Die Hard 2 (1990)

Die Hard 2 (1990)

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Worst. Theme Park. Ever.
Worst. Theme Park. Ever.

Twitter Plot Summary: The same stuff happens again to John McClane, but this time it happens at an airport. How very convenient.

Five Point Summary:

1. William Sadler in the buff. Well, somebody out there will appreciate that.
2. Al! He shot a kid, you know.
3. The very British plane goes down in flames.
4. How long is the fuse on those grenades…?
5. It’s enough to put you off flying for life.

The same shiz happens to the same guy twice in what is essentially a repeat of the first film, albeit Nakatomi Plaza is replaced by an airport. The story beats are near identical, but seeing as the first movie was so good, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

It’s a year after the events at Nakatomi Plaza. John McClane and wife Holly are together again and we join McClane as he arrives to pick her up from the airport. Unfortunately her plane is delayed giving McClane enough time to spot some shady goings-on involving William Sadler and his band of goons. A recently deposed general from Val Verde (a hotbed of political instability given that General Arius was trying to reclaim power in that country back in Commando) is due to be transported to the US and Sadler’s job is ensure he escapes custody. McClane does what he does best and becomes the proverbial fly in the ointment.

Whilst the story is much the same as before, the action is sufficiently spectacular and despite being released in 1990 it has the remnants of the 80s action movie style – the air is thick with a haze of cigarette smoke everywhere you go – even on the planes circling the airport. The action doesn’t let up, there are twists aplenty and thankfully at no time do you think that McClane is punching above his weight by getting involved. He’s also restored his relationship with Holly, who spends most of her time trapped on a plane circling the airport. In a call back to the first movie she’s also in the company of reporter Richard Thornburg, just to give her “in flight” segments some purpose other than “she might die in a crash!”

It was 1990, all bad guys looked like this.
It was 1990, all bad guys looked like this.

It’s also indicative of the last excesses of those 80s action flicks, moving into the 90s the genre wouldn’t be quite the same again, on the big screen at least, until perhaps the arrival of Stallone’s fourth Rambo or the recent spate of geri-action titles. Excessive blood splatter and violence dominates proceedings, but is cleverly structured to at least service the story. Harlin in my opinion has never been particularly successful with telling a story – just take a look at Deep Blue Sea, and he frequently gets lost Michael Bay style in the many explosions and bits that go boom, but in this instance it’s clear and the narrative, such as it is, never gets lost amongst all the carnage. By comparison to the original film Die Harder, as it is also known, lives up to that tagline by ramping up the action stakes almost to the point of unbelievability, but just about reigning itself in before jumping headfirst into parody territory.

The one thing that Die Hard 2 does not have is an Alan Rickman-sized villain for McClane to face off against. Sure, William Sadler and Franco Nero are both impressive actors, but they’re nowhere near reaching the same level of charisma and evil genius as Hans Gruber. Other than it essentially being another interpretation of the first film, this is the only other issue I hold against it.

Restricting the action to one location, much like the original film, helps draw focus to the situation, the characters, and the likely outcomes. There’s also something inherently unpleasant about a terrorist group taking control of an airport, more so now in this post-9/11 world we find ourselves in. With this in mind though, it wouldn’t be much of an action film if it was set at the Bingo Hall, would it? Then again, given the current state of the Die Hard franchise, they can’t be too far off from attempting that one.

Score: 4/5

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