Sunday, December 19, 2010

"Die Hard 2" (1990)

Starring Bruce Willis, William Sadler and Bonnie Bedelia
Written by Steven E. de Souza and Doug Richardson
Directed by Renny Harlin

After the massive success of "Die Hard," how could Fox not go for a sequel?  Unfortunately, though they threw some extra money at it, a weaker script and a less talented director meant that lightning didn't quite strike in the same place twice on this one.

Once again, Detective John McClane, now a cop in Los Angeles, must contend with terrorists over Christmas as a disgraced military colonel seizes control of Dulles International Airport.  McClane is waiting for his wife's plane to land, but Colonel Stuart (William Sadler) has other plans.  His men manage to cut off control to the air traffic control tower, leaving dozens of planes circling overhead, some running low on fuel.  They're waiting for a particular plane carrying General Esperanza (Franco Nero), the deposed dictator and drug lord of a South American country who is being extradited to the United States.  They plan to free Esperanza and escape to a non-extradition country and live out the rest of their lives in paradise.

McClane, being the troubleseeker he is, manages to get involved when he notices two of Stuart's men mucking around the airport's luggage area.  A fight ensues, and McClane manages to kill one of them, which brings him to the attention of the airport's chief of security, Lorenzo (Dennis Franz) who instantly resents McClane, dismissing him as some fame-seeking LA asshole.  But when McClane manages to prove that the dead guy isn't just some punk stealing luggage, he convinces the airport's chief controller, Trudeau (Fred Thompson) that something worse is happening.  Now the race is on to find Stuart and prevent him from escaping with Esperanza before planes begin dropping out of the sky.

The problems with "Die Hard 2" are two-fold: Firstly, director John McTiernan didn't come back for this second outing (neither did crack cinematographer Jan de Bont, which means despite the higher budget, "Die Hard 2" doesn't look nearly as cool as the first).  Instead, we get Renny Harlin who somehow manages to direct a decent, but unimpressive action picture.  Harlin's style is... well, he doesn't really have one.  He's as straight-forward and workmanlike as you can get, bringing the bare minimum to the table necessary to get the job done.  While the original film crackles for its entire run time, "Die Hard 2" rarely comes alive like that.

The second problem is the script.  Much of the sarcastic wit that made the first movie so enjoyable is here turned into jokey pokes at the absurdity of this situation happening to the same characters... again.  McClane himself makes multiple jokes about spending another Christmas crawling around in air vents and fighting terrorists.  At one point, he laments, "How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?"  The writers probably thought they were being funny, but really it's just aggravating.  By the time McClane is reunited with his wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) once again in the final moments, and she whines, "Why does this keep happening to us?" I've long since stopped caring.

The film also brings back douchenozzle journalist Dick Thornberg (William Atherton), who again manages to cause trouble under the guise of 'informing the people.'  This time, he causes a riot in the airport when he breaks on national television that terrorists have taken control of the airport.  Once again, this character seems almost entirely superfluous, far more so than he did in the first film.  He seems to exist solely to give Bonnie Bedelia something to do, since she's trapped in a plane seat for the entire runtime of the movie.  At least in the first film she had some fun back and forth with her coworkers and with Hans Gruber, but here all she has is Thornberg, and it grates.

Still, despite all this, there's some fun to be had.  The action sequences are decent, if not particularly special.  Of note is a fight where McClane manages to kill a bad guy by stabbing him in the eye with an icicle and a ski mobile chase through the woods surrounding the airport.  Also watch for a cameo by Robert Patrick (the T-1000 of "Terminator 2") as one of Stuart's men early on in the film.

"Die Hard 2" is pretty meh, in my book.  For my money, it's the weakest film in the entire franchise.

See Also
"Die Hard"
"Die Hard With a Vengeance"
"Live Free or Die Hard"