DIE HARD 2
Hey gang, it’s part 2 of the “Die Hard” retrospective, I’m going to be talking about the first sequel in the series, “Die Hard 2.”
The first thing that I’ll say is that almost everything I read gives this movie the ridiculous official title “Die Hard 2: Die Harder.” But the only times the movie even uses “Die Harder” is in its promotional material. The movie itself only calls it “Die Hard 2.” It may be nit picky, but “Die Harder” is just so cheesy, I only refer to it as “Die Hard 2.”
This one was based off of another novel. Whereas the first movie was based off “Nothing Lasts Forever” by Roderick Thorpe, the plot to this one is taken from the book, “58 Minutes” by Walter Wager, although I have no clue how faithful this adaptation is. “58 Minutes” has absolutely no relation to “The Detective” series.
This one becomes more of the type of action movie that the first one differentiated itself from. One of the factors is because the director of the original, John McTiernan declined to return because he felt he would be repeating himself. So, the one to step up to the plate is Renny Harlin, who made the “Die Hard”-type movie “Cliffhanger” and even a film a that cloned the third “Die Hard” movie with wrestler John Cena called “12 Rounds.” Here, I feel Renny Harlin does a serviceable job, but the drop in directing quality is pretty evident. He tries to duplicate the formula, but he tries too hard. In fact, I once read a top ten list of “Die Hard” clones where number 1 was actually “Die Hard 2” which I found pretty amusing.
Bruce Willis, his wife played by Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald Vel Johnson, and even William Atherton, who played the blood-thirsty reporter, Richard Thornberg from the first one, reprise their roles. Here, it’s established that McClane is back with his family, now as a cop in LA and he even became somewhat famous after the events of the first movie. He’s at Dulles Airport in Washington D.C. during a snowstorm waiting for his wife to arrive for Christmas vacation.
While he waits, a group of mercenaries plan to hijack the airport. How do you hijack an entire airport? Well, you’ll have to watch the movie cause it’s too complicated to explain in this review. In short, they reroute landing power from the airport tower to their own secret base. Their goal is to intercept a plane that’s transporting a Central American drug lord of a country the movie invented. He’s jailed and he’s paying the mercenaries to break him free. So, the mercenaries suspend landing of all flights until the drug lord’s plane lands. This means McClane’s wife remains in the air in danger of losing fuel.
McClane catches on from the very beginning when he spots two mercenaries doing some sort of recon work in the baggage area. He tries to alert authorities, but through some weird personal vendetta, he decides to handle it himself. And that’s part of the problem I have with this entry. McClane becomes a little too willing to get in on the action in this one. In the first one, he exhausts all options before getting involved himself. Although he isn’t too gung ho about it. He tries to alert the tower after he gets in a fire fight with the bad guys, but the McClane of the first movie couldn’t wait to step aside for the LA police and here, he goes out of his way to bring down the mercenaries. I understand his wife is on one of the planes, but his wife was held up at gunpoint in the first movie and he didn’t want to be the one to save her! Here, he willingly works by himself. It’s almost like he gets caught up in his own press like they say in the movie.
The main villain this time around is Colonel Stuart played by another character actor, William Sadler, whom you may recognize from “The Shawshank Redemption” and who hilariously played the Grim Reaper in “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.” Colonel Stuart is a villain archetype that we see all the time in action movies. He has a cold gaze and stern delivery. He doesn’t have too much charisma, and I can understand that, since he’s more of a military-type character, but with better writing, he could’ve been a lot more memorable. He does have a memorable introduction though. The first we see of Colonel Stuart, he’s doing some sort of Martial Art kata in his hotel room naked. Uh, thanks. Wasn’t expecting that! Although it’s sort of awkward to watch, it does show his character is pretty hardcore in some way. This scene was actually taken and used in a Chinese “Die Hard” clone starring Jet Li! Although, the villain was just in his underwear.
I would go more into the plot, but really, it’s just a rehash of the first one. The whole movie takes place around the airport. Everyone works against John again. I mean, did we really need the reporter, Thornberg, to come back? The characters in this one fall a bit short, but they don’t necessarily hurt the movie either. They really do try duplicate the intelligence of the original, but it’s just far too over the top to be taken as seriously. And here, John’s jokes are even cheesier than the first movie. I think I read somewhere that they let Willis improvise a lot more in this movie and it shows.
The suspense, save for maybe a couple scenes, is all gone. It’s a straight up action movie. And they up the ante of the first one. Here, planes explode, the body count is probably the highest in the series and McClane is put into extraordinary situations. There’s a particularly fun scene where McClane is locked in a cockpit of a plane and the mercenaries throw grenades through the windshields. All the grenades take a laughably long time to explode. Enough time for McClane to react, come up with a plan to escape, strap himself into an ejector seat, then eject. I’m not experienced with grenades, but even in the movie world, that took a while. It does showcase some pretty cool special effects though.
In another fun, over the top, scene, McClane enters a skywalk shootout from the air ducts from maybe two stories up, drops down and rolls into the middle of gunfire! If you’ve ever played a first-person shooter video game, you know that won’t give you any clear advantage! This whole scene is hilarious, but pretty awesome too. It’s a typical 90’s action scene.
It’s all fun though. This movie may have traded its suspense for action, but at least it’s entertaining. This one is more of a guilty pleasure for me. It’s almost like a parody of the first one. John even says to himself, “How can the same thing happen to the same guy twice?” That should tell you everything. It’s more tongue in cheek and even more violent than the first one. John McClane may feel different, but he’s still a charismatic character and it’s a pretty fun story to watch.
TWO AND A HALF STARS OUT OF FOUR.
One more thing of note, the edited for TV version of this movie is notoriously bad.
Coming up, John McTiernan returns as director for the third movie,”Die Hard with a Vengeance.” Stay tuned.
Here is a short I made for my Producing/Directing I class. It was the first project that I was fully in charge of (acting, writing, producing, choreography, editing, directing [although the credit went to my cinematographer, Aaron Ward]).
I used the opportunity to experiment with filmmaking methods such as dolly shots, ADR and other sound designs, along with choreographed fight scenes.
It's not without its flaws. I wish I could've made the script less melodramatic since it's from a concept that I wanted to use for a full length feature film, but when I condensed it down, it became forced.
I worked with a cool stunt team from ATA Martial Arts on this project and filming took one day. I hope you enjoy!
For most of my life, I have been a huge Jackie Chan fan. What can I say? His action scenes are an utter pleasure and a feast for the eyes that no amount of CGI can duplicate. It’s a real testament to creativity and the abilities of the human body.
We probably wouldn’t have Parkour or Freerunning today if it wasn’t for Jackie.
After Bruce Lee died, producers tried to pigeon hole Jackie as the new Bruce Lee in a series of films that flopped when it tried to imitate him. After a while, Jackie was finally given creative freedom, and as a lover of American silent films, he created his own brand of martial arts. This is my top 10 Jackie Chan fights. These are my opinion, yours may differ, and that's ok. This is purely for entertainment.
Honorable Mention: Fighting Jet Li in “Forbidden Kingdom”
When this movie hit, all martial arts fans were geeking out at the match up that finally transpired. It was the perfect trifecta. Jackie vs Jet and choreographed by arguably the best choreographer, Yuen Woo Ping. It’s a great fight and it goes on for a while, but I feel both have had better and it’s more of the novelty of it being Jackie vs Jet that really elevates it from being average.
10: Warehouse fight from “Rumble in the Bronx”
Like most American audiences, I didn’t see this until it hit US theatres. Watching this with a group of people exposed to Jackie for the first time was simply awesome. People were going crazy at the insanity. Jackie plays a tourist in New York who becomes the target of gang violence and he takes them all on in their own lair littered with items that Jackie uses against them!
9: Chemical Plant fight from “Dragons Forever”
Jackie plays an attorney who unwittingly defends an environmental criminal. After the trial, his two best friends expose his client and in the finale, they all brawl with the very people he kept out of jail. Here, Jackie has a great one-on-one with Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, who he’d actually fought in another fight that will show up on this countdown. The use of environment and all the falls are painful and make you cringe. It’s all great!
8: Construction site fight from “Heart of Dragon”
Jackie plays a cop with a mentally challenged brother who he takes care of by himself. Kind of like a Kung Fu-“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.” It’s one of Jackie’s rare dramas. His brother accidentally becomes a person of interest for the mob and when he’s kidnapped, Jackie goes into insane protective mode. This is a rare time when Jackie is pissed and gets violent. Not much physical comedy.
7: One on One with Benny “The Jet” from “Wheels on Meals”
Jackie and brothers butt heads with bad guys in a castle. This is the first of his fights with Benny “The Jet” and it’s regarded as the best martial arts fight ever in movies. As you can see by its placement, I disagree, but I understand what makes it so great! It’s like watching a boxing match! Jackie is getting countered in every maneuver he makes, so he relies on his training to get him through it. It’s a scientific fight, full of fake outs and diversions.
6: Restaurant fight from “Miracles”
This is a close number 6 because it’s just incredible. Jackie pulls out so many incredible maneuvers, it’s just amazing to watch what a man like that can accomplish. He uses doorways, railings, and booths to his advantage in an incredible display complete with painful falls from the bad guys!
5: Playground fight from “Police Story 2”
A playground is the most natural place for a Jackie Chan fight. The way he uses normal environments as a playground, it’s only inevitable that he actually fights on a playground. Here, the fight exceeds just using the equipment to his advantage, although it’s quite a sight and the falls look so painful. The fight turns up a notch when metal pipes are introduced into the fight and Jackie UNLEASHES on all of them!
4: Factory fight from “Drunken Master 2”
This has an American release under the title “Legend of Drunken Master.” Its finale is a 15 minute spectacle of pure martial arts and stunts! It features the actor who plays Liu Kang in the first two ‘Mortal Kombat’ video games and the mad kicker at the end is Jackie’s former bodyguard. It’s no wonder he hired him. This finale took four months to film and every effort shows. Simply amazing!
3: One on One with Brad Allen in “Gorgeous”
This is an interesting movie, because it’s a Jackie Chan romantic comedy, but not a good one. I would be very receptive to a Jackie Chan romcom. However, in this movie, he plays a millionaire businessman whose rival sends a talented, young fighter to fight him for sport. There are two fights they have in this movie, but the end fight is the best. It’s simple, no props. Just martial arts.
2: Rooftop two on one in “Who Am I?”
Silly title, fun movie. Jackie plays an undisclosed military agent who loses his memory and has to piece together a conspiracy not knowing who to trust. It’s like a simpler Bourne movie. Jackie has a fight on a rooftop with two henchmen that goes on for a while. And that’s why it’s number 2. It’s a long fight! It goes through so much amazing choreography! It changes from comedy to fighting to stunts then back to fighting. They go everywhere in the fight!
1: Mall Brawl from “Police Story”
This was the very first movie I saw Jackie in at the tender age of 6 when my cousins showed it to me when I visited them in the Philippines. Jackie plays a rookie cop who makes a big bust at the beginning of the movie with a Hong Kong crime lord. All throughout the movie, his men put Jackie through the ringer. He protects a witness who works for the bad guy and won’t cooperate. He’s framed for murder. He’s forced to hold his station hostage so he could clear his name. It all culminates in an all out brawl between Jackie and the population of goons working under this Hong Kong crime lord. It takes place at a mall and EVERYTHING breaks apart! Glass shatters everywhere. Men are kicked down escalators. And brutal, quick choreography with a pissed off Jackie Chan! It’s probably the angriest he’s ever been! Top it all off with a three story slide down a pole to get to the ground floor to catch the bad guy. Jackie’s injuries were alarming when he did this stunt! It’s the first I’ve seen of his and he hasn’t done anything to top it!
*Scene starts at 8:52
E.J. is just a simple man who loves movies. Don't judge.