Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Only now does it occur to me... LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD

Only now does it occur to me...  that the Willis vs. Schwarzenegger "rivalry" runs deeper than the EXPENDABLES.

I've followed the semi-fictitious "rivalries" between action stars on this site such as "Bronson vs. Eastwood" and "Schwarzenegger vs. Stallone," rivalries that pop up probably due to the actors being up for the same roles and generally expressing themselves in onscreen, good-natured ribbing and obscure references for the benefit of the diehards (no pun intended).  Being as they'd never really taken the spotlight together, I assumed that the Schwarzenegger vs. Willis jocularity in EXPENDABLES 1 & 2 was manufactured for the series, and befit their "major star in bit part" pairing.   Now, that I stand back and look at it from afar, it seems this "feud" has been brewing for years.

I got to thinking, and began to wonder– John McTiernan made DIE HARD and THE LAST ACTION HERO.  Willis had even worked with Shane Black's writing before on THE LAST BOY SCOUT.  Was Willis jealous that he wasn't 'the Last Action Hero?'  And afterward, when its financial losses became apparent, was Schwarzenegger peeved that it hadn't been Willis in the role?  Did Willis gloat?  That seems like something he would do.  Did Schwarzenegger mock him for his "Bruno" musical career and those Seagram's Golden Wine Coolers ads?  The possibilities are endless.  Of course, that's just speculation.  But look at this:

Willis, Schwarzenegger, and Stallone appearing together on British television in 1993.  Notable for  their spectacular 1993 fashions (for instance, Stallone's Planet Hollywood baggy stonewashed jean vest and Schwarzenegger's Hawaiian shirt that proves that he's actually playing 'himself' in TWINS),

Willis' clear but thinly veiled distaste for the host (Terry Wogan),

Stallone's insistence that he does not deliver one-liners well (ask COBRA about that!), the special presumably drunken appearance by Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith,

 Wogan's creepy request that Willis show off his left breast

as well as Wogan forcing him to awkwardly talk about INDECENT PROPOSAL in terms of Demi Moore and his personal life, and finally the simultaneously childlike and depraved way Arnold's eyes light up when INDECENT PROPOSAL is discussed, as if the idea of asking a woman to sleep with him for a million dollars is just then hatching in his mind.

In short, this is magnificent.

Anyway, now knowing that their friendship and rivalry has existed for many years, that brings me to the actual point of this entry.  Which is that in LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD, Bruce Willis (while protecting Justin Long from the bad guys)

takes out a TERMINATOR (figurine) as collateral damage and smirks about it!  If that ain't a shot across the bow, I don't know what is!

As a side note, I only rewatched LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD (4) in order to pump myself up for seeing A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (5) in theaters.  Though not horrible, seeing DIE HARD 4 again sufficiently disheartened me to the extent that I think I'm gonna wait on 5 for DVD.  Ah, well.


Mike B. said...

A fantastic observation! After reading the last one of these, I meant to come by and post a comment regarding the odd present-day status of these three 80's action giants. It seems to me that Arnold is the only one of the three who is legitimately having fun these days. For all the supposed "fun" of the Expendables movies, if you really watch them, Stallone is still trying way too hard to convince (us? himself?) that he still is the same guy as always, further evidenced by the so-dated-it-hurts-and-not-in-a-good-way trailer for his new "Bullet to the Head" movie (sigh). Then we have literally everyone talking about Willis openly sleepwalking through the latest "Die Hard" (but to me, this matter little as Willis always seemed the fish-out-of-water of action icons; I never really counted him among the group, and I mean that with no offense, and I admit that I need to re-watch the Die Hards myself before committing to that statement). Arnold has always been the least capable actor of the bunch, but he seems to have emerged from his hiatus (and personal troubles) with a sheer joy for his kind of movie-making, and his charm and likeability are still as intact as ever. Heck, in "The Last Stand" he almost seems, dare I say...Eastwood-esque! But, in keeping with my rambling nature, all of this has been but a mere preamble to the REAL reason I needed to post here, and that is that I just discovered, randomly while working, a startling fact. I must have watched the 1994 college basketball drama "Blue Chips" dozens of times as a wee teenager. It was fun for the bad acting, the way it straddled the line between exposing corruption in college athletics while simultaneously making you root for the team, etc. However, it always seemed weirdly frenetic to me, especially for a sports movie. This was long before I paid any attention to things like who directed the movies I watched. Then today, a battered VHS copy of "Blue Chips" came across my desk at the library, and lo and behold the words "Directed by William Friedkin" stared me right in the face, and my head damn near exploded. How have I missed this? My world will never be the same! It explains so much! So it is my appeal to you, good sir, that we need a proper review of this film. The world needs someone to make sense of a movie that aligned the careers of Friedkin, Nick Nolte, and Shaquille O'Neal, and you are perhaps the most qualified for the task! This could be way bigger than even "The Night Flier!" Your country needs you!

J.D. Lafrance said...

"Though not horrible, seeing DIE HARD 4 again sufficiently disheartened me to the extent that I think I'm gonna wait on 5 for DVD."

That is probably a good idea. The trailers for the new DIE HARD look so generic, like anyone could've plopped into Willis' role.

I found DIE HARD 4 to be a depressing experience. As much as I love Timothy Olyphant (he's great on JUSTIFIED), he was completely wasted in a generic baddie role in that film. Where was the scenery-chewing baddies essayed so well by Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons in their respective installments?

Such a shame. I also find myself enjoying and warming up to DIE HARD 2 more and more. I remember first seeing it and not being all the impressed by it - probably because all I had to compare it to was the first DIE HARD, but now that there are more installments, it is looking to be one of the better films in the series.

Sean Gill said...


Glad you enjoyed! I didn't see any of this trio's latest– though I was vaguely tempted by all three (LAST STAND has Sonny Landham and Harry Dean Stanton, BULLET TO THE HEAD has the Slater Factor). You're right in that it looks like Arnie is at least having some fun.

As for BLUE CHIPS, I saw that classic back in the mid-90s when all the kids were wearing Penny Hardaway jerseys and there was such a thing as SHAQ FU. Only later, too, did I realize that it was a Friedkin film. If indeed my country needs me, perhaps it's time to revisit!


Indeed you're right- Willis doesn't even appear to be playing John McClane anymore. (Where's the smartass we know and love?) DIE HARD 4 IS fairly depressing. I had seen it in its PG-13 incarnation and remembered being bored. I figured I'd revisit it in the unrated version to pump me up for 5... and was bored.

And I also think DIE HARD 2 grows greater in retrospect– insane naked tai chi William Sadler, evil Franco Nero, one-liners, more explosions than you can shake a stick at, the return of Reginald VelJohnson... which makes me wonder where the hell VelJohnson is in the new ones! He's still active and clearly could use some high profile work– probably the studio heads imagine the viewer doesn't give a lick about the integrity of the series. Damn.

John Guedes said...

Great observations! Just wanted to add another element missing from the Die Hard series: Christmas! Not only did the first Die Hard take place during Christmas, but the frequent and often side splitting references to the holiday gave the proceedings a warm, cozy aura. The holiday cheer is such a great contrast to the violence and mayhem.

I mean you got Reginald Vel singing carols, Argyle the limo driver blasting Run DMC's "Christmas In Hollis" whilst exclaiming "This is Christmas music!", Alan Rickman's deadpan assurance that "it's the time for miracles", Theo the nerdy Black terrorist dropping Christmas one-liners left and right plus other classic scenes with Willis like the dead terrorist in the elevator ("Now I have a machine gun Ho Ho Ho") and the ending where he even manages to use Christmas wrapping paper tape to affix a gun to his back.

Sean Gill said...


Absolutely! DIE HARD is quite probably the best Christmas movie of all time.
And I feel like not setting DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE at Christmas works because it bucks the norm once, yanking us unexpectedly into the dog days of summer in NYC (with the "Summer in the City" sequence). But then they should have gone back to Xmas for part 4, as you say...