15 August 2021 465 Views

#CrimeoftheScene: ‘I’m on Vacation!’ (A Good Day to Die Hard; 2013).

by James Murphy

No, John/Bruce, You are not ‘on vacation’. As Die Hard 6 is effectively cancelled at Disney /Fox? I look back at the other five films via the one scene which confirmed the franchise was dead, years ago..

 

It’s a shame that we will never see DIE HARD 6. What factors influenced the decision? There was a move to make it half prequel, for starters. Finding a young Bruce Willis is not easy. The man is or at least was, a unique star. And it would have to be him, specifically, that the younger actor would mirror.

Because DIE HARD is a Bruce Willis show. John McClane the character is a blank. A cop. Everyman all American bloke. Competent, for sure. And funny plus charming. Mostly thanks to Bruce, in his 1988-1995 guise. 

McClane is not James Bond or Indiana Jones. There is no backstory to tell; no heroic mythology. This was simply a right guy in wrong place, whose plans to reconcile with an estranged wife or go on holiday or even just nurture a hangover mid job suspension invariably encountered disruption by terrorist / bank robbing baddies.

 

 

Could that role have been the same, had Frank Sinatra / Sylvester Stallone / Burt Reynolds /Harrison Ford /Clint Eastwood /Richard Gere/ Arnold Schwarzenegger /Don Johnson accepted the call? Maybe. But the fact is, nobody could inject the reality quite like Bruce. Each film is a bit of a stretch to put it mildly. It became increasingly so as the series progressed and as part 2 says ‘how can the same shit happen to the same guy?’.

We bought into the fun because Willis sold it to us. It mattered not the faintest that elaborate contrivances propelled the hero to action. That was part of the appeal: how to get him into the situation and then watch him fight and wisecrack his way out. Indeed, it should have been a far more prolific fixture of cinema.

There were countless imitators ‘Die Hard on a..’ as sub genre. SPEED possibly the most successful (its sequel, Cruise Control, ironically enough, was the proposed pitch for what became the far better Die Hard: with a Vengeance). But there was a gaping gap of a missed opportunity, too. Because no actual Bruce Willis in vest as John McClane v terrorist adventures, were released from 1995-2007. Far too long a gap, frankly. 

Ideas were discussed. Notably: DIE HARD: IN THE JUNGLE (AKA Tears of the Amazon). Set for summer 2000 or so while Willis was on top, c/o Sixth Sense, too.  It perhaps would have featured Bruce, Sam Jackson and Ben Affleck plus a few others (Mickey Rourke? Michael Keaton? Bill Murray?) on a holiday gone wrong, Deliverance style.

There was talk, too, of a full circle final film set in Japan at the launch of Nakatomi’s latest initiative. A kind of underwater city? Always difficult to navigate the fan theory from official notions. Though Die Hard in a Prison; Die Hard: Home Invasion  and a crossover with Lethal Weapon (Die Hard 3 was almost Lethal Weapon 4) also floated around the internet gossip mill. 

Of course, the best Die Hard premises were nicked from existing books and scripts. Part one was a novel at first (Roderick Thorpe’s Nothing Lasts Forever; hence the Sinatra option on playing McClane, having starred in The Detective, which was adapted from the same series of novels).

The second film started as 58 Minutes, a book by Walter Wager. ‘With a Vengeance‘ was taken from a spec script by Jonathan Hensleigh; titled Simon Says, where a cop teams with a black activist to track down a racist bomber with a childhood based grudge against the hero. So, finding the right pitch was perhaps a problem for further films?

9/11 perhaps slowed development, too? Awful shame. Because in times of war we need the certainty, comfort and propaganda style inspiration of old heroes. No virtue in ducking the call.

Eventually of course we did get Die Hard 4.0 / Live Free or Die Hard. Inspired by an article on ‘fire-sale’ techno-terror. It’s fine. Shiny, sleek, fast, brutal (as in ok to show brutal murder but not ok to swear any more?..v odd). Bruce was simply not the old John anymore, right down to inexplicably playing the role completely bald. It was an acceptable action movie though.

The REAL death of Die Hard? Comes in the FIFTH entry: A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD. No clear premise. Needlessly over-complicated plot.  A botched, rushed father and son routine that is unearned in every way. A completely unconvincing reference to spy thrillers and Russian politics. And above all: Bruce Willis now devoid of all charm. John McClane, behaving like a dick, forgetting his own mission parameters and limitations.

‘I’M ON VACATION!’, he shouts, in the middle of Moscow traffic, to many an innocent onlooker as he punches, shouts and breaks/enters without any motivational logic.

No you are not ‘on vacation‘. You are there to save your supposedly superspy CIA son, who surely would have been able to extract himself in any event? How don’t you know this anyway, Officer John McClane? Because the series has run out of steam and now has Willis phone this in like any other of his now legendary straight to streaming /DVD masterpieces.

The thuggish contempt oozes from this character, cancelling any iota of the old charm. That battery advert was better than the whole of this awful fifth movie. 

IRONY: Had they ACTUALLY made a movie about Bruce Willis’ John, on holiday, bonding with his son, maybe in Russia? Less competent, possibly corporate junior but with Dad’s ingenuity gets kidnapped? Cue Dad to rescue and a pooling of skill to get out of the predicament? THEN you would have had the simplicity, clarity and a premise that could, maybe, have unlocked the charm at the heart of this series’ first 3 films.

But they didn’t. Which is why, especially in a now uncertain market, there will probably never be a Die Hard 6: With a Pension. 

SOLUTION? MAKE ‘DIE HARD: GRUBER BROTHERS’ (A prequel, showing the robber baddie German villain bros mastering a heist successfully years before they first meet Mr McClane? Paging CUMBERBATCH and HIDDLESTON…) . Or FINALLY give us Bruce vs Mel in Lethal Weapon, Die Hard?! 

‘Yippee ki yay’



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