What? ‘Die Hard 4’ rated PG-13?
Well, it’s official. “Live Free or Die Hard” has been rated PG-13. There was a time when I could not fathom a “Die Hard” movie without an R rating, but given today’s climate, this PG-13 was inevitable. The first three “Die Hards” were released when studios actually put out R-rated action flicks. Now studios believe there is no such thing as an R-rated blockbuster (and everything in summer is positioned as a possible blockbuster), because you are denying too much of the all-important under-17 demographic. Now every would-be blockbuster is trimmed down to PG-13, even when they were born to be rated R.
If you look at the trailers for “Live Free or Die Hard,” you can clearly see that this movie obviously has as much frenetic action and violence as the first three. Shit gets blowed up real good, and Bruce Willis as John McClane jumps through the usual mayhem. In terms of action, I suspect the only difference between this film and the first three will be in how much actual blood you will see. The MPAA has nothing against tons of action/violence as long as you don’t actually see the gore. It’s a matter of the material being slightly sanitized, and I’m sure in a lot of cases it’s splitting hairs. “Live Free or Die Hard” has been advertised as “not yet rated” for a long time, so the studio has probably been carefully trimming and lobbying for the PG-13 the past few weeks. My guess is that this movie will be as close to R as PG-13 can get (in terms of violence, anyway).
And I don’t have a problem with that. You can still make a kick-ass action flick with “PG-13 violence,” because in my mind the success of the action is not necessarily in how graphic the violence is but in how clever the set pieces are and how taut the tension becomes. You can do clever and taut (and lots of explosions and vehicular mayhem) within the constraints of a PG-13. History (and virtually every summer action movie in the last decade) has shown that.
However, where I likely will have a problem with the PG-13 rating as it relates to “Die Hard” is the issue of profanity, which is much more cut-and-dried with the MPAA than violence is. In short, the f-word is virtually off-limits. The unwritten rule of a PG-13 is that you can only say “fuck” once in a PG-13 movie. Maybe twice. After that, you get an R. And I’m pretty sure you can’t say the dreaded mf-word even once.
Which begs the question: What about John McClane’s catchphrase? I’m going to guess it will be something along the lines of: “Yippee ki yay, motherf–[expletive interrupted by big explosion].”
I enjoy profanity. I like the f-word. Last weekend, Kathy and I saw “Knocked Up.” It’s a really good movie — sharp dialog, very funny, enjoyable, heartfelt … and wonderfully profane. A PG-13 version of that movie would be a travesty. (There’s a tirade, for example, unleashed by a woman upon a club doorman that’s absolutely brilliant — in no small part because of the doorman’s response to it — and it could not possibly have been PG-13. But I digress.)
The f-word has always been a part of John McClane’s vocabulary. But apparently it will be vastly curtailed in “Live Free or Die Hard.” And that’s a shame. The dialog will have been watered-down for reasons of marketing.
Frankly, I’m amazed they made a fourth “Die Hard” at all. Bruce Willis is over 50 years old, and the franchise has been idle for 12 years. I can barely even fathom that Harrison Ford is finally doing another “Indiana Jones.”
But, you know what? I love the “Die Hard” franchise and I will see “Live Free or Die Hard.” PG-13 rating or not.