Wednesday, February 13, 2013

THE ITCH TO PITCH (Part Four): "Old Habits Die Hard"

Breaking into Hollywood in this day and age is a daunting task for any aspiring screenwriter -- especially those who aspire to originality. Remakes, reboots, reimaginings and sequels continue to dominate the yearly output of every major studio. Well, I'm broke. Screw originality! Sign me up for the goddamn job! Here are snippets, pitches, story outlines and casting suggestions for the ridiculous Hollywood sequels I'm ready to write NOW.

"Old Habits Die Hard"
                    aka: Die Hard 6

Today is February 13th, 2013. The fifth film in the Die Hard series, "A Good Day to Die Hard", will be released tomorrow on Valentines Day -- because nothing says 'i love you' like machine guns and explosions! Sadly, 2/14/13 seems like it's shaping up to become a good day to cry hard

The original "Die Hard" is on my list of all time favorite films. An easy choice. I also have a lot of love for 2 & 3. Part 4, "Live Free or Die Hard", is where the series started to lose me. I know I'm not alone there. Live Free wasn't the absolute nightmare that some claim it is (the spliced up president telecast sequence was pretty inspired), but it's totally not a good Die Hard movie. To paraphrase my dear friend Dr. Nathan Jordan, "the characters are typing on keyboards the whole time or simply trying to plug things in." Kind of a bummer. Sorry Bruce.

The tomatometer for Die Hard 5 is currently hovering at 5% on FIVE PERCENT. I'm sure this rating will change for the better in the next few days. Whatever. I'll see the movie eventually either way, but I felt the urge to read some of the bad reviews. Seems the general consensus is we're getting more Live Free and less Die Hard. 

This has sparked some inspiration in me. There are tons of fans, screenwriters and filmmakers out there who love the original movie. A large number of them have definite ideas on how to return the franchise to form. Beyond the obvious move of giving McClane hair again, here are some set ups & character bullet points I would include in "Old Habits Die Hard"...

* John McClane is retired and living in a dumpy apartment in Queens, NY. He's bored, back to boozing, and spends most of his days gambling his pension away at the Aqueduct Racetrack & Casino. During one hazy afternoon, McClane sees someone trying to jimmy a car door open in the casino parking lot. He goes toe to toe with the perp and knocks his lights out in the name of the law. But, McClane soon discovers that the man he thought was a criminal is actually an off-duty AAA employee who was helping a casino-worker retrieve her keys. This incident lands McClane under arrest. 

* After being released from police custody, McClane returns home with a bad headache. And of course he's also all out of booze. To make matters worse, he receives a phone call from Holly, his estranged ex-wife. After awkward greetings and how-ya-beens, Holly delivers some bad news. Their daughter Lucy claims to have fallen in love with a man she just met in California. He proposed, Lucy said yes, and they're planning to elope over the weekend... in Las Vegas. Holly wants John to fly to Vegas so they can meet up and confront their daughter together. After some grumbling and arguing, McClane vows to catch the next plane out of JFK.

* John and Holly meet in the Vegas airport. Opens wounds remain from their failed marriage, it's obvious, but they agree to put aside their differences for the task at hand. 

* At the Luxor, John and Holly find their son Jack at the bar chatting up a beautiful young woman. They swoop in and embarrass him, causing the young woman to flee. Holly scolds Jack for supporting his sister in her rash decision to elope. With a little friendly goading from his father, and a quick couple of drinks, Jack relents and takes his parents to Lucy's room.

* John, Holly and Jack arrive at Lucy's bridal suite. John and Holly confront Lucy. This leads to a major McClane family blowout. Lucy's nebbish fiancee is caught in the middle. They all air family laundry, insults fly, and tears flow. Suddenly, uh oh, there's an explosion in the casino!

The above bullet points should be executed in 12 minutes or less. After all, this is a Die Hard movie and not some screwball family comedy. But, this franchise (for better or worse) has established an entire family of characters. They've all joined John McClane on adventures in the past. It's only fitting that they all join him for one last hurrah. 

I chose Vegas as the backdrop for subtextual reasons, as well as the potential for a return to confined-space set pieces akin to the original. In terms of subtext, we quickly find out in the first scene that McClane has returned to his 'old habits' of hard drinking and gambling, so Vegas can act as a figurative python that would swallow McClane up if he wasn't too busy fighting to keep his entire family safe. And, after all, the breakup of the McClane clan is a major issue for John. He ultimately blames himself. He's haunted by it. It's a gaping hole eating away at his soul. This showdown in Vegas is John's chance to metaphorically patch the hole in his soul by keeping his family together and safe from lurking danger. 

As for set pieces in confined spaces, they've kind of been missing from the franchise since "Die Hard 2: Die Harder". The Luxor (or any other casino for that matter) is rife with potential. Gunfights and brawls in posh hotel rooms, on the casino floor, through narrow corridors, etc. The Luxor is the first casino that came to mind because I can picture McClane sliding down the iconic pyramid exterior with machine guns blazing! And maybe, just maybe, if we want to go down a truly ridiculous route, the climax of the film can exit the confined spaces and take a thrilling road trip. Where, you ask? Well, just 35 miles south of Las Vegas there is a famous little place known as The Hoover Dam, which will obviously be wired with explosives and ready to fuckin' blow.

Now, Die Hard movies aren't really worth anything without a good villain. Shitballs! There's the rub. I don't have a specific character in mind yet. It will be nearly impossible to conjure up someone as formidable as Hans Gruber on such short notice. Give me around five months and I'll get back to you. But, I do know that the villains should be money-hungry thieves, just like the original, who are robbing casinos by force with massive amounts of firepower. 

In conclusion, who the fuck am I kidding? I'm a piece of shit. I'll never come within a thousand miles of writing a Die Hard movie, so I'll just sit back with a can of beer and watch whatever Bruce & The Suits decide to crank out next. 


**Addendum to follow after my first viewing of "A Good Day to Die Hard".

***ADDENDUM, 6/11/13: Yup. "A Good Day to Die Hard" is the worst of the series. Shitballz. There are some enjoyable action sequences, but the screenplay and villains were subpar and the character of John McClane is no longer recognizable. There's only one way I can enjoy these new Die Hards: I pretend I'm following a new protagonist. Drop the "L" in McCLANE and John McCANE becomes the main character of "Live Free" & "A Good Day". Ah, good old John McCANE (no relation to Senator John McCain). Ridiculous, but it's somehow easier to swallow. 

*** ADDENDUM 2, 3/1/15: Paul Blart 2 is set in Vegas. Fuck it.

part three
part two
part one

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