Sunday, January 17, 2016
Recent Watches: Die Hard 2 (1990)
Die Hard 2” exploded into theaters. Director Renny Harlin had previously helmed flashy, low budget genre fare like “Prison” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4.” Harlin’s abilities to deliver the goods on-time and under budget, without sacrificing the crowd-pleasing theatrics, surely made him an attractive filmmaker to the studio. Released with a tagline that most assumed to be a pitch perfect subtitle, “Die Harder” was actually a bigger hit than the original. John McClane would die hard for years to come.
A year after the Nakatomi Tower incident, John McClane finds himself traveling to the east coast during Christmas time. Holly, their romance renewed, have plans to meet at an airport near the nation’s capital. Once again, John McClane is in the wrong place at the wrong time. A plot by rogue soldiers to intercept a flight carrying a Central American warlord unfolds inside the airport. The terrorists strand the planes in the sky above the landing strip, holding them hostage until the government ensures the banana dictator’s freedom. McClane is the monkey in the wrench a second time, doing what he can to foil the villains’ plot.
the other near-by airports? Nitpicking logic in an action sequel is a dog’s errand but “Die Harder” can’t help but ring the audience’s bell, drawing attention to its own flaws.
Something that defined the original “Die Hard” was how much damn punishment Bruce Willis suffered. “Die Harder” is less willing to bloody McClane’s body. He doesn’t even bleed until the very end. He’s hardly superhuman though. Both films begin by contemplating McClane’s humanity. In one, he’s airsick on a plane. In two, the first scene shows his car getting towed. John has plenty of close calls. In one scene, he’s pinned beneath a falling awning, reaching for a gun slowly approaching on an escalator. A little later, he pokes his head out on a runway, the wheels of an airplane nearly touching down atop his head. John is still flying by the seat of his pants, frequently improvising an escape or a way to dispatch an enemy. More importantly, Bruce Willis is still great in the part. When flirting with a desk secretary or chatting with Al over the phone, he still shows incredible charm. His way with a one-liner might have actually improved, such as bits about a lack of chlorine or a perfectly deployed yippee-ka-yay. The plot may be blatantly imitative but watching Bruce do his thing still offers plenty of entertainment value.
“Die Hard 2” trails behind the original in another way too. The sequel doesn’t even attempt to create a villain as cool as Hans Gruber. William Sadler and Franco Nero aren’t push overs. I mean, one’s the Grim Reaper and the other’s Django. Sadler is scary as psychotically committed mercenary. Nero, meanwhile, coolly executes those that get in his way, operating like a serious villain. Neither have the style, humor, or personality of Gruber though. Truthfully, the script’s disinterest in defining them any more makes them slightly boring. A twist involving another group’s loyalties is easy to guess. There’s still some fun to be had in the supporting parts. Dennis Franz is delightfully obnoxious, playing off his established image, as the man that inconveniences John’s quest. William Atherton returns as Richard “Dick” Thornburg, who is even more of a delightful asshole. Bonnie Bedelia certainly gets more to do as Holly, this time.
58 Minutes.” The sequel has a cool hero, some entertaining set pieces, plenty of humor, and moves at a nice clip. As a sequel to one of best action movies of all time, it can’t help but pale in contrast. It’s not as taunt, exciting, fun, or clever as the first. Hewing so closely to the original’s formula was a mistake as well, making comparisons unavoidable. Yet you can’t judge a film for what it’s not. Try not to think about “Die Hard 1” too much and the sequel will certainly amuse. [7/10]