Friday, September 10, 2010

Another action icon returns: John McTiernan to helm Shrapnel.

Just a few days after Jan De Bont inked a deal to end his seven-year sabbatical, now fellow action god John McTiernan is apparently back in the saddle as well. McTiernan, best known as 'that guy who directed Die Hard', is set to direct an original picture entitled Shrapnel, which will apparently involve two war veterans who hunt each other in some kind of game. Unbeknownst to me until today, he also has a project apparently in production called The Camel Wars, which involves an Iraqi-American being sent to fight in the Iraq War. According to IMDB, said action-drama will be released on June 1st, 2011.

Unlike Jan De Bont, who directed four films over five years, made a fifth (Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life) in 2003 and then vanished, McTiernan worked relatively steadily for a good seventeen years, making eleven films between 1986 (Nomads) and 2003 (Basic). Of course, McTiernan is known for the triple whammy of Predator (1987), Die Hard (1988) and The Hunt For Red October (1990).

Alas, general misfortune soon followed, as the mediocre Medicine Man (1992) and the 1993 Arnold Schwarzenegger box office and the critical stinker Last Action Hero (which to be fair, probably looked like a winner on paper) caused McTiernan to retreat to the Die Hard franchise for the third entry, Die Hard: With A Vengeance (1995). The $100 million+ costing sequel barely crossed $100 million in the US, but wracked up $266 million overseas, becoming one of the first films in modern times to far exceed its domestic gross overseas (the picture holds up exceptionally well fifteen years later).

1996 to 2003 brought a run of mediocre films that tanked at the box office, with the only bright spot being the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair. The 13th Warrior debuted at the end of summer 1999, and although it was better than expected, the studio barely bothered to market the troubled and delayed Michael Crichton adaptation (McTiernan was allegedly fired from the film). Rollerball and Basic came and went in 2002 and 2003, and that was the end of McTiernan until now.

So, while it's likely that the once-revered action filmmaker is past his prime, it's nice to see the man who reinvented action in the late 1980s (Die Hard was as much of a game changer as Batman was the next year) being given one last turn at the plate. That's assuming he can stay out of jail, as he's due to be sentenced on October 4th for giving false statements to law enforcement officers involved in the Anthony Pelicinio wiretapping scandal from a few years back. But that's another story...

Scott Mendelson

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