Tough guy movies have been a staple of cinema for decades. It is a genre that has launched some of the most iconic and memorable characters in film. If you’re like us, then you love these movies and can probably quote lines from them all day. And if you’re like us, then you’re also leery of Hollywood and the tendency to constantly remake classic films.
“What’s wrong with a remake?” you may ask yourself. Well, the simple answer is Hollywood itself. Rather than take risks for possible greatness with the very real possibility of dropping like a bomb, Hollywood execs too often take the passive road of reaching back for titles that were hits when originally released. Once a title becomes chosen, the “development process” begins. This often means too many cooks in the kitchen all adding opinions to the mix. Oftentimes, the development process itself is a slow death for what may have been a great idea. The idea may never see the light of day, or it may languish for years and years until the creativity has been completely sucked out of it.
Why is remaking a tough guy film bad? Let’s roll with a great example. “Death Wish” is a tough guy film that immediately comes to everyone’s mind. In fact, it’s an ultimate film in the tough guy universe about an armed citizen so fed up with out-of-control crime that he takes the law into his own hands. “Death Wish” also stars Charles Bronson, who is without a doubt one of the quintessential, original tough guy actors. When it’s time to bring this classic back, only John McClane himself will do.
So, “Yippie ki-yay, mother*cker!” Here’s a tough guy film remade with one of our favorite tough guy actors, Bruce Willis. Didn’t see it or the preposterous full-auto AR scene at the end? Not many did, and honestly, you didn’t miss much. Our point is that catching lightning in a bottle is hard enough once in making a film. Twice can often prove impossible.
Other reasons tough guy films shouldn’t be remade are timing, political climate and casting. Timing, certainly, can have a giant impact on the success of a film. So, after much “dude talk,” we came up with examples of tough guy films that never need a re-boot.
At the top of the list of tough guy movies that shouldn’t be remade is “Dirty Harry.” At a time in our country when criminals seemed to be running the streets without repercussions (hmmm … sounds familiar), the timing for “Dirty Harry” couldn’t have been better. Frank Sinatra, played many tough guy roles, and almost became Harry Callahan. As we know, the role eventually went to Clint Eastwood, solidifying him as one of the most iconic tough guy actors in history. The James Bond franchise, the longest-running tough guy franchise in history, has shown us the perils of recasting an iconic character. Imagine any actor in the current Hollywood ranks speaking the line, “Do you feel lucky, punk?”
Another tough guy film we absolutely do not want to see remade is a favorite of all of ours, “Escape from New York.” While a remake could incorporate putting some rails or handguards on the police force’s M16s and updating some special effects, this one is off limits. Again, one of our main reasons we don’t want this tough guy film remade is casting. Kurt Russell may have started in the film business when he was 12 years old, but no matter the role, he will always be Snake Plissken first.
Number three in our tough guy film list is “Road House.” Yes, “Road House.” In many respects, this film is as cheesy as they get, and is a “go-to” programming choice for networks like TNT. Patrick Swayze is an ’80s icon and played different levels of the tough guy character in many of his films. He could dance, lead a guerrilla resistance against the commies, rob banks and, as “Road House” showcases, even do some solid fighting.
Sam Elliott also gives a solid performance as a second tough guy in the film, working at dives with signs that read, “Don’t eat the big white mint.” The movie even features a nasty prison sex line used by the bad guy in the middle of a fight; that alone would be enough of a disgusting distraction for us to get sucker punched. This is a classic late-’80s tough guy film with great timing.
We’re doing a deep dive for our next tough guy film “Billy Jack,” released in 1971. You may have caught this film late one night on TCM or another cable network. It’s the story of Billy Jack, part Navajo and former Green Beret (Rambo John J., anyone?). Billy Jack is tired of war and finds himself saving wild horses from slaughter and helping to protect a group of hippies and their school for runaways. This film is no award winner, but its timing at the end of the hippie movement can’t be replicated.
There are several other tough guy films we don’t want to see remade. However, the last one we’ll mention is “First Blood.” Based off David Morrell’s 1972 novel, it’s the story of homeless, Medal of Honor Green Beret John J. Rambo dealing with PTSD before it was a household term. An encounter with an ego-driven local sheriff sets things off in a bad direction. In the novel, Rambo dies. However, in the ’80s film, our readers know how the adaptation goes. Rambo cannot die because then Sly Stallone wouldn’t have had a franchise. This franchise may have had its worst installment with “Rambo: Last Blood,” trying to cast any other actor would be career suicide.