Karl. He of the golden locks.
If we had to sum up Karl's character arc in one sentence, it would be this: the blondest guy in the world is a one-man revenge machine.
Well, that's not quite accurate. To suggest he's a machine would imply that he's good and efficient at vengeance, which, as we all know, is just not the truth. He kinda stinks at it, actually.
We can see from the get-go that Karl is, well, impulsive. In an early scene, as Gruber's grunts hustle and bustle about the building, setting everything in motion for Hans's plan, Karl's brother Tony is calmly and methodically fiddling with phone wires. Karl comes along and just chops straight through them all with chainsaw, forcing Tony to furiously finish his work before it's rendered moot. "Not cool, dude," Tony's face seems to say.
That impulsiveness pretty much defines Karl throughout the rest of the movie, and it's only made worse when he discovers that McClane has killed his brother. Karl wants blood. He even says exactly that. Later, when Hans talks about neutralizing McClane, Karl gets the great line:
"I don't want neutral, I want dead."
Okay, Karl, we get it. McClane is yours to kill.
Blond on Balding
Hans Gruber may be Die Hard's central villain and John McClane's most worthy adversary, but we'd like to point out that Karl is actually the one McClane clashes with most, at least physically speaking. The two of them have three central showdowns:
- The air duct scene.
- The knockdown, drag-out rumble below the roof.
- The final shootout.
Let's break this down.
The air duct scene isn't so much a showdown as it is poor McClane trapped like a sitting duck in a metal tube while Karl indiscriminately fires bullets in his direction. Karl clearly has the upper hand in this scenario, and McClane is saved only by dumb luck as Karl gets called away.
For much of the rest of the movie, Karl throws hissy fits until he finally gets his chance for vengeance, when he and McClane meet on the roof.
"We are both professionals," he says, "This is personal."
The two then proceed to kick the crap out of each other in a fight so gory and violent it wouldn't look out of place in a Game of Thrones finale.
P.S. Fun fact: The man who plays Karl actually had classical ballet training. Which maybe explains why his high-kicks to McClane's face are so stinkin' graceful.
As the movie plows through its climax, we're all sitting pretty thinking Karl is dead as a doornail. Yeah, not so much.
He has one last chance to prove himself an even worthier adversary to John than Hans. He manages to sneak down to the front of the building, and just when we all think John and Holly are safe, he rears his blond head. Emerging from a blanket like some sort of machine-gun-toting zombie, he attempts to do McClane in, once and for all. And once again, he's thwarted, thanks to the fast fingers of one Sergeant Al Powell.
Poor Karl. Nothing ever goes right for him, even when he manages to defy death.