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.
E.J. is just a simple man who loves movies. Don't judge.