Over the years, we’ve heard many rumors about this film: one said it would be set on a cruise ship, another indicated the plot would involve a space launch. There were once suggestions that a third sequel would take Bruce Willis’ John McClane character overseas; a forth piece of gossip indicated all of the good guys from the original DIE HARD film would return (Reginald VelJohnson, Bonnie Bedelia, etc.) There were so many possibilities it was difficult to know what to think…
But, it now seems that all parties concerned have closed-in on a concept that may finally make it to screen. Indications are DIE HARD 4.0 will roll as early as September, and Len Wiseman (the director of the two UNDERWORLD films) was recently selected to helm it.
With all of this in mind, please know…
THERE ARE MAJOR SPOILERS FOR DIE HARD 4.0 BELOW!!!
TURN BACK NOW IF YOU WISH TO REMAIN UNSPOILED, OR FOREVER HOLD YOUR PEACE!!!
IS THIS THE SAME DRAFT THAT HAS ALREADY BEEN REVIEWED ELSEWHERE?
No. That draft was by Mark Bomback, and had New Orleans in it. This one does not. The previous draft also features characters who are no longer in this revision – they’ve been replaced by significant additions, like John McClane’s son!
This is Doug Richardson’s revision Bomback’s work. Richardson was a writer on BAD BOYS, DIE HARD 2, and Bruce Willis’ HOSTAGE.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT? WHO THE HELL ARE THESE “INTERNET TERRORISTS” WE HEARD ABOUT THE OTHER DAY?
The “internet terrorists” are a bunch of folks who have banned together to reboot America.
In a phased process, they intend to systematically demolish or seize our technological infrastructure via a three-day plan. It starts small: the wide-spread scuttling of traffic control systems, and inconvenient things like that. Later, economic mechanisms tumble (like stock markets, banking computers, credit cards, etc.) Emergency response systems and utilities (water) also go down. Finally, power distribution…and the few remaining utilities/systems…are paralyzed. America has been thrown into complete shut-down, thrust into a modern Dark Ages (remember ESCAPE FROM L.A.?)
We see all of this happen in the script – it begins *very* early on, before we understand the nature of the caper being advanced. The script is divided into Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3. There’s an escalating sense of foreboding right out of the gate; an inexplicable nuclear power plant crisis…McClane’s inability to secure a rental car due to an unusual computer glitch…every stoplight in the city turning (and staying) green simultaneously – causing instant gridlock.
To what end are the bad guys doing this?
This movement is being spearheaded by a high-profile government consultant, to whom The Powers That Be will unknowingly turn when everything comes tumbling down. He and his odd band of followers will earn big, big money by restoring our nation’s infrastructure swiftly and ably.
WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH JOHN MCCLANE?
We first find John McClane as he’s picking his son up from prison. Ashton Kutcher?
His son, whose name is John (he goes by “Jack G” – the “G” referring to Gennero, his mother’s last name) has been serving time for cyber crimes – in this instance the acquisition of extremely sensitive/classified information.
Jack has no particular affinity for his father. Apparently John is, simply, John – whether he’s being a hero or being a dad. In both roles he’s a brash, egotistical, smart-ass, fly-by-the-seat of his pants kind of guy who seems to thrive on dysfunction. But Jack was looking for more in a father…and didn’t find it in John…who is consistently the only person he knows how to be. As such, the two are at a major impasse.
The bad guy’s three day plan is based partially on Jack’s cyber shenanigans – the same ones that got him thrown into jail. Which means Jacks is suddenly a valuable asset to the government. Since he knows so much about the bad guys’ MO, maybe he can help stop them? A cyber-terrorism detachment called D.E.R.T. approaches John and Jack in an effort to procure Jack G’s help – before the nation is brought to its knees.
Things go very badly in this encounter. John and Jack G end-up on-the-run, struggling to evade the forces of a government they do not trust…dodge the minions of the bad guys who know that Jack G can stop them (hence they want him deleted)…and survive in a world that is, literally, falling apart around them.
SOUNDS EPIC! HOW BIG DOES THIS STORY GET?
Sweeping vistas of “end of the world” kind of imagery. Vast deserted areas, cutaways to events happening all over the country (outages, lootings, families huddled around televisions, highways are filled with people headed for the hills – but unable to get anywhere). One scene references burning buildings in Harlem with tanks and Humvees establishing martial law.
DOES ANYONE SAY “YIPPEKAYAY, MOTHERFUCKER!”?
DO ANY CHARCTERS FROM THE OTHER FILMS (BESIDES MCCLANE AND HIS SON) APPEAR IN DIE HARD 4.0?
No. No characters from other films are even referenced by name. There are some organic ways they could be incorporated, though.
WHO ARE THE NEW CHARACTERS THIS TIME AROUND?
Other than Jack G? The villain, Greg Pope. A Federal agent named Rooney – a tough-as-nails African American woman. A rabble of ex-athletes – Pope’s private security force. Various supernumeraries – a surprisingly large cast of supporting players, most of whom are rather well drawn and distinct.
WHAT IS THIS MOVIE’S MONEY SHOT?
Seems like every DIE HARD movie has a single image that becomes iconic.
In the first film, I’d say it was that low-angle shot of McClane jumping off the edge of the Nakatomi building with a fire hose tied around his waist. In DIE HARD 2, it was probably the aerial shot of McClane ejecting from the exploding plane – flying into our face before being pulled back by gravity. The third film? The derailed subway cars sweeping destructively through the underground train platform beneath New York City.
Here? The image that pops to mind is McClane jumping from train car towards which two Sidewinder missiles are headed. He dives from the target as the missiles rip forward on either side of him, impacting spectacularly.
WHAT SURPRISED ME ABOUT THIS STORY?
It’s extremely nihilistic.
Previous DIE HARD films have certainly had anti-establishment tendencies, but 4.0 takes disdain of institution to a whole new level.
John and Jack’s movements are constantly (and instantaneously) tracked by surveillance cameras; references to “Big Brother” are made. There is a strong “us against them” vibe.
The film vividly illustrates how easily controlled and undermined our society can be – should the slightest technological snafu trip us up. 4.0 even seems to imply that we’re already far too dependent on technology – that we’ve lost our ability to adapt and improvise, and are well past the point of no return.
It feels like something of a cautionary tale, and references characters that have previously warned against the perils of technological vulnerability – but they could find no one to listen.
Acknowledgment is also made to bureaucratic disorganization and incompetence. Much like the Katrina aftermath in New Orleans, several different departments head several different directions when struggling to address the three day crisis – effectively impeding a hasty resolution to the turmoil at hand.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK ABOUT THE SCRIPT?
The final quarter of the script involves a hidden component of the bad guy’s plan. This feels a bit inorganic, and tacked on. I won’t spoil everything herein, but suffice to say the scheme is gargantuan, and Lex Luthor-ian in nature.
It’s never clear if this was actually the villain’s design all along, or if this element was being held a as a fallback plan in case the ransom of the United States didn’t pan out as the nasties intended. It should be wonderfully spectacular on-screen, but it feels incongruous and a bit over-the-top – undercutting the headier tension that comes before.
WILL THIS WORK AS A MOVIE?
There’s a lot of compelling and interesting stuff in 4.0.
McClane’s trademark cut-downs and taunts are funnier here than in any other DIE HARD film. He may be older, but his wit has grown more acerbic over the years – and his self-restraint is thinner than ever before.
You’ll see certain themes carry through: McClane engages in a classic sparring session over a phone, similar in tone to his torment of Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber in the first film. NEWS COVERAGE (and the availability of information) plays an important role in how the storyline unfolds – another DIE HARD conceit.
As a whole, this plot feels like a cross between the tech-heavy ENEMY OF THE STATE and a SUPERMAN film. And, like ENEMY OF THE STATE, there are allusions to stylistic considerations surrounding high-tech surveillance.
For example, references are made to VFX in which the audience becomes a data pattern, or signal. We’re catapulted at dizzying velocities through fiber optic networks, or launched skyward to slam into orbiting satellites. This kind of super-charged, hyper-stylized storytelling is fine enough, but it gets old when used to often…and it gets old very fast. We’ve seen this kind of trickery before - it’s distracting, and not a gimmick to rely on too heavily.
The POWER of this script, and the cleverness of its premise, does not lie in visual razzle-dazzle. Instead, director Len Wiseman may be well advised not to approach this material with his characteristic sledge-hammer sensibility – such handling will utterly thrash the vast atmospheric potential that runs throughout the story.
This is a story about an Armageddon of sorts; it’s about what happens when we no longer have the choice to live the way we’re used to living. It’s about what happens when the lights go out & there’s no way to call someone on the phone for comfort or reassurance. It’s about seeing the world we know closed down, as far as the eye can see, and a small group of heroes being forced to work within limitations they’ve never even conceived of before.
The film should play to this innate desperation, fear, desolation, paranoia, and apprehension. It should make the ambience affecting. If Wiseman doesn’t rely on bombast (yeah…I know…but I said “if”…), and treats 4.0 as an artistic exercise more than a bludgeoning, this film has the potential to be one hell of an inventive, effective, and even chilling ride – one that might make us feel a little, and think a little, along the way.