Thursday, February 07, 2013

A Good Day To Die Hard

Well, that was odd. I've just got back from 98 minutes of the most incomprehensibly censored film I think I can ever remember seeing.

There were times when I felt like I'd turned over two pages at once: that the film just seemed to judder and shift from one event to another without being joined up properly. To begin with, whenever Bruce Willis uses the f-word, it's just silenced, but inexplicably, about half way through it's swapped for the phrase "cheap petty" or "chee pepper" or something else that just doesn't make any sense.

In the US, the film got an R rating. Perhaps that's because a man gets chucked into the blades of a helicopter near the conclusion. It's a PG-13 in Singapore, but while you might think the warnings as you buy a ticket that there's "coarse language" (a delightfully archaic phrase in itself) might suggest they'd taken out the violence and retained the swearing, the censors have done the exact opposite. There's people getting shot left right and centre, there's Bruce Willis driving over countless cars in a Mercedes G-Wagon (which must lead to lots of squashed Russians dying in their mangled cars, but that's never alluded to) and a man pulling a nail out of his son's guts. There's also plenty of "Jesus Christ!"s and "shit"s, but the phrase everyone goes to hear, Yippee Kie Aye Mother - doesn't appear once. There's just another wierd overdub of "cheap petty" and then Bruce leaps through the air again.

I did wonder if there was a lot of swearing in the car chase sequence, because it's well-nigh incomprehensible, and that might just mean the censor got tired and decided to chop out some chunks entirely. It's a shame, because the enormous truck vs transit van vs Bruce in a stolen 4WD looks like it was great. If you could tell what on earth was going on. Too much crash bang wallop without enough structure.

Maybe it was better in a cinema in another country. Or maybe not. The film, the first ever Die Hard to actually be written as a Die Hard, rather than a script recycled from another project, feels like it was scrawled by a teenage boy who'd watched all the previous Die Hards while guzzling Mountain Dew. There's a very evil henchman, who is almost unkillable, there's some preposterous gunfights (Bruce and company versus a helicopter gunship) and there's the nadir of stupidity when the Russians manage to solve all the problems of radioactive contamination with a hose and an iPad. There's lots of jumping off high buildings without dying, and altogether it feels like a generic action film, and not at all like a genuine Die Hard.

Perhaps that's because poor old Bruce has lost all his hair: the joy of seeing an Everyman with a receding hairline has been replaced with the lumpen image of an unkillable superman with an utterly bald scalp jumping through windows unscathed. Bruce's son is just a soul-sucking vacuum in place of an actual character, I don't believe you can drive from Moscow to Chernobyl in the course of an evening (well, Bing says 12 hours, but you want to bet on that?), and the sexy lady with a motorcycle that was promised by the trailers turns out to be just another random bird who would like to be Xenia Onatopp from Goldeneye, but doesn't quite pass muster.

Oh well. The real pain is that I'm going to have to find an uncensored copy to watch in another country to figure out whether it was any good or not, and that might turn out to be a real disappointment. You know, like returning to KFC because it had tasted so bad the first time you'd assumed there had been some critical error with the cooking, rather than standard operating practice.


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