Die Hard 2 Review: A Worthy Sequel to an All-Time Great
To top the original Die Hard
would have been damn near impossible. That director Renny Harlin followed it up with something as entertaining as Die Hard 2
is both surprising and satisfying.
Harlin follows the first film’s formula almost to a fault, but it capitalizes on the first film’s strongest asset—its setting. While Dulles International Airport doesn’t have the same claustrophobic feeling as Nakatomi Plaza, Harlin smartly navigates every nook and cranny of this place in order to keep the film’s scope relatively small. In doing so, he milks this story for as much tension as its worth. Incidentally, it isn’t worth a ton of tension—at least when you compare it to the original—but it’s hard not to find it a little thrilling, not to have a fun two hours watching it.
It’s Christmas Eve (again), and John McClane (Bruce Willis) is patiently waiting on the ground in Washington for Holly McClane’s (Bonnie Bedilia) plane to land. His eye is caught by a sketchy-looking man sneaking around the airport’s back rooms and hallways. McClane flashes his badge, and seconds later, he starts taking fire. But this is the guy who took down a whole army of terrorists in Los Angeles, so he dispatches his enemies quickly.
Enter Captain Carmine Lorenzo (Dennis Franz)—the airport’s authority when it comes to any and all things security. He doesn’t take kindly to a “cowboy” brandishing a gun in his airport. But McClane is convinced something horribly wrong is about to go down. His worst fears are proven true when the control tower’s power is cut and a group of terrorists—led by a renegade American, Col. Stuart (William Sadler)—assumes the controls of the dozens of planes circling overhead. Stuart’s demands: The release of disposed dictator Ramon Esperanza (Franco Nero) and a fully fueled plane so their band of merry men can escape the country untouched.
With Bonnie in the air (alongside her very favorite reporter, Richard “Dick” Thornburg, a role played again by William Atherton), McClane finds himself unable to let the airport crew take care of this escalating crisis—especially when Stuart and company bring one plane down to demonstrate the seriousness of their demands. This time, he’s his style is no-nonsense. McClane in the first movie was a kind of sardonic prick—a guy whose mouth is capable of getting him into serious jams that only his toughness and ingenuity can get him out of. Here, he’s just pissed. It’s understandable; His “How the hell did this happen to me?” attitude in the first film is replaced by a “How the hell did this happen to me again?” attitude by necessity. Unfortunately, there isn’t much else to him.
The supporting cast—another strength of the first film—is more or less generic here. The villain, in particular, is a weak point, but all the great ally and henchmen work in Die Hard
is absent here. Harlin manages to shoehorn in appearances from a few of the big players (including Reginald Veljohnson’s Al Powell), but the newbies in Die Hard 2
are mostly forgettable.
So what does this film do right? Well, the action sure is on point. Lots of shootouts help keep the pace brisk, and the plane crash scene (which happens early) is damn exciting. Harlin makes great use of the setting, as well. The airport is a diverse space, and we get to see and hear all of it.
Arguably the film’s biggest asset is the story. Though full of holes, there’s a surprise at nearly every turn. It’s boilerplate action-thriller stuff, but that you’re constantly on your toes says everything that needs to be said about Die Hard 2
. It’s equal parts an imperfect movie and an enjoyable ride. So turn your brains off and enjoy!