Yippee-Ki-Yay Mother Hubbard!: Why a “12A” rated Die Hard flick sticks in my craw.

If you haven’t heard, A Good Day to Die Hard– the fifth film in the franchise, came out yesterday worldwide and is rated a 12A in dear Old Blighty. In its originating land of freedom and burgers, the film is rated “R” and was edited (or to use more of a trigger word: “censored”) to appeal to the biggest possible audience when shipped over here. It’s important to note that our beloved BBFC didn’t censor it. Fox submitted the film and was told that it would be rated a “15”, they then subsequently asked for advice on how to trim it down to the preferred 12A rating, they submitted the new cut and got the rating they wanted. See here for full details: click.

This baffles me and pisses me off in equal measures. Look, I watched the original Die Hard way too young at about age 11 and it was the greatest thing I’d ever seen. I have seen it countless times since then and it’s still a fantastic watch. The following two films are great too. I even like Die Hard 4.0, despite it taking a left turn at Credibility Avenue and driving directly into Doolally Junction. One of my major problems with 4.0 (aka the retch-inducing title of Live Free or Die Hard) was how toothless it all felt. The swearing was sparse and mild and the violence was bloodless and lacking in punch. Violence and swearing do not a good film make, but when you have an established series where these things are practically hallmarks it really goes against the grain.When a character can’t even say their famous catchphrase because it has naughty words in it, you know something’s gone wrong. (OK, pedants, he DOES say it, but the word is obscured with a gunshot, which is a whole jar of weaksauce.) There is an unrated cut of 4.0 out on DVD (not Blu-ray yet despite multiple releases, the absolute BASTARDS) where the digital blood is re-instated and McClane gets to say “motherfucker” like a champ. I was surprised at how legitimate it made the film feel. It’s not big or clever, but it feels right (which is incidentally my personal slogan for my upcoming gigolo business venture.)

Which brings me to A Good Day to Die Hard. I planned to see it opening day at the IMAX, but as soon as I heard that it was a 12A for no good reason, I cancelled my tickets. If they’re not going to meet me halfway, then fuck ’em. I’m not going to pay over the odds for a butchered, inferior product. Especially with the knowledge that there’s a meatier cut out there.Yeah, there will undoubtedly be an unrated cut on DVD/Blu-ray but that’s not the point. With all the emotional blackmail campaigns about not pirating films and actually going to the cinema running, doesn’t it seem like stunts like this are teaching consumers the exact opposite? Why waste your money on seeing a watered-down, neutered cut at the cinema when you can watch the proper version at home?

Lionsgate did this over here with The Hunger Games. The original submitted cut of the film was rated a 15 and they sought advice to bring it down to a 12A. I understand that decision though. The Hunger Games has an inbuilt teen audience thanks to the three books. Whilst Lionsgate obviously wanted to make as much dough as possible, something which the golden 12A certificate ensures, I’d like to think a big part of  that decision was the fact that they didn’t want to make a film that fans of the books weren’t old enough to see. But this is fucking DIE HARD.

The thing that really cemented my feeling on this was when I questioned whether the original Die Hard would still be a coherent and solid film if edited and trimmed down to a 12A. After much thought, I don’t think so. Sure, you could edit out that bit where the topless woman gets dragged out. You could linger less on McClane walking barefoot over broken glass etc, but at the core of it, it’s a mature, claustrophobic tale. Even if you cut out the majority of the swearing and violence, you’d still have objectionable material there because it wasn’t fucking made for kids. I really don’t think you salvage any sort of understandable narrative from it. I could be wrong on this. There probably are teen-friendly cuts of Die Hard aired on cable TV in the U.S. which is governed by the humourless FCC. Still, anyone with a brain knows that that isn’t the best way to watch a film.

Maybe I’m just getting my knickers in a twist over nothing. By all accounts, the film isn’t very good anyway and has problems far beyond what a bit of blood and a couple of fucks will fix. Still though, I really hope this isn’t a trend.

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