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Blogvent Day 11 – Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990,USA)


Direcetor: Renny Harlin        Starring: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, William Atherton, William Sadler, Dennis Franz

The thing about Die Hard films is, you really only want to watch the odd numbered ones. I’ve already visited the first Die Hard as part of this year’s Blogvent, a film that has become and enduring Christmas and action classic and that pretty much set the bar for action cinema since. On the strength of that film any right minded individual would have few qualms about spending some time with the rest of the franchise but unfortunately Renny Harlin’s second installment in the series is almost enough to put you off John McClane and his numerous adventures for good.

Based on the novel 58 Minutes by Walter Wager, McClane finds himself caught up in the middle of another terrorist plot at Christmas time, this time at Dulles Ineternational Airport where he is waiting for his wife to arrive from L.A. and the terrorists are waiting for a South American dictator who needs to be sprung from Justice Department custody. The airport authorities don’t take McClane seriously when he tells them that something major is going down and before you know it it’s him against the bad guys again as he races against time to save his wife from death by plane crash at the hands of the villains.

It doesn’t sound that bad on paper but it quickly becomes apparent that an executive somewhere has decided, in an effort to cash in on the first film’s success, to shoehorn an existing piece of intellectual property into John McClane’s hefty boots without much care about how it plays out. This is fair enough but the result is such a perfunctory and preposterous sequence of bland imitations of the action of Nakatomi Plaza that really, as an audience, it makes it really difficult to care about it.

Purportedly, the script for the first Die Hard didn’t contain many one liners or wise cracks, the majority of the zingers Willis delivering on screen being improvised by the actor as filming unfolded. Realising that this was one of the best things about the first film, the makers of the second insisted that not only should the script be full of them but Bruce should be given free reign to say whatever the hell he liked on the way. I’m not sure therefore who is responsible for the line “What sets off the metal detectors first – the lead in your ass or the shit in your brains?”, possibly the weakest one liner in the history of cinema. It starts off well, the “lead in your ass” bit is actually pretty funny but the way is well and truly lost by the time McClane is suggesting shit sets off metal detectors. It’s typical of the lack of care and attention paid to the dialogue (and the story for that matter) throughout the film.

I know it seems a little bit reduntant worrying about realism when dealing with action films but suspension of disbelief can only take you so far. The first Die Hard has it pretty much nailed. There’s not much that’s too preposterous and while there are feats that are likely beyond the limit of human endurance the nuts and bolts of it hold everything together well, maintaining the plausibility essential for making you forget you are watching a movie. Die Hard 2 takes no such pains. Talk of “porcelain guns” that are “invisible to x-rays” (surely they mean metal detectors? oh yeah and it’s a ceramic gun with metal working parts that would be detectable by both security devices – not to mention the bullets…) is at the lower end of the total nonsense scale but surpassed by a ridiculous, on the ground ejection from a plane which causes no ill effects whatsoever on the ejectee despite the fact it would be extremely likely to kill you rather than leave you wisecracking under a parachute canopy. There are people who will feel I’m being too critical, that I should just enjoy the action but this total disregard for authenticity annoys me in a film that goes to great efforts to seem like it knows what it’s talking about.

I can’t help but lay the blame for this mess of a sequel at the door of Renny Harlin. Despite a brave effort from the main cast (William Sadler is quite entertaining as the leader of the mercenaries) the film is a rambling attempt at recapturing the great moments from the first film, including a hideously contrived attempt to relive the Holly McClane/Richard Thornburg animosity by having both coincidentally stuck in the same plane in a holding pattern above the airport. “How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice” bemoans McClane. I’ve got news for you, this is not the same shit, it’s a much less classy, much less interesting, far less memorable kind of shit. This why you should skip over 2 and head straight to Die Hard With A Vengeance where efforts were made to keep some of the hallmark elements of the Die Hard franchise without the same dogged attempts to recreate the first film’s magic.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 11/12/2011 13:53

    One of the things I like about the third Die Hard movie (With A Vengeance) is that it is a direct sequel to Die Hard and pretty much says “Die Hard 2” never happened. Like when Halloween H20 ditched four barmy sequels and went back to Halloween II for its jumping on point.

    Good blog Mr. Geddon.

    • 11/12/2011 14:37

      Thanks Mr.F! I think it says it all when even the people involved in making the franchise want to forget it ever happened. I must admit it had been a long time since I’d seen it so I was trying to approach it with an open mind but it was actually worse than I had remembered it. Go figure.

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