thug
Okay, with those caveats securely in place, let’s get this post on the road. We all know that Die Hard is one of my favorite movies of all time and also my my favorite action film of all time. However, this doesn’t mean the film is not without flaws. Chief among them is the execution of Takagi in the first act of the film. It is unnecessarily brutal and well…unnecessary. For those who haven’t managed to catch a viewing of the 1987 action flick, Mr. Takagi was a businessman who ran the Nakatomi corporation and was killed for not providing Hans Gruber with the codes to the vault containing a grip of cashmoney, even though Gruber was well aware Takagi was not in possession of said codes. Anyway, I get why the filmmakers went with such as horrific act; it’s what sets Die Hard apart. The bad guy does exactly what he says he’ll do and without much in the way of chow chow. And good for him.
At any rate, killing Takagi sucked mostly because I really freaking liked him. I liked everything about him! I liked his voice. I liked his wry charm and the fact he was stylish, well-educated and not at all the trope-a-licious Asian character often seen in films. He wasn’t shown peddling VCRs or imbiding sake while singing “Smoke on the Water” in a karaoke bar, which seemed to be the default setting of Japanese characters in American films of the 80s. He was just this nice, supportive boss, father of five who probably lived in Manhattan Beach and probably used his 45 minute ride to Century City – depending on traffic – to listen to the classics on Audiobooks or possibly NPR Morning Edition. He didn’t even bust McClane’s chops when they first met! And you know Holly talked some mess about her deadbeat, janky ass husband once she was safely out of his backward clutches in her cushy office. The brilliance and ultimate flaw of Die Hard is that nearly all of its characters – be they heroes or villains – are incredibly interesting, sympathetic and somewhat complex. And Joseph Takagi was the perfect embodiment of all those qualities.