The Deleted Fight from A Good Day to Die Hard – Previz by Eric Jacobus, Alvin Hsing, and J. J. Perry

After we spent a week at 87eleven, Alvin Hsing and I came away with this video to show what came of our efforts – a pre-viz (choroegraphed and shot rough version) for the final knife fight in A Good Day to Die Hard (that’s Die Hard #5). The scene called for McClane to face off against the film’s villain Alik on a rooftop, with Alik wielding a knife and using some combination of Krav Maga and some basic Silat. McClane is, of course, limited to his wits and left-handed haymakers, which was a lot of fun. Lock an artist in a room and he’ll build a city.

I play John McClane fighting the Alik character, played by Alvin. It’s an American-style fight with some Hong Kong flare, but done in a way to 1. take advantage of the fact that Willis is left-handed and 2. not overload the producers with “shoe leather”, or excessive martial artsy stuff. You know, that straight, industrial-grade action that we all drink by the gallon, the side effect being that we now require it on a daily basis.

But perhaps it was still too much, as the fight never made it into the film. I can’t say whether it was filmed and subsequently edited out, but judging by the structure of the finale of A Good Day it’s apparent that they never shot it at all.

So maybe we will.

All in all it was a huge joy primarily to work with JJ Perry in crafting the scene, with Chad Stahelski nearby. They would tell us when we were taking it too far in certain directions, since these guys know producers from an action standpoint like nobody else. We had some fun ideas that were just too Hong Kong-y, like a flying headbutt that was tied off so my body would stop mid-air when the contact line was hit, as well as a LOT more shoe leather. I love that stuff. Also working with Jeremy Marinas, who aside from being of the world’s best trickers is also a hell of a photographer, was straightforward and fun since we both knew the best angles for action, which tended to be the same. The Natural Law of Action shines through.

The Gold Rush

The Running Man Still Predicted An Optimistic Future

The Running Man

In The Running Man the future is depicted as an authoritarian police state with a broken economy. When our man Richards (Schwarzenegger) faces airport security and has no travel pass, he rummages through his bag until a line of anxious tourists forms behind him. “We got a plane to catch!” one yells, so the guard lets him go! Watching it today, we’re shocked at how stupid this is.

But airport security was like this in 1987, back when you boarded the plane on a staircase outside the airport, so we all believed the scene. Today, Richards would have been arrested after a DNA analysis of his dandruff, unless facial recognition software caught him first.

This depiction of the Orwellian Police State in The Running Man recalls the 80s when trust levels were so high that you could jump onto an airplane just by threatening to slow down business. They projected this sentiment into the dystopian future, which was complete with game shows, money spewing from every crack, and what in general seems like a lot of vibrant, happy people, a stark contrast to the 2010s’ Hunger Games or Looper.

Art Films Masquerading as Action Films

Drive-PosterI have a theory that art films are starting to masquerade as action films because in a globalized economy, producers can’t pick any contemporary villains, so characters’ conflicts end up being directed internally. Hence, we get a slew of boring action movies, which hire the best talent to pepper the film with 5-10 minutes of amazing action scenes, “delivering on the promise”, but still manage to leave audiences starving for more ass-kicking. Haywire, Drive, Killing Them Softly, and Looper are recent examples.

But demand for good action keeps increasing in the West, especially under hard economic times, and it’s not being delivered in spades here the way the market demands it. That makes my job incredibly easy. Seriously, Hollywood and Europe, keep it up.

How Science Fiction Lost Its Edge – A Genre Study

While working on a science fiction concept I’m developing, it’s been interesting to study how the genre itself functions. Science Fiction has two key responsibilities:

  • Predicts the logical ends of a technological trajectory and sets it up as the conflict.
  • Utilizes current filmmaking and computer technology in a profound way.Or “Tech-porn”. Often sci-fi films will have throwaway scenes that really have no place in the story except to showcase a new technology. These are necessary for the trailer, so they’re  forgiven because they’re profound enough to elicit a strong response.

    (My favorite example is in Total Recall, where police see an x-ray of Quaid’s gun, so he just breaks through the x-ray glass, toward them! The police then cower and let him run away. The scene obviously had no logic to it, yet it’s iconic, so it’s forgiven.)

This is backed up by Wiki’s explanation:

Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible (or at least non-supernatural) content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities. Exploring the consequences of scientific innovations is one purpose of science fiction, making it a “literature of ideas”.

We expect sci-fi films to extrapolate on our current trajectories and set those up as the conflict. AI goes berserk (2001, Terminator), space travel finds more than it bargained for (Alien), and playing God goes bad (Jurassic Park, Gattaca). It’s what the genre promises. Take what we know about technology and show the consequences. The results of scientific innovation could be positive, but when a human is the main character, the genre tends to fall into the realm of man vs. technology. This is not an error of mere convention, but rather how stories have evolved over thousands of years.

Yet many recent sci-fi films depict scenarios already unacceptable, such as increased pollution, corporations exploiting the population, oppressive police states rising to power, etc. To make them “sci-fi”, technological elements are mixed in, often as solutions to the problem rather than problems in and of themselves. These stories are “What-if” scenarios, not logical ends to scientific innovation. Contrary to these, I can predict with certainty that in 10 years, no matter who takes office, there will be more green energy, smarter artificial intelligence, less religion, no time travel, and no zombie Hitlers. Last two notwithstanding, it’s disappointing that sci-fi filmmakers rarely tackle such issues.

In case you’ve been in a cave for the last 30 years, you won’t be surprised to hear that government-funded Science (with a capital S) has settled into a cozy era that has placed it on the pedestal. Artists are less inclined to predict its drawbacks and more interested in “what-if” scenarios should the trend reverse. That is the new sci-fi. Exceptions aside, for a genre which produced dozens of classics before the 2000s, its continual reneging on its promises has cause it to go soft and limp.

Basically, sci-fi sucks because Science takes itself so goddamn seriously.

My prediction is that this trend will not reverse any time soon, unless somehow Science loses its government funding and falls from grace, or an alternate information source springs up that competes with it. Until then, there are thousands of sci-fi concepts just dying to be made, and the audience is still there. It’s a good time to be a genre filmmaker.