Sam Strange Remembers: DIE HARD (The Bald Trilogy)

Sam Strange explains why recent DIE HARD films have been so bad.

I had an idea for a whole Die Hard trilogy that would focus on the death of John McClane. It was a really good idea. The only problem was no one wanted to make the first film, and without that entry the other two don't make sense. With everyone shitting on A Good Day to Die Hard this weekend, I thought now would be a good time to fill you in on what was meant to go down and how it all went wrong.

Movie One:

So like I said, no one was interested in making my first entry in the trilogy: Die Hard of Cancer. The film was supposed to show McClane and his wife Holly at a hospital. Just as they find out that McClane has terminal cancer, thieves posing as terrorists take over the building, forcing McClane to kick all their asses.

The McClane we all know and love would have been front and center in this film, but as the film progressed to its conclusion, we would also witness him diminish before our eyes. His choice to live a healthier lifestyle and his hair loss would occur over the course of the film, but more than that we'd see and feel a definite syphoning of McClane's earlier energy. Bruce Willis' line readings were to become quieter and more sullen, as though the act of inflicting violence upon bad guys robbed him of his ability to speak at the same time.

In the end, McClane beats the thieves and saves Holly. The two decide that, while there's no chance of them rekindling their marriage, McClane needs to use what little time he has left to make peace with their two estranged children.

Movie Two:

We see the first part of this journey with Live Free or Die Hard. Still more or less able to move around well, McClane begins spying on his daughter, a strong independent college girl who refuses to let her boyfriend touch her breasts while making out. Despite this unshakable display of feminine virtue, McClane seems pissed about how far she lets this make out session go and pulls her and her boyfriend out of her car to yell at them both. She storms off, angry that he suddenly wants to be her dad, angry that he's been spying on her, and angry that he chased off the one non-religious boy on campus still willing to make out with her.

Having failed that mission, McClane takes one he thinks he can handle when his police chief (a different police chief from the one seen in Die Hard with a Vengeance, just another indication to McClane that everything changes and none of us are here long) asks him to go pick up a smartass computer hacker named Justin Long.

But nothing is ever easy. When picking up Justin Long, bad guys try to kill Long and McClane and it's time to Die Hard once again. This kind of makes McClane happy, though. He decides he can either Live Free or lay down and let his illness take him like a sucker. So he chooses to kick some ass, free from any fear of consequence. Thus, John McClane hanging off the wing of an F-35.

It turns out Long is just one of many computer hackers getting killed. See, this main bad guy, Peter Gabriel, is an even greater hacker than Long and his buds. After using them to help build a "Fire Sale" he needs to erase them, so he sends each a rather complicated, lethal computer virus. Here's how it works:

*Gabriel uploads a bomb onto your hard drive.

*Your screen gets fuzzy. You say, "What the heck?" and slap your computer screen as any seasoned hacker would. This arms the bomb.

*The fuzzy screen indicates a computer virus that controls your mind and makes you long to hit your "delete" key. So you hit your "delete" key. This makes the bomb explode. You Die Hard.

McClane stopped Long before he could hit "delete," but during a gun fight with bad guys, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone toys fall on the computer and hit "delete" for him. But instead of killing the kid and McClane, the ensuing bomb only kills bad guys. So McClane and Justin Long get away.

While this is going on, Peter Gabriel shuts down traffic with his computers. So McClane and the kid have to walk. This invigorates McClane a great deal and he starts trying to crack-wise again like he used to. Then Peter Gabriel takes control of television and makes everyone watch Independence Day. No one understands his political statement, but many comment on how fun the film is, even after all these years.

Via hacked traffic cameras, Peter Gabriel can see McClane and the kid wherever they go, so he sends a helicopter after them. McClane and the kid run into a tunnel, though. So Peter Gabriel uses computers to open traffic on both sides of the tunnel while also shutting down all the lights in the tunnel as well as all the lights on all the non-Volkswagens, Volvos or Saabs in the tunnel. This makes things pitch black. Except not really, because then viewers wouldn't be able to see anything. So just pretend it's pitch black, even when the characters on screen can clearly see everything around them.

McClane grabs a car and drives it into a helicopter. Then he gets a call from Peter Gabriel who displays his computer prowess by eliminating McClane's 401k and health benefits. Normally this would be a laughably limp move for a bad guy, but since we know McClane's health situation, this threat carries with it far more weight and sinks McClane's spirits down a notch. Luckly, some Credence Clearwater Revival comes on the radio and bring him right back up again. But then Justin Long makes fun of Credence for being "old," so McClane sinks back down in existential depression. But then he punches Justin Long in the face, and feels a lot better.

McClane also knows a good opportunity when he sees one, and "accidentally" lets slip to Gabriel that he has a daughter. Immediately, Gabriel snatches her up as a hostage. Now McClane can kill this jerk and win over his daughter's affections all in the same afternoon.

But first he has to beat Gabriel's musclemen. One is a parkour guy, but like all parkour guys, he eventually misses a step while flipping around and ends up falling in a human grinder. McClane had nothing to do with it.

Then there's the Terminatrix. She's tough because she's a robot. So McClane has to hit her with an SUV, then drop the SUV down an elevator shaft, then blow up the elevator shaft. She was Gabriel's girlfriend, so he's especially mad to hear about her death. Not mad enough to shoot McClane's daughter, though. Just mad enough to use his computers to route all the fire in New England to John McClane's position. Luckly, McClane knows how to fly a helicopter, so he escapes without a scratch.

Out of leads, McClane and Justin Long visit a very special computer hacker known to all as "The Warlock," played by Louie Anderson. Warlock tells them where Peter Gabriel is, but not before making Star Wars jokes and going in and out of an uncertain Jersey-Boston accent. McClane refers to him as "Hackboy." It's a double slam since the name indicates both that the loser likes to hack computers and also how far away he is from being as cool as Gene Hackman.

After getting in a fistfight with an F-35 jet, McClane goes to kill Gabriel, but we notice a definite lack of spark to his step by this point. Sure enough, Gabriel gets the drop on him despite being by far the biggest pussy McClane has ever crossed. McClane not only doesn't even have the energy to properly say his famous "Yippie Ki-Yay, Motherfucker!" but only defeats Gabriel through a botched "one bullet, two kills" suicide attempt.

Still, he saved the day. And his daughter loves him again. The effort took a drastic toll on his health, however. Not only did it ravage his body, but his mental facilities suffer as well. All that's really left is his glee for killing bad guys while saying cool shit (which is now far from cool, coming from a voice of senility). Everything else is pretty much gone as if erased by lobotomy or electric shock therapy.

Movie Three:

This reduced version of McClane next checks in on his son, Jack. It takes a while, but eventually McClane learns that in Russia Jack attempted to assassinate a guy and was arrested and put on trial all on the same day.

McClane looks at his watch. It's already 4:00pm. But because of time zones, he can get to Russia by 6:00am when none of this has happened yet. Lucy sees him to the airport, tells him not to get hurt, checks to make sure he takes his oxygen tank and cane, and wishes him luck, certain she'll never see him again.

In Russia, McClane becomes friends with a cabbie who he mistakes for his old pal Argyle. The cabbie feels sorry for McClane and lets him have his ride without paying a fare. McClane's like, "Hey, I like this Russia place!" Then tons of explosions happen and he randomly finds his son.

It turns out, Jack McClane works for the CIA and tried to shoot a guy just so he could get into prison, just so he could break out an important Russian informant before bad guys try to break him out so they can kill and silence him.

This genius escape plan would have gone off without a hitch except McClane suddenly walks into the middle of it and uses up Jack's minuscule extraction window on a domestic fight, in which McClane barely has enough breath to participate. Due to dizziness, all he can really say is "Jack!" and "I'm on vacation!"

Jack leaves John behind so he can run away from Russian bad guys out to kill his informant. John McClane doesn't really know what's going on, but he doesn't want to be left behind, so he jumps into a Humvee and begins to run over and hit every car and person he sees in hopes that some of them are evil.

It's a solid plan. By hitting absolutely every car in Russia, this violent autopilot version of John McClane does manage to hit and stall the bad guys long enough for he and his son and the informant to get to a CIA safe house run by Cole Hauser, who is amazingly enough not a bad guy in this film. McClane keeps expecting everyone to thank him for his help. They all feel too sorry for him to point out that none of this would be happening if he hadn't fucked it all up.

Five seconds later, the safe house becomes compromised, and everyone's randomly firing guns again. John McClane still doesn't know where he is or what's going on, but he's happy to be shooting a gun, even if he spends most of his time shooting at ceiling glass. Long after all the glass is gone, he's still firing away. At one point he gets hungry and just starts eating bullets. They break his teeth, but he doesn't seem to know it.

Jack McClane starts noticing, though, and it softens him to his dad a bit. But it also means he has to take care of both a weak Russian informant AND a mentally disabled father. Luckily, McClane seems to do okay so long as violence is involved. In fact, through his complete disregard for his own safety, they are able to get out of all manner of hopeless situations via failed suicide attempts.

During one lull in the action, the two finally make peace. We learn that their initial break up came when a younger smarter McClane discovered Jack's steroid use and kicked him out of the house. The two gear up at one of Jack's 1,000 gun caches across Russia and McClane comes clean about his feelings:

"Dad proud. You good. Johnny love Jacko."

He then goes on to reiterate the sentiment several times with slightly different word order each time until it no longer makes sense. Seeing this, Jack holds him close and says, "Me too, pop." He then puts a gun in McClane's hand and points to Chernobyl "Bad guys, dad. That way." And off McClane goes.

For those who don't know, Chernobyl is a Russian building that once had a really bad gas leak and now cannot be occupied without making people sick.

McClane does kill all the bad guys, except for the ones who kill each other. The informant turned out to be the main bad guy. McClane grabs hold of him and jumps off a building. Then the informant's daughter tries to kill McClane with a helicopter. Stepping on every bullet she shoots, he manages to run up to the copter and tie it to a car before jumping off into a pool of alligators that leave him alone.

In case you forgot, Chernobyl is a Russian building that once had a really bad gas leak and now cannot be occupied without making people sick.

Unfortunately, the moment McClane stepped into Chernobyl, he was a dead man. Luckily, he was a dead man anyway. Having killed the bad guys and reunited with both his daughter and now his son, what little remains of McClane's higher functions decide it is a Good Day to Die Hard. Except that's not what happens. Instead of Dying Hard, he sort of just falls over. Onto a rather soft bed of ash.

Jack McClane returns to America and reunites with his mother and sister, and the three reminisce about a time when John McClane was really awesome and not yet a dim shade of his former self.

Just then there's a knock on the door and the family is greeted by none other than young John McClane, cancer-free and transformed into a superhero thanks to the radioactive gas at Chernobyl! This was to lead to a third trilogy starring a CG John McClane who fights monsters from outer space who act like they want to take over the world, but really just want to steal our oil.

Just to check in, Chernobyl is a Russian building that once had a really bad gas leak and now cannot be occupied without making people sick.


Die Hard of Cancer
(three stars)

Live Free or Die Hard
(three stars)

A Good Day to Die Hard
(three stars)