I’m a sucker for a good action trailer. By which I mean I’m a sucker for having my hopes unrealistically elevated by two minutes of standout action snippets, and subsequently being wildly disappointed by the two-hour version.
When I saw the new literally explosive trailer for Live Free or Die Hard, I got a familiar frisson of excitement… familiar because every element of the coming-attraction looked cribbed from an older action trailer.
Let us count the ways:
1) Angry White Men. Timothy Olyphant is the exact same kindof calmly threatening, counter-typecast American villain as PhilipSeymour Hoffman was in Mission: Impossible 3. He speaks softly(though clichéd lines like “You have no idea who you’re dealing with”are no less cliché when they come out of the mouth of an understatedactor), grimaces when the hero undermines his plans like someone’s justplucked out a single one of his pubic hairs, and holds the hero’s lovedone hostage (While it was Tom Cruise’s wife in M:I 3, it’s Bruce Willis’ daughter here. Bonnie Bedelia — his wife from Die Hards 1 and 2 — is apparently too old to give the movie that hot-woman-in-jeopardy snuff-film thrill).
2) Trucks amok. Nothing says destruction like Willis driving a giant Mack Truck and turning station wagons into roadkill. Well, Terminator 3 said it. And The Matrix: Reloaded. But other than that, nothing!
3) Duck! Props must go to the Die Hard filmmakers forfinding a slightly new twist on a car startling the audience by flyingright at the camera. But its basic effect is starting to make me worry:this stunt recurs so much that it could be dangerous to America’spedestrians. Will moviegoers eventually become so jaded that when theday finally comes that a car actually flies at their head, they won’tduck? We have to stay on our toes, people.
4) Go Wag Yourself. The last third of the trailer’s carnageis accompanied by a Wagnerian knockoff chorale. The editors probablycongratulated themselves on not using Carl Orff’s ubiquitous Carmina Burana as well. But when it’s this similar, they might as well have.
5) Jet Fool. A fighter plane blows up a bridge, and then Willis jumps off its tail. Totally original, I wouldn’t True-Lie to you.
6) I’m gonna kick this cliché’s (BOOM!) Since record playersbecame obsolete, trailer editors have had to look for a new sound toreplace the needle scratch to cut off dialogue right before a swear isuttered. For the past decade, an explosion has worked perfectly. Hence,”Yippeekiyay, motherf—–” (KABLOOEY!) Frankly, this staple was usedto much greater effect in the trailer for Skeet Ulrich’s Chill Factor,when Cuba Gooding Jr. yells, “When this is all over, remind me to kickyour…” (KEE-RASH!) That cut-off nagged at me so much that I went tosee the movie just to solve the mystery of what Gooding would kick whenit was all over, whereas in Die Hard 4, I already know which mother Willis would like to yippeekiyay.
But who am I kidding? After all those complaints, I still oohed atWillis’ cop car smashing into a helicopter. And when it comes to actionmovies, it only takes one jolt to get me to the theater. Just because Ican spot a potential time-waster a mile away doesn’t mean I ever haveto learn my lesson.