Review: Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)
PLOT: Can this guy ever have a quiet Christmas with his family? On Christmas Eve, Detective John McClane waits for his wife to arrive on an incoming flight. Unfortunately at the very same time a group of thugs take over the airport in an attempt to free a vicious drug lord. Will McClane be able to once again, save his wife and everybody else from certain devastation? Of course he will, but it sure is fun watching him do it.
What a monumental task it must have been to take on another DIE HARD film. Of course with its massive success there was bound to be a sequel and what more can you do with DIE HARD? DIE HARDER naturally. In the Renny Harlin directed sequel DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER, NYPD Detective John McClane has been promoted to lieutenant and officially transferred to Los Angeles to be with his family. Now most family’s holiday plans include sitting around a tree opening presents and drinking eggnog, but not McClane. He seems to always have to deal with really nasty terrorists looking to spoil Christmas for everybody.
In this high energy sequel, there is a similar tone to the first film except like most part 2’s, there is a bigger body count and bigger explosions. Some familiar faces – in addition to Bruce Willis as McClane – return including Bonnie Bedelia as Holly McClane, William Atherton as that pesky reporter and even Reginald VelJohnson shows up for a minute. Were they necessary to this second feature? Not really, especially in VelJohnson’s case, however they clearly wanted to connect this film to the first beyond just the main character. In fact, Holly is in a similar predicament as she was in the original. And let’s face it, they clearly wanted another great moment where Holly shows Atherton a little something just like they did in the original and call me crazy, but this worked as well.
With the original film taking place in a high rise in Los Angeles, the sequel expands its world to Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C. In the beginning, McClane is waiting for his wife to arrive on an incoming flight while a bunch of dangerous men take the entire airport over, including shutting down the runway. Making matters worse is an oncoming storm that is already delaying flights. The action kicks in quickly when McClane notices a couple of men passing on a suspicious package and going down into the baggage area. He follows and an intense shoot out quickly leaves one shooter seriously crushed – literally I mean. The entire operation is led by William Sadler with plans to free an evil drug lord by the name of General Ramon Esperanza (Franco Nero), while he is transferred at the airport.
The main villains here certainly serve their purpose. Both Sadler and Nero have the badass vibe down, yet they lack the color that Rickman gave Gruber. The two actors do good enough work, specifically Sadler who gives a strong performance, but they come across as mere run-of-the-mill villains in this franchise. Perhaps it is the lack of a connection between McClane which deflates their fear factor. After all, one of my favorite moments in the original DIE HARD is the early scene between Willis and Rickman that raises the stakes which is sorely lacking here.
Harlin has always had the ability to shoot one hell of an action sequence, and for me this may be his best work. The action-set-pieces are pretty intense especially one shockingly disturbing plane crash – look out for Colm Meany as the pilot. This sequel is stylish and still incorporates the humor that the original inspired thanks to Willis who continues to really give McClane life. Yet with so many characters and so much going on it doesn’t build as much suspense as John McTiernan was able to accomplish the first time around. And frankly, this occasionally feels as if it is a dumbed down version of the first film. With that, you can’t help but enjoy the rollercoaster of a ride that Harlin takes the audience on.
As this series has progressed, Willis’ McClane has lost some of the humanity that was given in the first film – it started here. John McClane gets beaten and bloody and nearly fails not only physically, but mentally as well. In this particular film we still get a sense of that, especially thanks to the fact that his wife continues to play a part in the film – I wish Bedelia would have continued playing the role in the following films. Yet that vulnerability started to slip away in this film as this New York detective began to emerge as something superhuman. This guy gets shot at repeatedly and can survive being ejected out of a pilot seat seconds before the plane he is in explodes. Even still, this is one of the most memorable scenes from DIE HARDER as ludicrous as it may be. Thankfully the actor is so damn charismatic that he is easy to root for, no matter how obvious it is that he will be A-OK. While this sequel may not rise to the heights of the classic first, it is still a damn fine flick with lots to love.
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|Extra Tidbit:||Which sequel do you prefer? DIE HARD 2 or LETHAL WEAPON 2?|