C'mon Hollywood: Do Die Hard 5 right or not at all!
With the success of 1988’s DIE HARD, sequels were inevitable. DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER was a lot of fun and in line with the original for the most part. It took five years for another DIE HARD film to pop up and it came in the from of DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE, reuniting director John McTiernan with the franchise and establishing the new commonplace; a partner.
Twelve years later we were treated to the fourth film in the franchise, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD. Directed by Len Wiseman, the film attempted to mimic the characters and situations of the first three films, but simply couldn’t recreate the formula. The wide gap of time between films proved that Willis had become disconnected with the character of McClane and the “partner” paradigm (this time with Justin Long) dragged the film down.
Essentially, the fourth entry in the franchise was a DIE HARD film in name only. The vulnerability, arrogance, and genuine street-level tough guy attitude of McClane had vanished, leaving us with Bruce Willis as himself. Wiseman did a competent enough job, but he’s no McTiernan.
Now, we have a fifth entry on its way, entitled A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD, which is set in Russia and involves McClane’s son teaming up with his dad to fight off some Russkie baddies. Director John Moore (BEHIND ENEMY LINES, MAX PAYNE) is at the helm this time. A lazy choice disguised as “safe.”
So, how can the DIE HARD franchise be saved? First off, Willis needs to rediscover McClane. He has to figure out who John McClane is 24 years after Nakatomi. Rewatching the first film or reading the novel it’s based on would be a start. Either way, he needs to find the swagger, attitude, resilience, and vulnerability that he displayed so many years ago or it’s all for naught.
The fact that the fifth film is set in Russia makes me very uneasy. Does every DIE HARD film have to be set in America? Yes, it does. I don’t care. F*ck that. There’s no reason for McClane to be in Russia. Las Vegas, Idaho, Vermont? Sure. Russia? What the hell for? When a movie becomes primarily about location the characters become secondary. Russia is just a set piece for action, not character.
The other problem is the “modern” action. Oftentimes, it feels like orchestrated ballet rather than down-and-gritty battle. DIE HARD 4.0 is filled with moments like the former. What happened that made filmmakers so afraid to shoot in-camera effects? A little CGI and wirework is fine, but not when it’s your crutch. What made the first three films so successful was the organic sense of the action; it felt like you were there, on the rooftop, on the streets, on the tarmac, whatever; it felt real. It rarely felt like it was on a soundstage (even if it really was).
The chemistry between Willis and co-star Jai Courtney is going to have to be more than an “I-hate-you-dad-you-were-never-there” back and forth. That shit’s tired. Hiring a British stage actor is not always the answer to your villain role, either. There is a laundry list of fine actors that can play bad and they don’t all have accents.
There’s a strong debate over R vs. PG-13. Hollywood has fallen in love with PG-13, the lap dance of the MPAA. You get a little bit, but not the whole enchilada. And DIE HARD is the whole enchilada. You have to look at some of the key moments that made the first few films shine, many of which involved a heavy dose of blood splatter and hard-hitting violence. It’s not called HURT HARD it’s called DIE HARD.
Yippie-Ki-Yay-MotherBLAM is another major problem. It’s a slap to the audience’s face. I actually winced when I heard it. Are you trying to tell me that in a world where people are shooting at each other with automatic weapons that they’re doing so while watching their language? I think f*cking not, kemosabe.
A fifth DIE HARD should be a hardcore action film, replete with engaging characters and a return to form for Willis as McClane. We need to care again. The direction needs to be taught, organic, and focused. The villain should be more than a caricature, but a motivated, enigmatic persona that doesn’t fit squarely into a villain category. And before McClane offs the son of a bitch, he should serenade him with a little signature catchphrase that starts with “mother” and ends with “f*cker.”
Otherwise, the film should be strapped with C4 and tossed down an elevator shaft so we can avoid another “name only” sequel.
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|Extra Tidbit:||I'm a big John McTiernan fan, but recognize the talents of many other action directors. Who would you rather see helm Die Hard 5? My contenders (aside from McTiernan): Duncan Jones, Joe Carnahan, Peter Berg, or Tony Scott. Let's hear yours.|