By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, William Sadler, John Amos, Dennis Franz and William Atherton.
Let me get this out of the way right at the outset: the plot to Die Hard 2 is flat-out stupid. You can drive a truck through some of the ridiculous plot holes and convenient occurences that take place throughout the film’s entire 124 minute running time. Let’s think about the main plot of Die Hard 2 for just a bit: a terrorist group holds up an airport, controls its towers and puts together a scheme of an anti-terrorist group (led by Amos) in order to break out a drug lord. All this work for a drug lord?! And that is not the start of it. But, here’s the thing about Die Hard 2: it is one of those rare films that you can care less about all the lapses in logic on display because it is a hell of a good time.
Maybe part of the reason I enjoy the 2nd film of this series so much is the fact that Willis is at his best here. After the surprise hit from a couple of years before known as Die Hard, I for one was aching to see him return. And return he did. Passing along a rapid fire display of one liners (‘just the fax’) and letting his every day appeal swoon an airline worker, I really enjoyed his portrayal of John McClane in this one. And while letting him and Holly (a returning Bedelia) enjoy a happy marriage takes away some of the tension of its 1988 predecessor, it was fine with me. Their scenes of interaction helped humanize the situation at hand. Because in the end, John still has to rescue not only her, but all the hundreds of other airplane passengers. One of which includes Thornberg, played again by Atherton. The situation that reaqcainted Holly and Thornberg was ridiculously contrived, and I would have been happy if Atherton was nowhere to be found in Die Hard 2. But, I went with it, and, for the most part, their scenes are pretty fun. Another disadvantage this film had as compared to its predecessor was the supporting characters. The only one I really enjoyed was Franz, whose exchanges with Willis had me laughing pretty hard. Everyone else was either too bland or too much of a pain in McClane’s side for me to even care. That is not to say there is a lack of intense action in Die Hard 2. In fact, in a lot of ways this is an even darker film than the original.
That darkness could probably be attributed to a new director at the helm. Renny Harlin, whose only film with a budget he had on his resume in 1990 was A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 (apparently, the dailies from The Adventures of Ford Fairlane got him this job) is in charge here. And I have to say, that for the most part, I was impressed with what Harlin brought to the table. His action scenes were very slick & fast paced, and his decision to show the inside of a plane minutes before terrorists take it down was a powerful one. We see old people and young people alike, going about their business as passengers on a plane, completely unaware that they were about to go up in flames. In today’s climate, a scene such as this would probably not exist. But it was after this that we realize these terrorists mean business, and Holly was in serious trouble. Harlin’s stand out action scenes include a great gun fight inside a skywalk and a terrific snow mobile chase. Very different shots than what original helmer John McTiernan would have done. But, it is what gives Die Hard 2 that extra shot of adrenaline.
Let’s face it: The sheer joy of a villain Alan Rickman was as Hans Gruber is a tough act to follow. And I think the filmmakers took the correct route by hiring William Sadler as the villain of this one. It is a change of pace, as the way he is introduced (doing naked calisthenics) set the stage for just what kind of villain we have here. Sadler’s skeletal features and mostly calm demeanor is a contrast to be sure. But I think it works, and gives us fear that maybe McClane is at more of a disadvantage than he expected. Overall, I had a blast with Die Hard 2. Its storyline, as established, is beyond ridiculous. And a couple of the special effects shots have not aged well (hello Mr Flying Cursor.) But Harlin’s rapid fire directing and plenty of fun callbacks to the original film (it was great to see Al Powell back for the few minutes of screen time that he had) make this a more than adequate couple hours.
4 out of 5