REEL ACTION: The holiday classic Die Hard 2: Die Harder!

DIE HARD 2 (1990)
Rating: 4 out of 4 /Buy the DVD Here

Tagline: Look who's back in the wrong place at the right time.

Directed by: Renny Harlin
Starring: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, William Sadler, John Amos and Dennis Franz

THE PLAN: Christmas Eve, Washington D.C.: A band of mercenaries awaiting a plane carrying a drug lord have taken control of Dulles Airport's control tower in order usher in the kingpin's arrival and whisk him away to the tropics. Their plan should work perfectly... but naturally they don't count on a take-no-shit cop who has been through something like this before...

THE KILL: How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?

That's both an utterance from DIE HARD 2's exasperated hero and the movie's ironic comment on the unlikelihood that one John McClane, only one year removed from rescuing an entire building and its occupants from total destruction at the hands of smarmy international terrorists, is once again tasked with saving the lives of hundreds of people with little more than his guts and wise-ass determination. McClane is your typical cynical New Yorker: nothing surprises him, not even the extraordinary misfortune of - as another character notes - being the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time, really shakes him. He just gets down to the weary business of saving the day, no matter how much of a pain in the ass it is.

The first DIE HARD is one of the heavyweights of the action genre, an undisputed classic. In addition to making Bruce Willis an action star and establishing John McClane as one of the great everyman heroes of our time, it single-handedly kickstarted the "one man vs. a dozen terrorists" sub-genre. It can be argued - is argued, by some - that DIE HARD 2 is just another knock-off of the first one, not much better than any of the other assembly line imitations. I'd call bullshit on that. In fact, I'd say part 2 is just a little better than the first.

Bruce sliding right into the deep pit of shit known as Hudson Hawk...

Yes, blasphemy. But I stand by it. From its more ambitious plot to the plethora of lethal, heartless villains and the greater overall threat they bring, DIE HARD 2 is a four alarm fire of a movie; it offers a greater variety of action set-pieces (Shootout on snowmobiles! Fistfight on the wing of an airplane!), it doesn't get slowed down by obnoxious supporting characters (though McClane faces adversity from his own side - namely in the form of Dennis Franz's high-strung Capt. Lorenzo - there's no one as utterly horrible as Paul Gleeson's Dwayne Robinson; we also thankfully don't have another Ellis) and most importantly, it features a better performance by Willis. As I stated in the previous paragraph, Willis is just a little more tired here, a tad more on the ornery side. The very fact that he's already been on this rodeo adds to the character's bemusement, as well as his anger that no one understands that he's right almost 100% of the time. (The movie smartly takes note of McClane's heroics from the last film, with almost every character he meets bringing up the events at Nakatomi Plaza.)

A Charlie Brown Christmas 2: Hostile Takeover

Of course, one argument for the first one, perhaps its very best aspect, is the presence of Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber, who is the premier action flick villain. Okay, I'll give you that, it's fairly tough to top Gruber's icy, evil callousness and dark humor. But William Sadler's Col. Stuart is a pretty mean sonofabitch. He crashes a plane full of innocent people, for f*ck's sake! Including a sweet old lady and a little kid! We see them right before it crashes! His band of goons also unload on an elderly caretaker in a church, cap some well-meaning SWAT team members in a ruthless ambush, and, perhaps worst of all, delay an entire region's flights on Christmas Eve! You've also got the slimy drug lord and a turncoat major assisting the terrorists - villains of all shapes and sizes!

(One completely ridiculous thing this movie does has to be mentioned: After Stuart crashes that plane, the incident is brought up almost ZERO times! No one in the airport seems to have noticed - they're still grumbling about the delayed flights - and we get one semi-concerned news report on it that lasts all of 30 seconds. I guess the world, not unlike the film, doesn't have time to sift through the wreckage; it just has to keep moving forward. That's not even mentioning a different plane explosion later in the movie that also nobody cares about.)

Go ahead and scoff. I know you're still not convinced. And I'm fine with that. DIE HARD is a great movie, I'm not saying anything to the contrary. But when it comes to the series - and holiday action flicks in general, of which there aren't many - I'll take DIE HARD 2.

Theatrical teaser trailer!

TOP DEATH: It's a toss-up between one guy getting sucked into a jet engine, and an icicle to the eyeball for another bad fellow. I'll go with the latter, if only because it's such a brutally gory - and pleasantly surprising - kill.

TOP ACTION: For a movie that's primarily set in an airport, this flick unloads tons of action upon the screen. Maybe the best sequence involves an attack on the villains' headquarters and a subsequent snowmobile chase. (Although for best action moment, you've got to hand it to the ejection seat escape from the exploding plane.)

FEMALE EXPLOITATION: 'Tis the season to keep those sweater puppies covered up!

HOMOEROTIC MOMENT: If you've got a hankering for some William Sadler-practicing-jujitsu-alone-in-the-buff action, holy shit, this is totally the movie for you!

TOP DIALOGUE: McClane to Dennis Franz' Lorenzo: "Hey, Carmine, let me ask you something. What sets off the metal detectors first? The lead in your ass or the shit in your brains?"

DRINKING GAME: Drink everytime Dennis Franz drops an F-bomb. You'll be waving in planes from the roof of your house before the third act even begins...

TRIVIA: Renny Harlin directed this two years after directing A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER

Both Robert Patrick and John Leguizamo have minor roles as terrorists.

DIE HARD 2, like the other DIE HARD films, was based on previous material that was then transformed into a DIE HARD tale; in this case, Walter Wager's book "58 Minutes".


Tags: reel action



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