Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990) / Action-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, brief nudity, and strong language
Running time: 124 min.
Cast: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, William Sadler, William Atherton, Dennis Franz, John Amos, Franco Nero, Fred Dalton Thompson, Sheila McCarthy, Reginald VelJohnson, Art Evans, Tom Bower
Cameo: Robert Patrick, John Leguizamo, Colm Meaney
Director: Renny Harlin
Screenplay: Steven E. de Souza, Doug Richardson (based on the novel, "58 Minutes", by Walter Wager)
Review published December 23, 2007
Die Hard 2: Die Harder is already inherently pushing the limits of credibility by having the same character involved in a similar plot of battling terrorists at their point of attack. Some might view it as a liability, but in some respects, it is a strength, as those who can swallow that premise will most likely swallow practically every other contrived plot element for the sake of some good action, laughs, and intrigue. Director Renny Harlin (Deep Blue Sea, Mindhunters) takes over the directorial duties from John McTiernan and lets the action and humor fly for all they are worth, regardless of how preposterous it will all seem to those who expect some realism in their action-thrillers. While it may not hold up much to scrutiny, credit the filmmakers for at least keeping the action moving at a brisk enough pace to put behind the moments of disbelief and engaging us with another exciting set piece to outdo the one that came before. Brain cells may be lacking, but Die Harder has muscle, and that's just enough to keep the series faithful content for more.
In the film, John McClane (Willis, Hudson Hawk) is waiting to pick up his wife, Holly (Bedelia, Presumed Innocent), at Dulles International Airport near Washington DC, on one of the craziest travel days of the year, Christmas Eve. Her arrival practically coincides with the arrival of political prisoner Ramon Esperanza (Nero, Django Strikes Again), a South American despot who is being escorted in by the military to stand trial for his drug smuggling crimes. That was the plan, at least until a crack team of ex-military special forces, led by Colonel Stuart (Sadler, The Shawshank Redemption), decide to take command of the airport right under the noses of security, leaving at dozens of incoming flights in jeopardy in the Washington skies with dwindling fuel sources, one of them being the flight that Holly is on. McClane catches wind of the plot before the local law enforcement, who all keep trying to get rid of him, forcing him to spring to action to save his wife, his life, and to stop the nefarious scheme from proceeding without a fight.
One thing that works well in this second film is that it keeps consistent in tone with Die Hard, with John still vulnerable but courageous, while Holly is still resourceful and loyal. One major contrivance among many is in finding a way to inject Dick Thornburg (Atherton, Ghostbusters), the smarmy reporter from the first flick, back for more comic relief antagonism -- he not only is in the film, he's on the same plane as Holly, mere seats away. How's that for a coincidence?
With gleeful destruction and perverse pleasure in shootouts, Harlin is quite suited to the action genre, provided he has an intelligent enough script to work with. Steven E. de Souza (48 Hrs., Street Fighter) returns as co-screenwriter to give these characters depth and dimension, such that, even when all hold on realism is lost, the action stays grounded by the fact that we like these personalities. Without these character touches, Die Hard 2 would probably be just another bad entry in the genre its predecessor reinvented. A colorful supporting cast of characters add to the solid repartee, with Dennis Franz (Body Double, Dressed to Kill) stealing a good deal of his scenes as the easily irritated head of airport police. Future presidential contender Fred Thompson (Days of Thunder) has a supporting role, and keep an eye out for pre-stardom John Lequizamo (Hangin' with the Homeboys) and T2's Robert Patrick among the terrorist clan.
Die Hard 2 is essentially little more than a repeat of the formula of the first film, but it is much better than other films of its era that tried to do the same. It falls quite a bit short of the phenomenal first effort in quality, but it definitely is entertaining, and it's a perfect choice for those nights when you want a well-made, fast-paced, no-brain actioner.
-- Follows Die Hard. Followed by Die Hard with a Vengeance, Live Free or Die Hard, and A Good Day to Die Hard.
©2007 Vince Leo