Tom Jolliffe takes a look at some low budget Die Hard clones…
It may not have been the first of its kind, but when Die Hard came out, from the moment Bruce Willis entered the Nakatomi plaza, a new sub-genre all of its own was launched – ‘The Die Hard Movie’. None have compared, whether it was the sequels to the original, or big budget escapades like Under Siege (DH on a boat), The Rock (on Alcatraz), Executive Decision, Passenger 57 and Airforce One (DH on Planes), Sudden Death (at an ice hockey stadium) or Skyscraper (DH…back in a Skycraper…) to name a few.
There have been innumerable big screen riffs. At the same time, through the video era up until now, many a B movie god, or even Sean Astin (Icebreaker… Die Hard at a Ski resort against a villanous Bruce Campbell) have delved into McClane’s territory. Die Hard on a shoe-string. Sometimes the settings aren’t as impressive, terrorists not quite as numerous, and not always benefiting from the best of the thesps as scenary chewing villain. If we’re talking the original trilogy and other big riffs, the likes of Alan Rickman, Jeremy Irons, Tommy Lee Jones, Powers Boothe and Gary Oldman have all played the villain with aplomb.
So here’s a little run down and mix of a variety of Die Hard clones worth checking out:
Dolph Lundgren’s had his share of run-ins with terrorists. He’s encountered them at Nuclear bunkers in Peacekeeper, which features a genuinely magnificent rooftop car chase, Roy Scheider as President, and Michael Sarrazin in fine villainous fettle. He’s encountered them at school in Detention (very little to write home about in this one), and he’s not had much luck in submarines either, running into them in Agent Red and Black Water (along with Jean-Claude Van Damme).
However, the best Die Hard Dolpher, Command Performance sees Lundgren at a rock concert. He’s got the atypical dark past. A former biker gang member, which explains his physique and penchant for fighting. Somehow or other, the 52 year old Dolph finds himself as drummer in a Nu Metal band of 20 somethings who play second billing to a Britney-esque pop starlet. It’s bizarre, and he ends up flirting with Britney-lite, in the kind of movie writing that a decade on is going to become extinct I imagine. Regardless, the sheer majesty of seeing Dolph playing drums and then using his sticks as weapons, as well as quoting lines like ‘Dying is easy, rock n roll is hard’ makes this a good time passer.
Have a Blast:
Not only do you get Die Hard at a Swimming Pool in Albert Pyun’s Blast (1997), but you also get Die Hard on an Oil Rig in Anthony Hickox’s Blast (2004).
Pyu’ns film has a humble janitor having to take up the mantle of would-be-Willis (played by Linden Ashby). Despite the lack of budget there’s plenty of style and energy in this one. Pyun had a knack for injecting a little flair into his films given just enough money and a bit of inspiration. Everything is further aided by the presence of Rutger Hauer. This isn’t a film many know off, but if you like the DH sub-genre it’s not too shabby.
Hickox’s Blast isn’t quite as successful. The reluctant teaming of Eddie Griffin and Breckin Meyer (both of whom are more predominantly known for comedy, but play largely straight). Griffin as an action hero is unconvincing, as indeed is Meyer. That in theory could help, but in actuality, the turnaround from off duty beat cop, janitor, rock drummer or fireman, into world saver, needs to be convincing. Still the presence of Vinnie Jones, playing Vinnie Jones adds suitably hiss worthy villainy to the mix and there’s some nice set pieces too. It all benefits from solid direction from Hickox, who’s always been effective at constructing a decent visual, but never had much luck in his attempts to branch out from cult-horror.
Skyscraper with a large chest… no not that one:
Remember Playboy starlet, briefly turned TV star, and even more briefly, movie star (probably most remembered for a fun cameo in Naked Gun 33 and a 1/3) Anna Nicole Smith? The late ANS starred in a woefully miscast, but oddly enjoyable, and subsequently cult film, Skyscraper. From cult action artistes, PM Entertainment (who ran throughout the 90’s in the video realm, and became a practice breeding ground for many of the best stunt men in Hollywood today) this isn’t one of their higher points. The presence of Smith lends the affair a certain so bad its good charm, from her stilted acting to her ropey fight sequences.
Despite the inherent awkwardness of Smith, she, as with most of what she did, is oddly endearing.
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