February 23, 2010

Bruce Willis: Dying Hard

Bruce Willis, while promoting the new Kevin Smith buddy flick Cop Out told MTV that not only is Die Hard 5 in the works, he expects it to be shooting next year. Most film series get worse as they go on - in fact, I think it's safe to say they all do - but the Die Hard franchise is definitely one of diminishing returns. A fifth entry sounds like a horrible idea; the fourth film, Live Free and Die Hard seemed totally disconnected from any other film in the series beyond the presence of Willis and the fact he was playing a cop named John McClane.

The charm of the first film was its one man against the world premise; the entire story being confined to one location, where they are trapped and; above all, that the character of John McClane was just a regular man. At the time the original came out, action heroes were hulking steroid cases who had superhuman strength, never felt pain and never seemed to ever be in any danger whatsoever. Die Hard was a totally different creature. Willis' McClane took a beating in the film, always seemed vulnerable, and managed to get by using his wits as a street smart cop.

By the fourth entry in the series, all of those things were abandoned or forgotten. He was no longer one man working alone, now, like in the third entry, he's given a useless sidekick. The claustrophobic location has been replaced by a story that sprawls not just over multiple locations but multiple states. And the regular man is long gone, replaced by a super cool cop who never, even for a minute, seems vulnerable or even remotely in danger, even when he's being chased by an apache helicopter down a city street. He actually spends the whole movie being almost too cool to be on the screen and spends more time squinting then vintage Clint Eastwood. (I'm positive that Bruce Willis thinks squinting equals tough.)

Most movie franchises are quite clearly about pumping cash for the studio first then making a good movie second, but in the case of Die Hard, it seems blatantly obvious that they feel the Die Hard title and the presence of Bruce Willis is all that is required on their end. The third entry in the series, Die Hard With A Vengeance, is where they started to abandon all of the qualities that made the John McClane character different from other action heroes, and it's no surprise to learn that they used a screenplay that was originally written as a Brandon Lee action flick called Simon Says. Instead of writing a sequel that continued the character and the story from the first two movies, they took a script that was lying around the studio (and after it was rejected as a Lee vehicle, it was later adapted to be Lethal Weapon 4; then rejected, before finally being used as a Die Hard installment) and used it instead. This is not exactly the recipe for delivering a sequel of quality that shows respect for the earlier entries in the series. The studio, however, didn't seem to have an issue with it and for the fourth entry, they did the same thing and used a screenplay for a stand alone film with slight modifications. It definitely shows, let's pass on Die Hard 5.

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