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December 23, 2011

Midnight Movie of the Week #103 - Die Hard 2

Sometimes, when it's Christmas time, I like to watch movies that are, y'know, Christmas movies.  Some of them are movies like It's a Wonderful Life (seriously, if you can't love that flick you might be EVIL), some of them are movies like Christmas Vacation (which I kinda think is really awful when compared to the original Vacation and pretty annoying), and some of them are movies like the first two Die Hard movies.
At this point, you probably think I should be talking about the original Die Hard.  After all, isn't Die Hard the best?  YES.  Yes, Die Hard is the best. And I'm not even adding a qualifier to that statement, because I don't even think I need to clarify what Die Hard is the best of.  It simply is the best.

Yet I'm here today to say that Die Hard 2 is pretty awesome too.  While its precursor is certainly one of the coolest movies of all time, the sequel - directed by Finnish awesomemaker Renny Harlin - takes the heroic John McClane in a deliciously pulpy direction.  Harlin's film follows the "rules" of the sequel - you've gotta think this is one of the main culprits that was spoofed by Last Action Hero three years later - by amping up almost everything people loved about Die Hard.  Of course, that all makes the film a bit cheesier than John McTiernan's 1988  flick....but isn't that something we love about most midnight movies anyway?
The fantastic hero John McClane, a modern day cowboy that would make even rock band Tesla proud, is now in Washington D.C. a year after his exploits in Los Angeles, and Harlin takes steps to remind us that it is Christmas early and often.  That type of excess quickly spills over into other parts of the film, but Harlin and his screenwriters - the returning Steven E. de Souza and newcomer Doug Richardson - are quite aware of this problem.  At one point McClane is allowed to quip about how unlikely it is that he's dealing with the same plot devices on the same night once again, which is one of those great not-so-sly winks at the camera that I just love.
Along with his ability to crack wise about his situation that is carried over from the first film, McClane's powers of persuasion are increased in this film as well.  This is most evident when you suddenly realize that all the women he comes across - most blatantly the really turn-of-the-'90s-cute Budget Rental Car lady who teaches him how to fax the Twinkie guy - suddenly get all turned on when John McClane's around.  Another example of this comes from the on-scene female reporter (who is not Patricia Clarkson despite how much I want her to be Patricia Clarkson) who offers to carry McClane's children in exchange for a story.  However, this is a John McClane movie, not a Shaft movie, and thus our hero quips his way away from their advances and stays loyal to his wife, even though she's stuck on a plane for the entire movie.
Oh, that whole stuck on a plane thing comes into play thanks to a new bunch of terrorists who cover all races and creeds, led by the always cool William Sadler.  Sadler's turncoat Colonel is not necessarily as interesting as Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber was in the first film, but he's an imposing and smart adversary for McClane and his large army of henchmen provide a varied set of opponents for McClane.  Sadler is just one of the great additions to the supporting cast, which includes Coming to America's John Amos, the often sleazy Dennis Franz, Fright Night's Art Evans, future U.S. senator Fred Dalton Thompson and - last but never least - Django himself, Franco Nero.  Nero plays the General who has something to do with the Colombian drug trade and is a prisoner who sets the rather convoluted plot in motion.  It's never easy to understand all the details of the film's plot and why these soldiers-turned-terrorists are doing what they're doing, but it's also never dull to watch thanks to the fine cast.
While the first film confined McClane to a couple of floors in an office building, Die Hard 2 gives John full range over a large airport, which allows the character to get into plenty of trouble.  Some of the adventures seem a little too silly - like when McClane ejects from a plane that's about to explode and walks away unscathed - but others are full of excitement.  An attack on the small church where Sadler and crew are holed up, complete with racing snowmobiles, is one of the action highlights of the film, and the scenes on the snowy runway that end the film are sufficiently grand in scale.
Harlin doesn't skimp on the gore either, and there are a few scenes in Die Hard 2 that would make most horror fans proud.  There are several moments of "shock" violence - like close range bullets to the forehead or icicles being used as weapons - throughout the film, and McClane's battles with the henchmen often seem like boss battles from a video game.  (On a side note, rewatching the film tonight reminded me of the excellent Die Hard Trilogy video game that I had for Playstation One back when I was in high school, which turned DH2 into a first person shooter and was a heckuva fun time.)  Another great moment in gore comes in a late film scene where a throat is slit, and the special effects allow blood to gush and tissue to be exposed as the character gasps his last breaths.  Once again, this is an area where Die Hard 2 plays a little cheesier than the first film, but it still works for the most part.
While Die Hard seemed like it could almost be a real story of a cop who holed up in a hostage filled tower, it's pretty obvious throughout that Harlin's sequel is more interested in sensationalizing John McClane's Christmas Eve path of mayhem.  This isn't a knock against the movie, it simply means that Harlin has created an action film that's designed for the popcorn crowd.  It might not be a great movie - and I think the first film is a great movie - but it is a ton of fun to watch, and I dig when a director manages that while bringing a character back for a sequel.  After all, we all need to follow Dennis Franz' lead and lighten up sometimes.  It's Christmas time!

2 comments:

Angie Tusa said...

I didn't like Die Hard 2 when I watched it, but it may be because I was hoping for something to match the awesomeness of the first film and clearly that's not what we got.

Top Hollywood Movies said...

This was a great horror movies collection... i love horror movies. Thanks for the recommendtaion.