Friday, July 31, 2009

Alisa's Occasional, Arbitrary, Movie Reviews #1

Die Hard 2: Die Harder

Released in 1990
Directed by Renny Harlin
Starring Bruce Willis
Rated R

There isn’t much to a Die Hard film. It’s actually quite simple in hindsight. Namely, the main components being cussing, violence, the obligatory stupidly, stubborn character, and of course, the real hero that goes it alone in the fight against evil. However, the difference between a Die Hard movie and any other action movie is that…the Die Hard franchise does it extremely well.

The first Die Hard is a classic, and there’s usually two ways a sequel can go when following such a movie. Either it improves on the flaws of the original, thus making a better installment, or it’s a half-hearted attempt screwed up by some change in the production (whether it be different writers, directors, cast, etc.). Die Hard 2 is somewhere in the middle.

Die Hard 2 takes place in an airport located in Washington D.C. Terrorists have taken over all communications making it impossible for the control tower to relay instructions to the planes flying above. Their goal is to procure the release of a political prisoner by any means necessary. The storyline reminds me of the first Die Hard where Hans Gruber gives the LAPD false demands which also dealt with the release of political prisoners. Is this a nod to the original? Either way, the threat is conveyed rather effectively given that the planes forced to circle above have only a limited amount of fuel to stay airborne. The threat is made even more real when the viewers discover that John McClane’s wife and mother-in-law are aboard one of the endangered planes.

Bruce Willis returns to his iconic role as Officer John McClane, basically a man who can't tolerate stupidity and does whatever he believes is needed to get the job done and done right. This ideal leads to a multitude of clashes with the captain of the airport police force. As I mentioned before, there’s usually one idiotic character in a movie like this. Voila! The army also makes an appearance later on as the situation escalates. Anyway, enough plot summary.

Die Hard 2 doesn’t live up to its predecessor. It still has merit as a more than decent action flick. This just doesn’t have the same feeling of claustrophobia or urgency as the first film managed. The villain, played by William Sadler, isn’t nearly as fun as Alan Rickman’s character in Die Hard. Although, I’m not being entirely fair as Rickman is a very hard actor to match in terms of diabolical “evilness.”

Willis is excellent, as usual, playing McClane. He’s human, vulnerable, but manages to take on however many henchmen needed to save the day. Another aspect of the Die Hard films that I’ve appreciated is the fact that he can bleed. He’s not invincible and he comes out of heavy fights with injuries and ignores the pain to get what he needs accomplished. This wasn’t nearly as prevalent. Countless sprays of bullets were aimed at McClane and not one hits him? Yes, he doesn’t come out of the ordeal without a scratch, but it’s not as neatly done. He has blood streaming from somewhere, and I’m left to guess how it happened. Was it in an explosion? Was it the gunfights? Fisticuffs? It’s this amount of detail that I miss, but overall this is simply a fan’s quibbles.

The continuity in the second movie is a nice touch. It’s not merely another installment that just happens to have the same characters in a new situation, but acknowledges the events of the first film and the consequences stemming from it. This intrigues and also adds comedic moments between McClane and a certain female reporter. A few other past characters make an appearance such as Officer Powell and Richard Thornburg (the reporter from the previous movie). This leads to excellent scenes and comic relief.

In the grand scheme of it all, Die Hard 2 is still an excellent movie with fine special effects and intense action. Is it as good as the original? In my humble opinion, it’s not quite up there. That shouldn’t stop anyone from watching this spectacle though. With twists and turns along the road, clever dialogue, and lots of things that go boom, Die Hard 2 is still one of the better action movies out there.

4 Stars ****

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