Yippee-ki-yay! The return of the R-rated action film
Photo: Warner Bros./20th Century Fox/Lionsgate
Good news, all you hardcore action junkies. It looks like it's once again a world of blood, guts and profane-laden quips out at your local multiplex.
Fans of resourceful and ever-cranky rogue cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) shook their heads in dismay just six years ago when 20th Century Fox announced that the fourth installment in the "Die Hard" series, "Live Free or Die Hard" (2007), would be getting a PG-13 rating. It was sad enough that ol' John would no longer be engaging in such extreme villain-dispensing tactics as sticking an icicle in someone's eye socket (one of the showstopper moments of director Renny Harlin's wretched yet compulsively watchable "Die Hard 2"), but the idea that he wouldn't be able to deliver his signature line -- "Yippie-ki-yay, motherf**ker!" -- in its entirety was cause to mourn the half-death of one of our favorite action icons.
As disappointing as it was, it certainly wasn't surprising that "Live Free or Die Hard" received a PG-13 rating. We were getting the vibe that it was only a matter of time before the action film starting going the way of the horror film -- becoming a watered-down version of itself in order to sell more tickets. Sure, it makes sense as a business model, there's no denying that. But what about, you know, artistic integrity? Where's the true artistry in cutting away before a body explodes or in not seeing every single bullet make its destructive impact against wimpy flesh in slow motion (another Harlin indulgence)?
Actually, the action genre's transition into PG-13 had commenced before "Live Free or Die Hard." The attempt to make Vin Diesel into a "James Bond with an Attitude" in "xXx" (2002) should've been filled with the sort of "extreme" material in which the title character was supposed to wallow, including shooting up a bunch of foreign threats to National Security and bedding a bevy of Euro-babes (including Asia Argento). The "Bourne" movies probably would've been R-rated spy games if they had come out just a decade earlier. And the less said about "AVP: Alien vs. Predator" (2004), the better.
Now, it looks like we're heading back to making action movies for grown-ups (or, rather, for kids who just sneak into them anyway). The McClane Collective exclaimed you-know-what when it was announced last week that the fifth "Die Hard" movie, "A Good Day to Die Hard," received an R rating. And John's latest adventure -- in which he blows up all of Moscow -- is being released on Valentine's Day. How's that for subversive?
Bruce isn't alone on this as other old-school action heroes are bringing back the foul-mouthed shoot-'em-ups. Sylvester Stallone brought the hard R for both "Rambo" (2008) and "The Expendables" (2010), proving that no one can bring the gore quite like an old man. Stallone stuck to his guns (and grenades, and knives, and rocket launchers ...) and made sure "The Expendables 2" (2012) followed suit, despite rumors of Chuck Norris (of all people) insisting the film get a PG-13 rating. And speaking of "Expendables 2," Sly's co-star Arnold Schwarzenegger is back this weekend in "The Last Stand," his first starring role since 2003's "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" (which was R-rated, unlike its 2009 successor, "Terminator: Salvation"). The English-language debut of "I Saw the Devil" director Kim Jee-woon has been "rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, and language."