*This article is going to contain major spoilers, so I can complain about all of the things I wasn’t allowed to in the review.
Film producers always have a easy comeback to critics (and any fan, for that matter), who mock their films: ‘think you could do better’. Usually, the critic or fan in question stutters and comes up with a vague idea, but cannot formulate a coherent plan in the space of two seconds. Well, I am going to stand up for those fans and actually ‘do better’ with this quick overlook of my plan for the fifth Die Hard, if I was in charge of writing the script.
As anyone who has seen the new Die Hard will know, it isn’t overly hard to top that script. Therefore, I am going to give Hollywood a fighting chance and handicap myself. Let’s pretend that John Moore, director of a ‘Good Day to Die Hard’, was the kind of director that monopolised everything (probably true, seeing as we ended up with an awful movie at the end of production). He gives hypothetical me the job of writing the script, but I have to include the vague storyline he chose: the film has to take part in Russia, has to involve McClane’s bratty son and needs to have that shuddering, useless twist about who the actual bad guy is.
Let’s begin. First of all, strip away all of that useless exposition at the start of the film. It is much more fun to learn about the plot through the viewpoint of McClane anyway. My movie would open with McClane on the plane to Russia (sadly this means missing out on Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s cameo as Lucy, which was a nice touch), Maybe he even advises the worried passenger next to him to curl his feet into fists, when he touches down in Russia, to help him get over his nervous flying. A nice throwback to the original to kick the film off.
He gets down in Russia and we cut straight to the courthouse. Somewhere here we get a quick update on the exposition I cut out of the film. Maybe from a quirky Frank Sinatra loving taxi driver? Here we learn that an assassin for Komorov, a corrupt government official, is going to give evidence against him. As McClane walks away, he adds that the assassin is his son. Badass line, cool twist.
While we are still in the first ten minutes of the film, the villain makes an appearance and tries to kill Komorov. The key difference here is tidying up Alik, the villain. That would take some cleaner dialogue, not making him out to be a crazed thug. I am willing to keep the next scene (the escape from the courthouse and the car chase), but it has to be trimmed down. Despite having some cool stunts and explosions, it did drag on a little bit too long.
When that fight is done, we can slow the film down back at the CIA headquarters and get some character development. Mainly establishing chemistry between John and Jack. I cannot decide if Jai Courtney was a bad choice of actor or the script just failed him completely. I am unsure who I would cast as Jack McClane. Empire suggested Bradley Cooper, but I think he is still too fresh from ‘The Hangover’ to take seriously. Part of me would want to get Joseph Gordon-Levitt in prosthetics again as a younger Bruce Willis, but that would be indulgent of me. This is the one part of my script that has me stumped. Leave a comment below if you have an idea who you would want to play McClane Jr.
This is the part of my movie where the clear changes kick in. Irina, the daughter, would already be in the base, so we wouldn’t have to go somewhere else to get to the next plot point. Komorov wouldn’t need a key: his Chernobyl safe would be activated by fingerprint reader or eye-scanner. As soon as the word Chernobyl is mentioned, Irina pulls out a gun and shoots the CIA agent in the head (who wouldn’t be played by Cole Hauser: that was a cruel trick to make us think a good actor, other than Bruce, was in this movie), and holds the others at gunpoint. Then Alik comes in and we get an impression of who the big villain is. Again, dialogue needs to be tidied up here, but I am confident the rest of the moment would work.
Bruce and Jack escape and are left with a single lead: Chernobyl. Jack’s knowledge of the whole Komorov case pinpoints the bad guy’s location to a single factory, but he refuses to let his father go alone. He insists Bruce Willis has messed up the case from the start and goes off alone. Of course, John McClane follows, but they get there separately, so we are spared the cheesy bickering and making up.
Here is the major change. The film never leaves the factory in Chernobyl from this point on, hopefully salvaging the Die Hard style of claustrophobically taking out the bad guys. By my calculations, we are only in the 40 minute mark of the movie at this point, so I reckon the effect will still work. Jack arrives at the factory alone and catches Alik, Irina and Komorov as they reach the vault. Then we get the twist that Komorov is the bad guy. Jack is captured and we get the scene, where Komorov puts his plan into motion. Also, I would make Alik stick around. In my movie, he is a part of the plan all along, even if he is just a henchman. That way, the audience don’t feel like they invested too much emotion into a character that is little more than a red herring.
McClane shows up and does considerably better than his son. This way, we never feel like he is the sidekick rather than the central character: he is saving his son, not assisting him in a spy movie. In order to do this, McClane fights his way through the factory, killing off loads of bad guys, we have seen in the background, but have not got a name to put with them (this is a feature I loved in some of the other Die Hards, but one not used in the fifth).
After a half hour of McClane slowly chipping away Komorov’s plans, he sends Irina out in the helicopter. I quite liked the final fight, so I would try to mimic it if I could. The helicopter was probably the only thing we actually feared might kill McClane, so we would have Irina nearly kill him with it. However, Bruce Willis finally makes it to Komorov and frees Jack. Now Jack can get a fair slice of the action, so he isn’t written off as an useless character. We have three principal villains left now: Komorov, Irina in the helicopter and Alik. Maybe Komorov is killed off early and Alik decides to cash in on his old boss’s scheme, just to fortify the idea that he is a useful character to this film.
As long as the action is kept up to a high, I don’t see any sequence of events truly killing the movie at this point. I would cut the slow motion Komorov falling to his death; it was a cheap throwback to Hans Gruber’s death. I would also throw in a twist ending. Critics argue that Die Hard is ruined by the fact we never feel like McClane can really be killed off. That is a sad side-effect, when you have a successful franchise, but nothing is stopping the side characters from being killed. That is why in the final moments of the film, Alik gets a lucky shot off at McClane… and then Jack jumps in the way and takes the bullet.
As his son dies in his arms, his dying words could be forgiving his father and using some throwaway dialogue from earlier in the film: “We are not really a hugging family.” And then his son dies. And that is a far stronger relationship than anything the old writer could come out with.
And there we have it. That is a start to a Die Hard film. OK, you could argue it needs some work and building up, but for something I pulled together in my head in the space of four days since I saw the movie I think it passes as a coherent pitch. And most importantly, ‘we did better’.
John Moore 0 – General public 1