Country: United States
Director: Renny Harlin
TRASH CINEMA ESSENTIAL MOVIE
Superior in every way to the original Die Hard, Die Hard 2 makes almost no false moves.
There’s plenty of credit to spread around, starting with director Renny Harlin’s efficient, often inspired staging. Harlin’s action sequences have plenty of punch and rhythm, and he’s also not afraid to pile on the 80s style gore, which I find quite endearing.
Die Hard 2 was adapted from the novel 58 Minutes, written by author Walter Wager, so most of the ingenious plot devices can be attributed to him, but the script by action specialists Steven E. de Souza and Doug Richardson does a great job of boiling down the source material and tailoring it to the character of John McLane (Bruce Willis). I think the writers should also be proud of the way they developed the character of Richard Thornton (William Atherton), the irresponsible newsman from the first Die Hard. He may be a pompous ass, but they also graciously show him to be a consummate professional. The only thing I would take issue with is an abundance of jokey one-liners, which tend to date the film.
Die Hard 2 finds John McClane at Dulles International Airport, waiting for his wife Holly’s (Bonnie Bedelia) plane to land. It’s his bad luck that a group of mercenaries, headed up by Colonel Stuart (William Sadler) intend to hold the airport hostage in order to intercept the plane of General Ramon Esperanza (Franco Nero), a deposed Central American dictator who has been extradited to the United States to stand trial for drug trafficking.
I’m not going to much more about the plot, because a large part of the fun of Die Hard 2 is following the twists and turns. I will say, however, that there is real tension built into the story. I mean, you know that neither John McClane or Holly is going to die, but you can’t say that about practically anyone else. And for that matter, you really don’t know how McClane is going to pull off saving the day and smearing the terrorists, because the odds are really stacked against him this time around. In fact, when there’s a coincidence in the story, it tends to work against McClane, which is a nice touch.
I’ve also got to give a tip of a hat to casting director Jackie Burch. Most of the casting is just inspired. For example, the majority of the soldiers and mercenaries are believable as hardened military men. My guess is that James Cameron and his casting director saw Die Hard 2 and cast Robert Patrick as the T1000 Terminator on the basis of his performance here. William Sadler is wonderful as Colonel Stuart and John Amos is wonderfully cast against type as Major Grant, the head of the government special ops team assigned to take out Colonel Stuart. Dennis Franz is properly irritating as the bureaucratic nincompoop Captain Carmine Lorenzo. Really, Die Hard 2 is beautifully cast down to the bit parts. The only notable exception is Art Evans, as communications specialist Leslie Barnes, who functions as McClane’s sidekick much of the time. His delivery is cartoon shrill, and not up to the standard of the actors who surround him.
One last thing and I’ll shut up. This Die Hard has some wonderful stunts and fighting. Whenever McClane is going mano a mano with some terrorist, it’s completely convincing, and a lot of fun to watch.
What this all adds up to is an almost perfect action movie. It’s got kickass action, a fun plot with lots of twists, and engaging characters. It also has by far the strongest ending of all of the Die Hard movies. What more do you want?
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