Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)
What’s It About: “Now I have a machine gun. Ho-Ho-Ho.” I’m not going into a scene-by-scene recap as I have been doing for my reviews. No. It’s too close to Christmas, I have presents to buy and wrap and had too much eggnog to drink. Plus this film isn’t really worth a recap because it tries to be the first one, pretty much copies it down to the Terrorists-that-really-aren’t-terrorists-plot-to-destroy-something-if-their-demands-aren’t-met-and-somehow-John-McClane-is-the-only-cop-who-can-stop-them-and-what-a-way-to-spend-Christmas plot. At one point in the first 45 minutes Bruce Willis actually says “Oh man, I can’t f@cking believe this. Another basement, another elevator. How can the same sh!t happen to the same guy twice?” Because you signed on to do a sequel, you moron! It would’ve been less insulting to the audience if he broke the fourth wall and said that line directly to us.
So instead of recapping this terrible sequel to one of the best action flicks of all time. I will just quickly nit-pick some stuff.
First off, Die Harder? Are there levels of difficulty to dying? If one way was a hard way to die is another way even harder to die? Does that imply that there’s a hardest way to die? If one person is hard to kill how can he be even harder to kill? How do you even measure that?
The main villain, played by William Sadler is introduced in the movie doing martial arts exercises butt-naked. It was the director, Renny Harlin’s idea to introduce the character that way. To quote Harlin it was “…an effective, but unusual way to introduce a character” How is that exactly? Effective? I’ll tell you what the effect is: confused. Was Harlin a homophobe? Did he think that by introducing the villain naked while he does martial arts was a way for the audience to find him repulsive or sinister? Is it more bad-ass to do martial arts naked? Remember, this is the character’s introduction so we don’t necessarily know he is the villain yet so the naked thing is just odd and out of left field. A very strange choice for a director to make if you ask me. If he was working out in a vat of mayonnaise while Enya played on the stereo it would be just as effective to me.
Alright, McClane is back of course and I can totally see him reunited and happy with his wife, Holly and I can somewhat forgive the lazy, cash-grab sequel mentality to make her the damsel-in-distress again but why is William Atherton’s Richard Thornburg character from the first one on the same plane as Holly?! Since she slugged him at the end of the original, he now has filed a restraining order against her (lame plot-point really) and she shouldn’t be within 50 yards from him, yet when he’s sitting a mere 5 feet from her, he expresses outrage; yet does nothing to get her far from him. After she tasers him in the airplane bathroom from jeopardizing the planes and causing trouble for the sake of his news story it again is pandering to the audience that we wish to see Holly get the better of Thornburg, because he’s such a heel. And while I’m ranting about Die Hard déjà vu, they even brought back Urkel’s dad, the portly LA cop who helped McClane in the first one to help him again over the telephone! What? No room for the limo driver, Argyle, in this sequel? It’s not like this film takes place in a circumstance like the first one, like say, it takes place again in LA where the coincidence could be more likely. But placing Thornburg and Holly in the same plane to Washington is downright ridiculous.
Bruce Willis is a mediocre actor. There I said it. I like him in some movies but he has been in some stinkers too. This is one of them. He apparently thought he was funny enough to ad-lib a lot of his lines in this film and they are so corny. Here are a few examples:
(Turning down a date from a cute Rent-A-Car girl who helped him with the fax machine)
“Just the fax ma’am, Just the fax.”
(Insulting the chief of police Dennis Franz)
“What sets off the metal detectors first? The lead in your ass or the sh!t in your brains?”
This doesn’t even make sense. Why would there be metal in his stool? Am I missing something here?
(fighting John Amos, playing a double-crossing Special Forces soldier)
Amos: Its too bad, McClane, I kinda liked you.
McClane: I got enough friends!
So the “terrorists” take over a small church, somewhere in the vicinity of the airport, which is supposed to be Dulles in Washington, DC and this church is crucial because the power lines that connect the airport run alongside this old church. That seems odd but OK. The terrorists did their homework apparently and taking control of this church they then make it their headquarters and a pseudo-air traffic control tower. They then easily sever the power to the airport’s runways with a chainsaw causing the film’s main crisis—the planes arriving to Dulles cannot land! How is this a crisis exactly? The head of operations, played by Fred Thompson, commands that all arriving flights within a close range, circle the airport until the crisis is over. But for how long will the jet fuel last?! There are dozens of other airports in the vicinity of DC that these planes could go to land before the fuel runs out. Baltimore, Richmond, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, to name a few major international airports that these flights can make in a short amount of time. Why do they need to circle and endanger themselves? McClane’s wife, Holly, is on one of those circling planes, thus again giving McClane reason to be more of a hero. They claim that her plane cannot be redirected due to lack of fuel. But they circle for another 45-55 minutes and with that much time they could’ve went to Chicago.
This plot is dumb and not very smart on the part of the “terrorists” either. They are essentially holding those planes hostage by not allowing them to land but they are only controlling that airport. Since they have the pseudo-air traffic control tower they can impersonate the air traffic controllers and give false information to the circling planes, which they do in one scene and cause the plane to crash but that could’ve been easily avoided since by 1990 those planes clearly had skyphones and they then could’ve been notified that terrorists are in control of the planes and not to listen to them and go to another airport. And speaking of the terrorists plot, when they get the drug lord/dictator and every terrorist and double-crossing traitor who was involved with the plot is on the plane they requested, why didn’t the army blow up that plane while it was taxiing and prepping to take off? Even if they did take off what’s stopping the air force to follow that plane and take it down over international waters? The terrorists never take hostages onto the plane or something as collateral to prevent anyone from harming them once they get on that plane. Smart plan terrorists.
Unlike the first film where McClane is alone, shirtless and shoeless, outnumbered and completely trapped in the Nakatomi building, in this sequel that great dynamic to the plot is the complete opposite wherein he starts out armed, has allies that can actually help him and is free to go wherever he wants. In fact the chief of police (Franz) wants McClane to get out of the airport and out of their way. This reckless plot reversal, which made the original so great, ends up so flaccid to us as an audience. McClane goes everywhere from inside baggage claim, a skywalk, the air traffic control tower, even on a snowmobile in one scene battling the bad guys. McClane went from a dead-beat cop with no shoes and problems with his wife to superhero in one film! From the very beginning when he first suspects that some shady fellas in the airport are up to no good he takes matters into his own hands, completely out of his jurisdiction. He attempts to warn a few cops, but when he knows that they wouldn’t believe him he just goes off on his own. The main reason Die Hard was such a great action film was that the odds where completely against McClane from the start and a reason I even liked Die Hard With a Vengeance was because they at least tried to make him helpless again like the first film. But Die Hard 2 tries to make McClane like he is like a Schwarzenegger character and basically indestructible.
So the terrorists’ plot is to rescue a drug czar/dictator who is being brought to justice on US soil. Its never explained exactly why they are helping him or what’s their connection to this drug lord. All the main villain says about saving the dictator is: “This country’s got to learn that it can’t keep cutting the legs off of men like General Esperanza. Men who have the guts to stand up against Communist aggression.” So this drug lord is basically the anti-Che Guevara? A leader of a fictional, seemingly poor Latino country who smuggles drugs as well as fights Commies. That’s a bit ass-backwards but OK. But that still doesn’t explain why these traitorous Americans are saving him and taking him somewhere the US can’t extradite him. But the film also doesn’t explain why his plane is landing in a commercial airport? If he’s such a high level criminal why not a military airport with better security? Obviously, they weren’t trying to sneak him in because it was all over the news so I guess they thought “what’s the worse that can happen?” This is the same airport that allowed a little old lady bring a stun-gun onto a plane.
I always had a problem with the finale. Even when I saw this in theatres I highly doubted that jet fuel would ignite fast enough to catch up to a taking off aircraft and blowing it up. I know, that’s such a nit-picky thing to say. It was a great ending right? It was an awesome explosion, the bad guys die, John McClane uttered “Yippee-Kai-Ay, Mother F@cker!” and was the hero at the last second with his crafty ingenuity to light the fuel with his Zippo lighter. I probably wouldn’t have had a doubt or care if the plane wasn’t a few yards already in the air as the ignited fuel jumped up to the plane like it was a fuse or on a rope. Looking at the goofs section on imdb, it revels that jet fuel not only wouldn’t ignite with such a low temperature given off by a simple cigarette lighter but that the flame would be so slow that it would never catch up to a taking off airplane. HA!
Is It Actually Jolly: Well as much as I bashed everything from the acting to the directing and the lame attempt to ape the first one’s plot and premise, it is far from being a horrible action movie. Some parts are worth watching. Actually, the best thing about Die Hard 2 is how badly it was dubbed for network TV. Here’s a few highly entertaining clips:
Yippee-Kai-Ay, Mr. Falcon! Classic!
Jolliest Moment: There’s a 5-minute action scene when members of the airport’s SWAT team attempt to get to a skywalk with the air traffic control’s communications expert to link up a satellite to establish communication again with the circling planes and they walk right into an ambush! McClane knew something would go wrong and crawls through an air vent (JUST LIKE THE FIRST DIE HARD!!) to get to the skywalk. He’s too late and most of the SWAT team were killed so he has to take out the terrorists all by himself. Which he does. Its a fun little action sequence with some decent kills and features some corny but fun action dialogue, like:
SWAT team leader: “Hey, a@@hole! What do I look like to you?
T-1000: “A sitting duck! [Shoots SWAT team leader in the forehead]
Random Henchman: (to a pinned-down McClane) I’m gonna kick your f@cking ass!
Dumbest Moment: Well I suppose its the finale but since I already mentioned that scene I can also briefly talk about how McClane intercepts the terrorists’ plane at the end by hitching a ride on a news helicopter and having them get close enough to the wing for McClane to jump and land on so he can put his jacket into the ailerons preventing the plane to take off. Really? A helicopter chasing a plane and having our hero jump off it onto the wing? That’s the best you can come up with? And what was McClane’s plan after he jammed his jacket into the ailerons? Just jump off the wing, problem solved? He wasn’t even armed when John Amos and William Sadler joined him on the wing for some fisticuffs to fight them off to prevent them removing the jacket.
Overall: Not nearly as entertaining or intelligent or clever or even memorable as the first Die Hard which raised the bar for action films. It is a terrible sequel in that regard. Surely not the worst action film ever but everywhere the first film excelled in, this one tried to mimic and it failed miserably. I truly would recommend Die Hard With a Vengeance before this useless and vapid sequel.Score: 4 (out of ten)
Have a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy and Healthy New Year!!