Surely you can't be surprised to see Live Free or Die Hard (a.k.a. Die Hard 4.0 taking the top spot here. The first three Die Hard movies were gritty, violent and profanity-ridden. You felt like John McClane was in danger at every turn. McClane's sarcasm and foul-mouthed diatribes were hilarious in R-rated form. Thus it was a terrible move for Fox to water down the film to a PG-13 just for more box office profits.
Okay, so I nevertheless like and enjoy Live Free or Die Hard due to a good cast and a number of good ideas. But every time I watch the movie, I can't help but imagine what the film could've been if someone like Shane Black doctored the script and made the film a hard R. Of course, the unrated version is still there, but it's a piss-poor effort to make the fanboys happy. Dubbed f-bombs and terrible CGI blood made no difference.
Despite Len Wiseman's competent direction, Live Free or Die Hard simply does not feel like a proper constituent of the Die Hard franchise.
It probably comes as no surprise to see Alien vs. Predator on this list considering it abandons what made the Alien and Predator franchises so successful. Instead of a hardcore action flick, this is a more family-friendly film about the battle between killer aliens and weapon wielding predators. I hope you caught the sarcasm in that sentence.
Looking back at the four Alien films and the two Predator films, there's a total of six films that are R-rated, and these aren't soft R films. Both Predator films are highly graphic in the violence department, and the chest bursting scenes of the Alien films are a source of talk anytime you bring up the films. So who exactly was Fox targeting when they decided to go for a PG-13 Alien vs. Predator if the built-in audience was obviously anticipating another R-rated and violence filled thriller? Who the hell knows?
I could go on and on about the endless problems plaguing Terminator Suckvation. I could use this in University lectures about how not to make a movie. But the truth is, most of the problems stem from one particular factor: the PG-13 rating. I mean c'mon, this is a war movie for which one person gets killed. And when they're shot, they just slump over. How unsightly.
Now look, it's not as if a few instances of CGI blood and a few f-bombs could fix this movie. Not by a long shot. But the decision to absolutely neuter this entry to the Terminator franchise took its toll on everything. The story, the characters, the dialogue, the action, and the intensity. Without the freedom to swear, it feels like the characters are always in control, hence no intensity and no sense that the characters are in danger. Without the freedom to craft a gritty, powerful war movie, the film looks crisp and clean, the story is unbelievably uninteresting, and the action is unexciting.
Imagine if Terminator Salvation was something more akin to Saving Private Ryan or Platoon. Now that would be a Terminator movie worth watching. But can you imagine Saving Private Ryan or Platoon being PG-13? They'd both be a disaster.
Armed with a PG-13 rating, a calm Bruce Willis and a pretty generic cast, 16 Blocks remains an enjoyable, well-directed action flick, but it's wholly forgettable and riddled with conventions. God knows it pushes the boundaries of its PG-13 rating, but the premise suggests the film to be a dark, gritty action-thriller - and the result is an action-thriller minus the dark and gritty.
Bruce Willis has described this film as an unofficial Die Hard entry, and it easily could've been a solid Die Hard 4 if only it was R-rated. It has the conventions of a John McClane adventure...minus the hardcore violence and constant profanity. 16 Blocks does sustain itself throughout, but it could have been so much better if director Richard Donner had fully embraced the atmosphere the film so direly needed. It's a wasted opportunity, really.
NOTE: This single entry represents the entire Bourne trilogy.
Without a doubt, the Bourne trilogy represents the smartest and best spy franchise out there. It's smarter and more intriguing than James Bond, and slicker than your usual action fare. But one factor which has always affected the movies is the choice to pursue a PG-13 rating. It'd be tough to make this trilogy any better, but it could've easily been more awesome if the filmmakers pursued an R-rating. Bourne is a trained killer, so why not add more blood during the fight scenes? Why not add a bit of profanity to up the intensity of certain scenes?
Reportedly, The Bourne Identity was originally scheduled to be R-rated as the original script was littered with profanity. But this was a time in which studios started watering down movies for docile ratings in order to maximise profits. Okay, sure, the Bourne flicks are excellent, but I can't help but ponder what they could have been if they were R.
I'll just use an extract from my review that pretty much covers it:
The film's primary problem rears its ugly head at the beginning: the PG-13 rating. Director Sylvain White actually insisted upon the PG-13 rating (whereas the studio was prepared to fund an R-rated picture), and this decision affects The Losers in a major way. The action scenes feel as if they're perpetually pulling punches, with the camera awkwardly shying away from capturing gunshot wounds, and the occasionally choppy editing accentuating the problem. A lack of blood and profanity detracts from the reality of the movie, as it merely feels like a bland product tailor-made for maximum box office profits.
As with a few other entries on this list, I admittedly did love this particular movie. As a spy thriller, it's excellent, with strong performances, a fast pace and some incredible action. But the PG-13 rating makes the film feel a bit gutless.
It's not as if I want every action movie to be violent for the sake of violent - exploitation can be as repugnant as pussifying an action movie. But when it comes to action sequences, some blood just makes things more satisfying. Watching people just drop dead after being shot, and noticing that the camera awkwardly shies away from capturing gunshot wounds...it just hampers the film. If this were a full-blown R-rated action fare with lots of blood and profanity, it would have taken it up a few notches in my opinion.
First of all, it'd be fair to say that... The Marine absolutely SUCKED. It was among the worst movies I have ever seen, and it's one of many movies I will never watch again in my lifetime. Ever. Not for a social gathering. Not if I was paid.
Once again, this is not a clearcut case of "add a few CGI blood spurts and throw in some f-words, and the film will be good." Not at all. But the film is forever hindered by the restraints. Everything. The characters, the tone, the set-pieces, etc. The plot is awful, sure, but imagine if it was more of a Commando-style action film, with lots of violence, silly one-liners and profanity. That'd be worth watching. But as a PG-13, it utterly fails.
To its credit, 12 Rounds was on the right track with a promising premise, an adequate cast and a capable director at the helm. I actually remember first hearing about it and being excited beyond belief. But then the PG-13 news hit. Due to this, I bypassed its cinema release and waited for DVD. When I finally viewed it, my fears were confirmed: the film could have been awesome if only it was a full-blown R-rated action film.
Imagine if 12 Rounds was more like Die Hard With a Vengeance in pedigree (it certainly borrowed a lot plotwise). Imagine if there were lots of cool, violent kills. Imagine if John Cena became a blood-soaked wreck by the end, a la Bruce Willis in the Die Hard movies. I hate it when I see potential getting hopelessly squandered like this.
The Spirit was designed and marketed as a hardboiled Sin City-style crime noir motion picture. Unfortunately, it can't hold a candle to Sin City, and this is mostly due to the style and tone.
For Sin City, Rodriguez went wild, spilling gallons of blood and dishing up a lot of gore. The main problem with The Spirit is tone, as it cannot decide whether it wants to be a hardcore action film, a noir action film, or a Looney Tunes-style slapstick comedy. Given the premise, it could've worked if only it was more like Sin City in tone... Plus, I think Frank Miller was a terrible choice as director, as he fucked up the pacing. So the rating decision isn't the only problem, but it's the most glaring.
In this cinematic age, studios have less balls -- most movies these days are aimed at the teenage market. There are so many forgettable PG-13 flicks that have entered multiplexes over the years that would've been so much better if the studio or the filmmakers decided to pursue an R-rated product.