Die Hard 2 (1990)
Release Date: July 4th, 1990 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Renny Harlin Actors: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, William Atherton, Reginald VelJohnson, Franco Nero, William Sadler, John Amos, Dennis Franz, Sheila McCarthy
ruce Willis and a surprisingly large percentage of the original “Die Hard” cast return for the sequel, tentatively dubbed “Die Harder.” It’s still Christmas, McClane is still a cop, and he’s still very much a vigilante badass, although this time out, filmmaker Renny Harlin (“Cliffhanger,” “The Long Kiss Goodnight”) has taken the reins away from original director John McTiernan. Just as exciting, action-packed, and full of stunts, “Die Hard 2” only falls short in comparison to its predecessor in the villain department, offering up ridiculous personas that fail to live up to the legacy left by previous antagonist Hans Gruber – one of the very best movie baddies of all time.
Lieutenant John McClane (Bruce Willis) arrives in New York to meet his wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) at the airport, only to immediately come upon a suspicious duo that appears to be plotting against the airline. Quickly falling into his typical vigilante role, McClane nabs one of the suspects, but receives only indifference and annoyance from transportation officials and executive Captain Carmine Lorenzo (Dennis Franz of “NYPD Blue” fame). The situation worsens when a group of treasonous ex-military commandos are discovered, intent on hijacking the facility in order to free an imprisoned rogue military leader on his way to the New York Airport. McClane must once again take matters into his own hands to subdue the terrorist threat, as well as rescue Holly from the circling plane overhead – stranded in midair without a runway and harboring a rapidly diminishing fuel supply.
The first mistake “Die Hard 2” makes is to try way too hard to make the villains appear villainous. Colonel Stuart (William Sadler) is spied right from the get-go practicing Tai Chi in the nude, simply to make him appear unnerving and psychotic. But it has something of the opposite effect. Nearly every member of his treacherous crew is an emotionless and mindless zombie, possessing no energy or enthusiasm, and therefore speedily becoming boring. Screenwriters Steven E. de Souza and Doug Richardson opt to craft characters that revert back to the drones often seen in Steven Seagal and Arnold Schwarzenegger films (the bad ones).
Losing his hair, but not his cool, Bruce Willis reprises his role with bravado and precision. Also returning are the pervasive themes of vigilantism, jurisdictional complications, and gross bureaucratic incompetency. Special Forces members, the police, FBI agents, and airport security all manage to get in the way, with Harlin having plenty of fun portraying authority figures as brainless idiots. They serve as just another obstacle for McClane to heroically conquer, even if his violent tactics become a touch more questionable.
Though this second outing doesn’t make any improvements over the first, it still manages to be highly entertaining. The body count goes up a few notches and the mayhem steps up to greet it. More stunts and more explosions rock the screen, accompanied by an even greater number of witty one-liners. The script is careful not to cross the line and overdo it, however, continually balancing on the edge of total comedy during the verbal fights to keep the mood light. But when the action hits, it’s entirely serious and abundantly riveting. As in the previous chapter, a subplot exists with reporter Richard Thornburg (William Atherton), who paints the media as inhumane and detrimental to the situation – as perhaps it usually is in real life. Serving as humor and a satirical stab at the press, these scenes also allow Bedelia to log some screen time and elaborate on her character.
Based on a novel just like the 1988 contemporary classic (this time, loosely based on the novel “58 Minutes” by Walter Wager), “Die Hard 2” packs plenty of punch, heavy-hitting adventure, and explosions galore. Adequate special effects comprise a small portion of the film, while sex and suggestive situations are completely absent. Such scenes are certainly not necessary, but somehow they find their way into the majority of comparable productions, marking this film as something of an unusually focused actioner. Though definitely not as good as the first (few films ever are), this competent sequel nevertheless promises that the antagonists meet demises absolutely befitting of the title.
– Mike Massie