R vs PG-13. Fight!
Warning: wild rambling post alert!
Recently I watched two rather similar films back to back. One was The Raid (still loving the viseral punch of this movie) and the other was Dredd (which has more meat on the bones). The reasons for watching these could be attributed to the strains of making a small bear who can walk! I’ve already covered The Raid. So I’ll just write a couple of quick lines about Dredd.
After the mis-guided mid-90′s Stallone effort (which I see more as a sequel to Demolition Man than a Judge Dredd movie), you could say I was “Dredding” this film. Thankfully the latest incarnation is a significant improvement. In particular I would single Olivia Thilsby out as the heart of the movie. Then there is Karl Urban who grunts his way through the movie as the eponymous character mixing in some elements of Dirty Harry and Robocop (both iconic characters and movies in their own right).
Similarities between Dredd and The Raid are unavoidable – even if Dredd is set in the future. Both were released at roughly the same time (despite the fact Dredd was made much earlier and had a much longer post-production period because of all the special effects). They have the same exactly the same premise : underdog protagonist(s) trapped in a high-rise building with vast hordes trying to make sure no one escapes. There are nasty slimy villains who do their own dirty work when necessary but are more happy to hide behind technology where possible. Both are ludicrously violent.
Doesn’t this sound familar to another action movie? Possibly the most iconic action films of recent times? The title of this post has given it away. Let’s just say there is a reason people use the phrase “It’s Die Hard in/on a …”. For me, I doubt Die Hard will ever be bettered in this particular genre. I also many of the other mid-to-late eighties Joel Silver action films (Commando, Lethal Weapon 1/2, Predator). They were daft, spectacular, over the top with a charming/witty quality about them – a quality sorely lacking from today’s gritty post 9/11 films. Plus I wasn’t quite old enough to watch them legally in the cinema, which only increased their appeal.
Today it seems most films are marketed at the teen-market PG-13 (or 12A in the UK’s case) audience rather than an adult R rated (15/18) audience to increase the demographic. They did this with the fourth Die-hard installment and this is where the franchise lost its way. I have lost count how many recent “horror films” I’ve seen which have a PG-13 rating.
Recently the movie going public were inflicted to yet another Die Hard movie. I say this although I must confess I didn’t see it (thanks to the terrible looking trailers and scathing reviews). I really wanted to rally behind this film, but it was clear from that this franchise is out of steam. Long gone is the original under-dog blue-collar cop John Mclane (who now just seems Bruce Willis playing a gruff wise-cracking – er – Bruce Willis for a hefty pay-day). There was no memorable side-kick. There was no memorable uber-villain. The focus shifts to his offspring (presumably as some sort of cynical passing the batton exercise). The film was colour-graded so much so that it looks sterile. It was handled by a sub-par director. Sure – it is pretty noisy, flashy and looks slick – but nothing really separated it from any other action film. Just like the previous All of this is the same with the previous Die Hard movie in fact! But at least this one was going to be R-rated (hence wanting to like it). However reviews made it clear that there was very little in the film to make it R-rated bar some curse words. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that they originally intended it for the PG-13 market – which clearly isn’t the Die-Hard I remember.
Thankfully these Die-Hard sensibilities were satisfied by the gloriously “dumber than a bag of spanners” Olympus has Fallen (“Die Hard in the White house” – you just know this is how it was pitched!). In some ways the timing is interesting being as it has a group of North Korean terrorists on the war-path (I’m sure this country has been in the media about something recently?). My expectations were admittedly low going in and yes – it can be argued it is mostly predictable/generic – yet it knows exactly what it needs to do. It follows the gritty violence trend a bit too much which detracts charm despite the daft premise. It pilfers mercilessly from the original Die Hard as well as other clones Under Siege and Air Force One. So much so it was almost laughable spotting these liberally lifted scenes – which DID give it a certain charm (for me anyway). I was willing to forgive some of the mortar-sized plot holes as this is clearly a “switch your brain off” movie. Actually I’d wager this is by far a more satisfying Die Hard film than Die Hard 5 is. Much like Dredd/The Raid, there is another film with exactly the same premise out later this year (Roland Emmerich’s White House Down). This practice is not uncommon in Hollywood. However, I’ll bet that one is a PG-13!
Technically both Dredd and The Raid were not traditionally made Hollywood films. With Olympus it’s nice to see someone in Hollywood has identified that the adult audience doesn’t always want profound works of art or teenie stuff. Now they just need to lighten up a bit with the “gritty” stuff. Sadly – news such as this won’t help the cause much. News like this hopefully does!
I’m not sure if this in part inspired me to write the following track:
I really enjoyed making this one even if I was originally intending to do something more along the lines of Hans Zimmer (who I find a bit Marmite at times). The plan was to make it feel less orchestral and more electronic (I even had some dub-step elements in at one point). For whatever reason these didn’t make it in and this was the result. To be fair it is normal for me to compose a section but later realise – even if I like it – it should be removed. I will share one such unfinished moment with you from this current track which you can download from here:
Hostile Takeover outtake (mp3)
Anyway hope you enjoy and sorry for the rambling post!