Directed by: Renny Harlin
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Written by Nick McCann
“Die Hard” became an instant sensation upon release. Action films became more relatable through the eyes of someone like John McClane. Both Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman, hero and villain, became superstars in a snap. All that and more brought the genre to a new standard. Then came the follow-up, borderline put to rush order after the wild success of the first movie.
“Die Hard 2” goes from vertical to horizontal, swapping out a high rise for an airport that’s taken over by rogue mercenaries. The movie sticks to much of the same formula. It’s fast-paced and still has a degree of claustrophobia (albeit with a little more room to breathe). Towards the later half though, the story starts to get a little convenient. Events seem to fall into place a little too much when compared to the first film. Also, a late-stage twist seems designed solely for the audience. Although director Renny Harlin constructs an action movie that’s more conventional for the era, he does a decent job trying to emulate John McTiernan’s semi-methodical pacing while keeping the stakes high.
Bruce Willis is back as John McClane, still fresh and in top form. Although there isn’t more in the way of an emotional arc, he still brings out the humor and humanity equally in the character (a runway scene with torches is particularly harrowing). There are also returning players like Bonnie Bedilia, Reginald Vel Johnson, and William Atherton. All of them feel relatively forced into the mix with varying amounts of narrative addition. William Saddler is our baddie in Colonial Stewart. While not iconic like Hans Gruber, he does prove himself a menacing and cold-hearted villain for McClane to go after. Other new players fill a lot of the same shoes as before with their varied personalities and dialog that’s as darkly witty as ever.
Compared to the patient survival atmosphere of the first movie, the sequel opts for a more straightforward action design. Gunfights are much more plentiful here with visceral sound design and clean camera coverage. Some parts even seem to evoke a bit of the Hong Kong cinema energy. The only thing is the editing can be cut crazy at times. Even with some flaws every bit of action delivers as the scale ramps up more. Almost every major scene doesn’t go without something to remember it by, from fights in the baggage area to epic plane crashes.
“Die Hard 2” is a decent sequel despite being in the shadow of the classic original. It’s a satisfying watch despite some shoddy storytelling and being more traditionally constructed for its time. Whereas you can watch the first movie and get emotionally involved in the fresh-looking spectacle, one element is clearly outweighing the other here. But as long as the body count is high and McClane has at least ten memorable swears, it isn’t time wasted in my book.
“Die Hard 2” Trailer