It’s been a rough few years for John McTiernan, the director who commonly blurs the line between craftsman and artist thanks to his genre-defining work on films like “Die Hard” and “Predator.” Thankfully, things seem to be turning around for the filmmaker, as Variety is reporting that McTiernan has lined up his first gig following his 12-month prison sentence (tangentially tied to the Anthony Pellicano wiretapping scandal that rocked Hollywood a few years ago): a nifty-sounding DEA thriller from Hannibal Classics entitled “Red Squad.” It will be good to have him back.
The trade describes the script, which was written by Cam Cannon (who is also producing) and Jorge Suarez, as centering on “a former DEA agent with a rogue streak and his select team of mercenaries who descend upon a Mexican border town to neutralize a drug lord.” While this may sound like a typical action vehicle, we suspect that McTiernan will bring the material to life with aplomb.
McTiernan’s prison sentence was connected to his hiring of Pellicano during the troubled production of 2002’s “Rollerball” in order to wiretap producer Charles Roven—even though Pellicano was already working for Roven (yes, seriously). When an FBI agent called McTiernan at his home and asked the filmmaker if he had ever hired Pellicano, McTiernan—who had just returned from traveling and was fumbling around with the kids—quickly said “no” and hung up the phone. He was later charged with lying to a federal officer and sentenced to one year in prison. Meanwhile, no other Hollywood player was ever charged or served jail time, even though, at the time, the Pellicano investigation was described as “Hollywood’s Watergate.”
The threat of jail time meant that McTiernan was uninsurable, which meant that many projects were developed and then abandoned (some resulting in lawsuits against McTiernan), and the sentence obviously meant that he would be out of commission for a full year. It says something that Hannibal Classics and Patriot Pictures (both of which will be financing the feature) believe in McTiernan enough to give him another shot—especially one so close to his release (he’s out in April and the movie is scheduled to begin production later that spring).
McTiernan’s last movie was the stylish, “Rashomon”-y thriller “Basic,” which came out way back in 2003 (!). It will be good to have his sophisticated visual sense—largely influenced by European art movies, which favored geographic orientation and long, interlocking shots—back on the cinematic landscape. Yippe-ki-yay, motherfucker.