4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Another Christmas, another terrorist crisis for John McClane,
This review is from: Die Hard 2: Die Harder [DVD]  (DVD)
"Die Hard" has become the standard by which every action film made since 1988 has been judged and almost invariably found wanting. Films were sold in Hollywood on the basis of being reduced to such ideas as "'Die Hard' in a bus" (i.e, "Speed"). Of course another Hollywood tradition is to make a sequel of any successful film, so in 1990 Bruce Willis went back in front of the camera, this time with director Renny Harlin ("The Long Kiss Goodnight"), to do a sequel. "Die Hard 2: Die Harder" is not as good as the original, but it does have a self-reflexivity that (for the most part) makes this film work. Ultimately I would rate this at 4.5 stars, but by the standard of sequels that is an exceptional accomplishment, so I round up.
The plot for "Die Hard 2," which is more unsettling today than it was at the time, has a group of terrorists taking control of Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C in order to secure the release of a South American drug lord (Franco Nero) on his way to the United States for trial. If their demands are not met, they are going to start crashing the circling airplanes. Once again, John McClane (Willis) is in the wrong place at the wrong time, at the airport to pick up his wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), who is on one of those circling airliners. McClane picks up on something wrong and when the airport cops refuse to take it seriously he starts pursuing it on his own, getting in deeper and deeper into the situation. Soon it is clear that what we have here is "Die Hard" in an airport.
As I indicated above, the self-reflexivity of the film works in its favor for the most part. The exception to this idea is when McClane repeats the "Yippie-kay-yay" line from the first film, albeit in a large context this time around, put the best example is when a bewildered Holly turns to her husband and asks "Why do these things keep happening to us?" Otherwise, throughout the film what McClane did at the Nakatomi Building comes into play as various characters either dismiss him out of hand or take him seriously because of his reputation. The first time around it was his anonimity that was one of his biggest weapons; this time his "fame" is a double-edged sword.
In many ways this sequel follows the original. But the scope has been enlarged as other parties besides the terrorists become much more problematic for our hero than they were the first time around. Plus, this time McClane gets to keep his shoes on, which is good because there is a blizzard going on in addition to the all the terrorist fun. Actually, there is probably too much going on, because "Die Hard 2" lacks the driving focus of the original. It also lacks as strong of a villain, with William Sadler's Colonel Stewart being restrained to the point of inertness. Granted, it would be hard to top Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber, but they certainly could have found something and someone that would have worked a lot better.
They could not work Reginald Veljohnson in for anything more than a cameo in this one, but the cinematic law of convenient coincidences finds William Atherton's slimy reporter stuck on the plane with Holly. Of the new members of the supporting cast Art Evans as Chief Engineer Leslie Barnes, who can come up with creative problem solving in an emergency, Dennis Franz as Capt. Carmine Lorenzo, the airport chief of security who has no use for McClane, Tom Bower as Marvin, who lives in the bowels of the airport with all of the maps, John Amos as the major from special forces who taught the bad guy everything he knows, and future senator Fred Dalton Thomas as the man in charge of the airport control tower.
In the final analysis despite the problems with this movie, especially in comparison to the original, it is Bruce Willis as John McClane who makes this work because he manages to keep his character as more or less a real person in extraordinary circumstances. He is not as strong as Stallone or Swarzenegger and he is not as smart as Harrison Ford or whoever is playing James Bond in any given year. But he has enough to get the job done. More importantly, I did not have the sense of disappointment that so often comes at the end of movies with this one, which is a pretty good bottom line for anything coming out of Hollywood. We will have to see what happens with the upcoming "Die Hard 4.0" next year.