Saturday, January 12, 2013

Why an R-rating for A Good Day To Die Hard matters...

Bruce Willis let it be known to Harry Knowles late Friday night (and Fox confirmed sometime later) that A Good Day To Die Hard will be opening on February 14th, 2013 with an R-rating.  That's somewhat of a surprise, since Live Free Or Die Hard infamously went out as a PG-13 and still ended up as the biggest domestic grosser of the series.  On the other hand, it still earned less worldwide than Die Hard: With a Vengeance way back in 1995 and is actually the lowest-grossing entry in the series when adjusted for inflation, so it stands to reason that the PG-13 didn't make a difference either way.  Of course, cutting down a movie for a PG-13 to get the kids and then opening it on the same weekend as a Pixar movie is somewhat stupid, but I digress.  Of course, the fact that the film is going to be R-rated doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be good.  Heck, it may not mean anything other than John McClane saying "fuck" more than once amid otherwise bloodless (or hastily CGI-inserted bloody) violence.  From the sound of Willis's statement, it seems that Fox wasn't aiming for an R-rated movie, but that they are merely willing to accept the MPAA's position.  This is itself is encouraging and possibly a sign of a 'new day' for mainstream studio films.  

I've written before about the fact that 2012 saw a reemergence of mainstream studio fare that went out as R-rated.  That trend continues this month with every single wide release in January save the PG-13 horror drama Mama being R-rated.  It may be too much to hope for that the fatally-butchered Taken 2 was perhaps the final gasp of the dreaded R-13?  I've written countless times about the R-13, which is basically when studios take a film that is clearly intended to be R-rated and either construct it just so as to escape with a PG-13 (think The Bourne Legacy, Vantage Point, or Angels & Demons) or hastily re-edit the film in post-production so as to get a PG-13 despite containing arguably R-rated violence and R-rated sensibilities (think Lockout, Sucker Punch, and yes, Live Free Or Die Hard).  What we've seen over the last year are several high profile films that didn't just get released with R-ratings, but got to keep their R-ratings despite not necessarily having to do so.  Fox ironically led the charge here.  Yes, they allowed Taken 2 to get butchered to a PG-13, but I presume they were just reading the tea leaves on the first installment's massive domestic numbers.

Nonetheless, they let Ridley Scott keep his R-rating for Prometheus, even though it could have easily been cut to a PG-13 with only a few alterations regarding a major second act scene (the rest of the film is relatively restrained in its violence).  Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was even more of a financial risk without that PG-13 to snag the teen boys that the film was arguably aimed at, yet it went out as an R anyway.  Warner Bros.' The Gangster Squad is surely filled with gunfire and lethal violence, but much of its blood is CGI and Warner darn-well could have cut the film to a PG-13, especially after the Aurora theater shootings tainted the film through unintentional association.  But out it went this weekend, R-rated and bloody as all-get out.  My issues with The Gangster Squad aside, I appreciated its commitment to gratuitous violence and excessive bloodshed the likes we haven't seen in a major studio non-horror release (not helmed by Tarantino, natch) in quite some time.  And this weekend sees the release of Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Last Stand, a film that wavered between ratings before Lionsgate decided to go for the R.

And now we have A Good Day To Die Hard, which surely could have played just as well, give or take, as the PG-13 rated Live Free Or Die Hard with the blood digitally removed and the "f-bombs" dubbed.  Yet 20th Century Fox will unleash this fifth Die Hard film as an R-rated adult entertainment, damn the potential consequences on the domestic box office front.  What's encouraging about these recent releases isn't just that the studios are releasing them as R-rated, but that they don't seem to care as much about what rating the film happens to get.  Had A Good Day To Die Hard been awarded a PG-13 by the MPAA, Fox would have just released it as is.  Same with Prometheus.  But both films got hit with R-ratings and thus Fox just said 'so be it' rather than demanding cuts or alterations.  What we're seeing is a possible return to the late-90's, where studios may have preferred PG-13 ratings when possible but weren't dead-set on it.  A Good Day To Die Hard may still be a bad movie (or not... Live Free Or Die Hard was much better than most expected), but the fact that Fox and other studios aren't quite as obsessed with the "PG-13 at all costs!" dogma is still to be saluted.

Scott Mendelson

1 comment:

dashing d said...

I have never ever, had any faith in the american film ratings. I happen to live in the uk, and am fairly proud of our much better film ratings! From what i understand almost everything, is some sort of pg rating. Indeed the r rating is so weak out there, its just a pg-17 in reallity! We have over here age ratings for our 15 and 18 movies.....its time thay out there started protecting their children, and no longer go on with these supid laughable film ratings!


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