Review: Die Hard 2: Die Harder

dh2_cov.jpgYear: 1990
Director: Renny Harlin
Starring: Bruce Willis, William Sadler, Bonnie Bedelia, John Amos
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 62

Plot
Terrorists attempt to extricate a captive foreign dictator being flown to the United States by remotely taking control of Dulles airport’s traffic control system. Policeman John McClane tries to stop them.

Quick Review
I find myself with mixed feelings about Die Hard 2: Die Harder. The action is surely entertaining. The characters and acting draw you into the film. The movie has good acceleration. But undermining all of this are fundamental problems with the premise and plot of the movie. While I watched this film, I consistently found myself shaking my head in disbelief at the silliness of what was going on, and this is a sharp and negative contrast to the original Die Hard. In the end, these problems drag the film down substantially.

Full Review
One of the outstanding elements of the first Die Hard was the tightness of the plot, the believability of the premise, and the overall intelligence of John McClane and the terrorist leader Hans Gruber. The pitched battle between the two men raised the overall quality of the film.

Unfortunately, in this regard, the sequel Die Hard 2: Die Harder fails miserably. This is a great movie with a ridiculous premise and with plot holes that total drunkedness can’t cover up. In short, Die Hard 2 doesn’t make sense. Were these minor issues with the plot or premise it’d be easy to overlook them, but they’re not. The problems with Die Hard 2 lie at the foundation of the film, and they significantly impact the quality of the film.

dh21.jpgDie Hard 2 is built on the premise that terrorists could remotely shut down an airport tower’s control over the planes in its airspace, shut down the runway lighting system, and then take control of the communications with the planes. The planes then can’t land until the terrorists’ demands are met. The problem with this is that it doesn’t make sense on so many levels. As soon as the airport gets shut down, airport officials could use any one of a number of alternate means to communicate with the planes and reroute them to any one of a handful of nearby airports. In other words, the premise that the terrorists have hostages in the air is broken, and it takes a lot of effort to suspend disbelief.

Even granting this premise, one could logically assume that the planes could land visually, but apparently the terrorists removed that possibility as well by planning a major snowstorm to coincide with the captured dictator’s flight. Sigh. There are many other areas where Die Hard 2 is generally sloppy. For example, Bruce Willis, who once again plays John McClane, flitters around the airport amazingly quickly, and occasionally finds that the quickest route is to crawl hundreds of yards through narrow venting. Elsewhere, there is only one guard on the plane carrying the extradited dh22.jpgdictator to the United States. In another scene, a semi-trailer truck magically appears out of nowhere during a snowmobile chase. Even the terrorists’ escape plan—to demand an empty 747 for escape—makes no sense given that the US could shoot the plane down once it leaves the airport. Given the relatively tight logic in the first Die Hard, I found these holes in the second movie hard to overlook.

Fortunately, if you turn off your brain for Die Hard 2 (or drink a lot of beer), you’ll find the other aspects of the movie equal to the original Die Hard. Some of the action scenes are a bit loosely constructed and choppy compared to those of Die Hard, but overall the action in Die Hard 2 is solid and well integrated into the movie. There are rough fistfights and fast gunfights. The explosions are few in number but spectacular and gripping when they occur. Stunts fit in well with the story and are believable. The pace holds up well, with only minor derailments due to a subplot involving television reporter Richard Thornburg (William Atherton). Although I’ve criticized the plot, on a micro-level it works quite well. The villains I found a comparable to those of Die Hard; they are convincing enough to help the movie’s rating. The ending—although it puts even more stress on the film’s believability—is incredibly exciting.

Acting is comparable to the original, which is to say that Willis once again nails the sarcastic, intelligent, and likeable nature of John McClane. In some ways, however, I felt he had a more demeaning edge to him in this movie, which made him a bit arrogant. The script gets the job done, and Willis does quite a bit to enhance it. McClane gets decent support from William Sadler (Colonel dh23.jpgStuart, the leader of the terrorists) and John Amos (Major Grant, leader of the anti-terrorist force), and Bonnie Bedelia (Holly McClane).

The Babe rating for this movie is much like the original. Bonnie Bedelia is cute, but her role is minor and neutered. The Hunk rating is better, but Willis has slipped past his prime in the looks department. The rest of the cast doesn’t bring anything notable in this regard to the movie, with the exception of an unusual naked martial arts exhibition by the lead terrorist at the beginning of the movie.

In conclusion, I find myself with mixed feelings about Die Hard 2: Die Harder. The action is surely entertaining. The characters and acting draw you into the film. The movie has good acceleration. But undermining all of this are fundamental problems with the premise and plot of the movie. While I watched this film, I consistently found myself shaking my head in disbelief at the silliness of what was going on, and this is a sharp and negative contrast to the original Die Hard. In the end, these problems drag the film down substantially.

Fun Fact

Die Hard 2, with its $70 million budget, cost $42 million more to make than the original Die Hard.

Related Reviews
Die Hard, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Live Free or Die Hard

Score
Pace: 82
Plot: 54
Action: 82
Consistent Premise: 22
Script/Quotes: 83
Characters: 92
Acting: 86
Villain: 77
Body Count: 23
Time to First Dead Body: 7 minutes, 17 seconds
Babes: 2
Hunks: 66
Explosions: 83
Special Effects: 52
Stunts: 53
Ending: 71

Overall: 62 (Solid if you Disengage Brain before Viewing)

[tags]Die Hard 2, Die Hard, movie review, action movie, film, Die Harder, Bruce Willis[/tags]

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5 thoughts on “Review: Die Hard 2: Die Harder

  1. The main problem with Die Hards 2 & 3 (and presumably 4) are all the same. No Hans Gruber. Action movies live and die on the strength of their villains and they never equalled Alan Rickman.

  2. Paul: In some ways, I thought Hans Gruber was excellent, but in other ways I thought he seemed a little weak as a villain. I agree, however, that he was better than the weaker villains in Die Hard 2.

    However, I loved the intelligence of Gruber in Die Hard. This made the film markedly different from the usual moronic villains in many action movies.

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