Die Hard 2 ***1/2
One Liner Review:
While it might not be as great as the amazing first and third films, this sequel to the original is still fun as hell, as it uses the all night at an airport premise to pump lots of cool plot twists and action scenes into the storyline.
A pretty entertaining sequel, this movie has tons of call backs to the original Die Hard film, including three returning characters in mostly prominent roles. Despite a whole new location, story, and set of villains, this movie still gives us just the right amount of references to the first movie, before expand in a new direction, to take on a new adventure.. The one night from hell, in a single location, plot line gets used again, and that’s a very good thing, considering how original it is and how much it goes to present a mostly indoor, claustrophobic situation for our protagonist, John McClane. This time he’s at an airport, there to pick up his wife, who is arriving on a flight, when he starts noticing suspicious things going on around him. It turns out a drug dealer who has been arrested and is awaiting sentencing, is on his way to the airport, and a bunch off mercenaries have been hired to help him escape. McClane figures this out, but it’s only the start. The mercenaries seize control of the airport, including all of it’s communications and lighting equipment, and the fun begins. The action scenes here are pretty exciting, but they definitely don’t top those of the original movie. It’s a worthy sequel, and continues the storyline nicely, but the first and third films are still the best ones in the franchise.
As far as sequels go, making a good one is a pretty tough feat to pull off. You have to remind the viewers of the original film enough to feel like the movies are connected, but you also can’t go too close to the original in terms of plot. Instead, you have to let the viewer experience something new and different. Something that takes the story of the character in a new direction, building off of what came before and expanding on it. You also have to go bigger and bolder on whatever worked in the first movie. Whether it’s jokes or action or anything else, the sequel has to top the original.Die Hard 2: Die Harder does most of these things. It is filled with connections to the original film, (way more than any of the other Die Hard sequels, of which there have been four sequels and five Die Hard movies total.) It has a clever storyline. It’s got some huge action set pieces. It even expands on the character story a little bit.
So let’s start there. The character story is the story of Police Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis,) and Holly Genarro, or Holly McClane, depending on which movie we’re in. In the first movie, they were separated. He was a New York cop coming out to LA, where Holly worked, to spend Christmas with his family. All hell went down in the first movie in Holly’s office building, Nacatomi Plaza, and by the end of it, she and John were together again. Well, in the sequel they are still together. In fact, their relationship is better here than it really was in any point of the first movie. This is the Die Hard movie where the romantic bond is strong. By the time the next movie, Die Hard With A Vengeance rolls around, (three years after this one,) John and Holly as a couple are no more. And that’s pretty much the last we hear from Holly. We hear her voice over the phone in that movie, and that’s it. Nothing in the two sequels that come after the third movie, at all.
The story of where these characters are in Die Hard 2 is that, in the time between the first movie and now, McClane has moved out to L.A. and become an L.A. cop. Only this movie doesn’t take place in L.A. It takes place in Washington D.C. where Holly’s parents live. Funny, these movies are always putting McClane in a city that places him out of his element. When there was a movie about L.A., he was a N.Y. cop. Now that he’s an L.A. cop, the movie is no longer in L.A. Luckily, for the third movie, they try something different and actually make him a cop in the city where the trouble goes down, (New York City.) So McClane is here, in D.C., with the kids, who are at the moment staying over at Holly’s mother’s house. McClane has borrowed the mother’s car and driven it to the airport to pick up Holly, who is arriving on a flight to D.C. that night. And that’s the premise. It’s actually pretty simple, and is all fully established in the opening scene.
That opening scene begins with some humor and excitement. It’s not an action scene by any means, but it certainly has the intensity to feel like one. The movie begins with the slamming together of the screen titles Die Hard 2, over a black screen, with a loud clanging metallic sound. Then it smashes us into a snowstorm and a closeup on a license plate, being immediately backed away from. The whole thing is to show us a car being towed, but what an exciting way to show it. McClane comes running over, trying to talk to the cop who is towing it. He explains his whole situation, including what he’s doing at the airport, and that it’s his mother-in-law’s s car. The cop isn’t having it, and gives him the ticket anyway. It’s quick, to the point, humorous, and incredibly informative. Suddenly we know exactly what’s going on, and why McClane is at the airport. The scene even establishes that McClane is now an L.A. cop, out of his jurisdiction, yet again.
From there, he is in the airport, walking around and waiting. He gets on a payphone and calls Holly, who is able to answer from a phone on her plane. They chit-chat a bit, about leaving the kids with Holly’s mom for the night, and going out just the two of them. It helps establish where the kids are, and what their family unit looks like. This is a nice reminder from the first movie of characters who are important, yet who we will not really see in this film at all. And then McClane bumps into a well known military figure, Colonel Stewart, who is walking around the airport. McClane can’t quite place him at the moment. Stewart looks familiar, and McClane even tells him this, but the Stewart simply says he gets that a lot, and moves on. None of this is really suspicious to McClane. The suspicions don’t start until he sees two men sitting at a table with a wrapped package underneath. When some cops walk by, the men move the package back, out of the sight of the cops. And McClane notices this. He also notices when one of those men takes the package and tries to get into the baggage room. At this point, McClane is thinking that maybe it’s a bomb. He goes to find the cops, and it turns out the cop on duty is the same one who gave him the ticket. If something is going to be done about these guys, McClane is going to have to do it himself.
Meanwhile, we are with Stewart as he and his men show up to a Church that is located right outside the airport zone. Two of his men go in, disguised as electricians, and shoot the man who lives and works at the Church. Then they start drilling, rewiring, and doing all sorts of electrical work. It turns out they have figured out a location where they can basically hack into the airports communications and lighting systems and override anything that can be done from the airport itself. The movie tries to explain this later on, stating the the original control center was once here, or something to that effect, but it’s all mumbo jumbo. Basically, the terrorists found a hideout where they can control everything and be a major threat.
But while the bad guys are dealing with the Church, McClane is taking on whatever villains are still at the airport. The first fight takes place in the baggage room, with tons of conveyor belts everywhere you look. At one point, McClane even gets on one, moving up, and starts firing. By the end of it, McClane has killed one of the terrorists, and the other has gotten away. This leads to McClane finding the head of airport security, (played by NYPD Blues Dennis Franz,) and trying to get him to close off the area. He wants an investigation. The gun this terrorist was using was high grade, quality material. Not the kind of thing your average criminal would be using. Turns out McClane has to get the finger prints himself, and gets his old friend Al, (Rejinald Veljohnsen, better known as Carl Winslow from the TV show Family Matters,) to help him out. This is a nice call back to the first film.
In fact, Al is one of three call backs to the first movie, in terms of character. The others are Holly and Roger Thornberg a reporter who was punched by Holly at the end of the first movie. This time he’s on her flight. It’s interesting to note that none of these three characters appear in any other Die Hard film. This is hardly the Mission Impossible franchise, where the same actors keep reprising their roles over and over again, (Ving Rhames, for example, has been in every Mission Impossible film.) In the Die Hard movies, Bruce Willis is the only consistency. And this second film is the one entry in the series that is closely related to the original.
After getting the results of the finger prints from Al, and realizing that the terrorist is a military man who supposedly died two years ago, McClane knows that something is up. He’s in the control tower of the airport relaying that information when General Stewart calls in with his threats and a list of demands. Stewart shuts off the lights on all of the runways. When McClane goes to what is supposed to be an abandoned airport wing, to try to restore them, he is met by a bunch of Stewart’s guys. This leads to action scene two… the conveyor belt. We get tons of action sequence throughout the film, each one defined by one specific idea of moment. There’s the ejection seat from the plane cockpit scene and the snow mobile scene outside of the Church. And all the while, we get a bit of a mystery as McClane tries to put the pieces together to figure all of this out.
The mystery element is kind of cool. It’s more than just who is doing all of this, and in charge. At one point, McClane discovers a clever twist involving different kinds of bullets that the bad guys are using, as shown by the color of the rings that are taped onto the bullet clips. When you watch the movie back again, these things are kind of obvious, but it’s plenty easy to miss them the first time around. The movie makes the very smart decision to stay at the airport for nearly the entire film, (the only other location is the Church, which we get in mostly quick scenes of the villains, until it is finally raided, towards the end.) This is a fascinating movie with a cleve story. It might not be as great as the first film, (which was super original and r fresh,) or the third film, (which had our heroes running from one clue to the next around NYC, and got the most out of Sam Jackson,) but this sequel is still a pretty exciting and fun movie.