Sunday 8 July 2007

Die Hard 2 (1990) Renny Harlin

It's Christmas again and so John McClane is in trouble. Since the first film, he's moved to LA to be closer to his wife Holly, and so has transferred over to the LAPD. However for Christmas he's in Washington DC waiting for Holly's plane to arrive. Naturally the worst of his troubles are not the fact that his mother-in-law's car has been towed from in front of the airport or the difficulty in finding a phone to ring Holly's plane. There's something going on with General Ramon Esperanza, Latin American dictator and the world's biggest drug dealer. He's being kicked out of his country and will be arrested on arrival at Dulles by the feds. The bad guys are waiting for him too for reasons of their own and McClane is the only one who sees them doing anything suspicious.

Beyond John McClane always having a sucky Christmas and my seeing more of William Sadler than I'd really have liked, the first thing I noticed was that times have seriously changed since 1990. Back then old women could carry tazers on planes and people could smoke in airports. They could wander pretty easily into restricted areas too, with or without help. The bad guys have their token black guy too, even though they're a Latin American gang this time. It's also notable that most of the airlines are replaced with fake ones but British Airways and Kenwood get some very obvious plugs.

I also noticed that while this was surprisingly good for a sequel, especially a sequel to a really good first film that wasn't made by the same director, there was a really annoying number of conveniences included to make up for bad scriptwriting. The first fight at Dulles is fun, for instance, but it's way too convenient. The bad guys can't kill McClane in the first ten minutes, of course, but even when he's completely exposed, there's always something convenient in the way to hit instead of him, however well their military training was. When he gets caught on a hot gas pipe there's a solitary convenient baggage cart situated right underneath him. In fact I don't think there's anything in the entire fight that isn't just a little too convenient.

Soon enough McClane's warnings that have been powerfully ignored by security chief Captain Carmine Lorenzo, played excellently with a sassy foul mouth by Dennis Franz of NYPD Blue. His boss has a lot more trust but not much more control, and he's played by a TV cop show regular too: Fred Dalton Thompson from Law & Order. As much as they're annoying to watch, that is entirely the point and they do it very well indeed. In fact while it's easy to bitch about some glaring plotholes, bad choreography and inappropriate ineptitude, the acting is not a downpoint in the slightest.

When the small parts that don't even make the first page of cast members at IMDb are taken by people like Robert Patrick and John Leguizamo, then the acting isn't going to be much of an issue. Those on page one include not just Bruce Willis, excellent but not quite as busy as before; Bonnie Bedelia and Reginald VelJohnson from the first movie, in much smaller parts; and Sadler, Franz and Thompson already mentioned, but others with prominent opportunities that they take happily. There's John Amos as the leader of the military anti-terrorist unit, Franco Nero as General Esperanza and especially Tom Bower as Marvin the airport janitor who gives McClane more support than the rest of the staff. Bower makes up for a lot of it on his own.

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