Oh, The Ripoffs They’ll Make: A Seussian Guide To Bad ‘Die Hard’ Clones

By  · Published on September 7th, 2012

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; the only thing we shamelessly rip-off is the wrapper from our Arby’s Big Beef ‘n Cheddar. This is the weekly Internet movie column that shatters the crystalline standards of good taste. We lambast a bad movie and scatter the shards of its dignity across the floor. Then, like a senile geriatric rodeo clown, we scream yippee-ki-yay Mister Tucker and run barefoot over those shards, a testament to our troubling affinity for said bad movies, an affinity that does not die with ease.

Have you ever noticed how good Die Hard is? If your answer is anything other than “indubitably” or “shit yeah it is,” please give me your address so I can mail you one hundred dollars…that will probably look and feel like face punches but I promise are totally dollars. If you are among those whose faces are not currently in danger of postal pummeling, then you recognize the sheer awesomeness of John McTiernan’s violent ode to both Hitchcock’s wrong man theme and receding hairlines. For those of you who haven’t seen it, welcome to our planet and please give my regards to Lord Zoonax. It’s the story of a sweaty, tender-footed cop who goes to visit his estranged wife during a party in the tallest building in all of Die Hard. This unfortunately timed reunion occurs just before evil crime boss Severus Snape invades the party with an veritable food court of international terrorists. John McCop must sneak through air vents, eat Twinkies, and ruin office furniture in order to save the day. He also makes people die really, really hard.

Well you aren’t the only one who noticed the greatness of Die Hard, ok? So get over yourself. A great many of Hollywood’s most powerful producers, and a bunch of other people who made movies well under the radar of quality, borrowed liberally from Die Hard’s construct and themes to create shame-free, but many times shame-worthy, facsimiles. Since so many of these movies went so far as to be marketed as “Die Hard on a [insert vehicle here],” the catalog of ripoffs sort of reads like a Dr. Seuss novel. Yes, novel. Some of us don’t read as fast as you, alright? With that in mind, here’s a Seussian guide to these cheap knockoffs.

Would You, Could You On A Train?

Would You, Should You On A Plane?

In Under Siege 2: Under Siegier, Steven Seagal stars as a cook. Yeah, that’s only believable if the sole item on the menu is self-delusion. However, having already been given one outing as a pudgier version of John McClane, this supposed martial artist boards a train and takes on Eric Bogosian, the only terrorist whose name has proved the foible of many an elementary school spelling bee contestants. Eric BoggyCreekian takes control of a speeding train and Seagal is forced to save the world AND Katherine Heigl. We would’ve been satisfied with just the world, thanks.

He is teamed up in this sequel with Wesley Snipes, who also stars in Die Hard on a plane: Passenger 57. A flight Snipes is aboard is beset by baddies. But, don’t worry, he assures us things will work out as long as we always bet on black. Sound advice, unless of course you’re betting against the IRS. To be fair, Passenger 57 is the best Die Hard ripoff to be co-created by the director of Mannequin 2: On the Move.

Would You, Could You On A Bus?

Or On An Ice Rink If You Must?

I fundamentally disagree that Speed is a Die Hard rip-off. One of its main characters is a cop specifically sent onto the bus to battle the terrorist plot; the terrorist who by the way harbors an agenda against him. This all negates the wrong man/wrong place/wrong time/wrong footwear tenet of Die Hard. However, it was touted as “Die Hard on a bus” so it would be foolhardy to ignore it. Speed is a film that features an out-of-control piece of lifeless machinery…who would later go on to star in The Matrix. Pop quiz, hot shot: how do you make a bus fly? Brainlessly. Actually, I’m quite glad this movie was made. Finally, FINALLY, a film that makes public transportation just as scary as public transportation already is. It’s reasonable to postulate that Speed itself was plagued by the same fate as the passengers of that bus. If it slowed to less than three exasperatingly idiotic plot points per minute, the whole movie would explode.

And then there’s Sudden Death, which is Die Hard at a hockey game. This turned out to be quite convenient, as it was Die Hard night at the arena and the first five hundred Die Hards got a souvenir mug. Former-fireman-turned-security-guard Darren McClane McCord, just happens to be at the NHL playoffs when that guy from Southern Comfort takes hostages and demands ransom. If the scene in which Jean-Claude Van Damme battles a penguin mascot seems overwhelmingly goofy, it’s probably because the movie was originally developed as a comedy, as a parody of action films.

The epic showdown of Belgian vs. Foam-based Flightless Aquatic Bird was the only scene from the original script that survived when the producers realized that if Jean-Claude Van Damme tried to parody himself, no one would notice. Sudden Death features some legitimately ambitious stunt work. A helicopter crashes in the middle of the rink, our hero swings from the stadium rafters like it’s Cirque du Van Damme, and Powers Boothe convincingly disguises himself as a member of the Backstreet Boys.

Would On A Boat Be A Bummer?

How About McCLane As a Drummer?

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip. It started out as Die Hard then was placed aboard a ship. The original Seagal knockoff of Die Hard, Under Siege, was promoted as “Die Hard on a battleship,” which incidentally is what Peter Berg’s career succeeded in doing this summer. Seagal is basically John McClane after a lengthy and painful personalityectomy. He takes on a terrorist cell headed by rock-n-roll Tommy Lee Jones. I’m going to repeat that to let the incongruity of those words sink into your brains: rock-n-roll Tommy Lee Jones. He also must contend with a rogue, cross-dresssing Naval officer played by Gary Busey. This of course proves that the Navy really did adhere to the policy of don’t ask, don’t tell (anyone that you’re a forest fire of psychosis with an overbite that WILL ultimately eat your own face).

Moving on. Have you ever been watching Die Hard and thought to yourself, “I like this, but I really wish Bruce Willis was a drummer instead of a cop?” No, you haven’t. Or at least you’ve never said it out loud because you know full well that crazy statements like that summon the flying snakes who breathe lava on you and whisk you away to the land of permanent sleepwalk. That however is the basic premise of direct-to-video game Command Performance; the drummer thing, not the lave snakes.

This 2009 film stars wrinkled megaSwede Dolph Lundgren as the drummer of a rock band playing a concert in Russia when terrorists attack, take hostages, and demand ransom. Two things become readily apparent upon reading that synopsis. First, it was sure nice of the Russian terrorists to attack their own country for a change. *Cough* Wolverines *Cough* Second, given the aged, leathery hero, Command Performance is officially Die Hard on Medicare. The pop star Lundgren must protect, and I can’t for the life of me understand the presence of the word “must” in that phrase, wasn’t so much “cast” as she was “culled together from the greasiest spare parts in Dr. Skankenstein’s laboratory.” If it weren’t for the fact that at one point Dolph Lundgren takes down a Russian terrorist with only the pure power of rock, Command Performance would be a complete failure. As that last sentence is something that actually happens in the film, however, it is a masterpiece.

Take Rudy Hostage, Far Too Mean?

Better to Terrorize a Beauty Queen?

Step by step, heart to heart, we all fall down, to watch Toy Soldiers. This is the film in which a prestigious school for juvenile delinquents, who happen to all have rich parents, is taken over by a South American terrorist played by Andrew Divoff. Divoff is possibly the most stereotypical and least believable South American character to ever be played by an actual South American. Toy Soldiers so badly wants to be Die Hard when it grows up, if it could just make it through that awkward Red Dawn stage. You know the stage I mean, when your voice changes and none of your clothes fit…because C. Thomas Howell got shot in them. There’s even a scene in Toy Soldiers in which Sean Astin crawls through an air vent, which would be really impressive if he weren’t halfling. These kids fight evil with the deadliest of weapons: soccer balls, cutoff denim vests, and a family-friendly problem with a authority. And I’m not saying Toy Soldiers has some blatantly homoerotic scenes, what I am saying is that I lied in the first half of this sentence.

Recent scientific studies have shown that Bruce Willis is not a female. However, someone clearly decided that always making a man the put-upon savior a group of suddenly abducted hostages was sexist and set out to give women a Jane McClane they could be proud of. The obvious choice was therefore Shannon Tweed. As if that weren’t enough, the conceit of 1995’s No Contest is that it’s “Die Hard at a beauty pageant.” Hey, that’s perfect…if the terrorists’ only weakness is scripted answers about world peace and what you’re going to do with your telecommunications degree.

The Hans Gruber of this piece is played by Andrew Dice Clay, a man who prior to this had only terrorized comedy clubs and his own dignity. Somewhere between the noticeable seams of the “special” effects, which were clearly operating under a budget of $WhateverIsInTheGarage and Tweed continuously looking surprised by the sound her own gun makes, it’s clear that No Contest is no Die Hard, not even with its shoehorning Robert “One Of The FBI Guys We’re Gonna Need More Of” Davi into the proceedings.

Junkfood Pairing: Candy Glass

A popular staple of action cinema stunt work is candy glass. This practical effect allows stuntmen to leap through windows unharmed but for a raging sugar rush. Here’s how you make it: fill a drinking glass with two ice cubes, a spritz of cold tap water, and three fingers of whiskey. Then, once you’ve poured yourself a drink, go Google how to make candy glass.

We advise you make a big batch of this stuff and spread it out in fragments across the floor; forcing your friends to walk across it. As they pick the slivers from their feet, they will be supplied with snacks throughout the rest of what I can only assume is your eighteen-hour Die Hardly marathon. Your guests will also probably bleed significantly less than if you used real glass.

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Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.