Director: Renny Harlin
Cast: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, William Sadler, Dennis Franz, John Amos, Art Evans, Fred Thompson, William Atherton, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Sheila McCarthy and Franco Nero
Plot: Out of town cop, John McClane (Willis) goes to meet his wife at an airport, when terrorists hijack the building, in order to extract a dangerous dictator (Nero).
True, Die Hard 2 isn’t as good as the original Die Hard. It lacks the power and structure of the first incredible movie. We don’t see as deep under McClane’s maverick, wise-cracking hero as we did the first time around. There is less banter between hero and villain, most of McClane’s colourful insults thrown at the airport police, rather than the bad guys. Also, as physically dangerous as William Sadler’s malicious bad guy is, he doesn’t ever come close to holding a candle to Alan Rickman’s history-making Hans Gruber. No, Die Hard 2 won’t impress anyone whose standards of action films are up there with the classics. However, it still must be said that Die Hard 2 is still a lot better than the competition.
For one, the premise is a smart one. Terrorists take over an airport and the planes, filled with helpless passengers, including McClane’s wife, an ever-incredible, Bonnie Bedelia, are forced to keep circling the airport, their fuel supplies dwindling. It is frankly a terrifyingly simple act of evil. The terrorists are so efficient and the airport security so inept that airports become a much more terrifying place after witnessing Die Hard 2. Die Hard kept the setting claustrophobic, but despite the open ground of a few of the shoot-outs, the airport setting keeps the theme better than any of the other sequels ever did. The heroes do feel trapped in the airport, the bad guys so calculating, that every move they make is blocked off, like a game of chess against a seasoned player. It is hard to see a way out for the protagonists in this one. Other little quirks that make Die Hard 2 seem far more structured than most action movie sequels is simply the development of the supporting cast. A lot of the characters in Die Hard should, theoretically, be plot devices and red shirts. However, we remember most of the side characters. The helpful janitor in the underbelly of the airport, the chirpy reporter and communications specialist. Sure, some of them come across as copies of characters from the first film, but they stick in the mind regardless, making re-watching Die Hard 2 a fun game of ‘I remember this guy!’ I have always liked Die Hard 2 for their villains as well. Yes, of course, William Sadler gets a decent amount of screen-time and Franco Nero is as sinister as you would expect Franco Nero to be. But the smaller bad guys are memorable too, from Robert Patrick’s ‘blink and you miss him’ middle-act baddie and Vondie Curtis Hall’s opening punch-up opponent. Maybe I do get a little disappointed that they are wiped out pretty quickly in the final few moments of the film, robbing the viewer of a few good individual fights to the death, but I have to admit it does earn a slight forgiveness, for how they are killed off. It involves a pretty badass line, although I can never remember what it is.
However, Die Hard has always had a secret weapon. No matter how bad the sequels get, there is always one man you can count on to make it watchable. Bruce Willis will always be John McClane. He adds so much energy to the movie, every moment he is on-screen, dedicated to reliving the success that was Die Hard. It is him that makes the movie feel like a worthy addition to the first film. His ranting while he crawls through ventilation shafts in the airport, his manic charging head-first into danger… Willis understands the character and his devotion to playing it bang-on really helps the film get to the height it needs to get to. Die Hard 2 adds enough iconic scenes to the Die Hard canon that Willis can work with. Flagging down a plane in the darkness, using two burning torches. Opening fire on an ‘ally’ with blank-firing bullets. John McClane always gets across the impression that he is a man trying to grab hold of a handful of sand, when it comes to fighting the bad guys, ever move he makes being ruthlessly rebuked. However, his persistence is admirable, which makes him one of the greatest action heroes cinema currently has.
Final Verdict: It never quite reaches the heights you want it to, but it is still smart, funny and engaging.