Die Hard 2 (United States, 1990)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

It's rare that the sequel to a good movie lives up to expectations. Such is the case with Die Hard 2, the somewhat-muddled but still entertaining return of Bruce Willis' John McClane. Fortunately, the original Die Hard was good enough that there's room for the second installment to be enjoyable while still not matching the pace or possessing the flair of its predecessor.

It's Christmas Eve, and John McClane (Bruce Willis) is in trouble...again. This time, the scene is no longer the Nakatomi Tower in Los Angeles, but Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C., where a group of terrorists (it's always terrorists in these films) led by the renegade Colonel Stewart (William Sadler) has taken command of the runways and control tower. Unless their demands, which include the immediate release of the drug lord on his way to the United States for trial, are met, Stewart's band intends to start crashing planes. And Holly McClane (Bonnie Bedelia) is on one of those planes, endlessly circling above while a winter blizzard envelopes the already crippled airport. As before, it's up to John to save the day.

The plot of Die Hard 2 is more ambitious than that of the original. The confines of the Nakatomi tower have been widened, although most of the action still takes place in the limited area of Dulles Airport. This time, however, it's not just the terrorists that McClane has to contend with, but an army of reporters, a local police captain (Dennis Franz) who can't stand him, a government "anti-terrorist" squad, and a winter storm that's closing down airports all along the East Coast.

In many ways, the presence of so many diverse elements detracts from the film's effectiveness. Die Hard 2 is not as tightly focused as the original, and this leeches away some of the excitement. The movie is still a thrill-a-minute ride, but much of the action is more pedestrian than stylish. Renny Harlin is a fair replacement for John McTiernan in the director's chair, but he lacks a measure of his predecessor's refinement.

Additionally, while no one could hope to replace Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber, William Sadler's Colonel Stewart is a selection that leaves a gaping hole where the bad guy is supposed to be. Stewart has minimal personality and less charisma, and his band of terrorists are faceless goons that follow him because they all happen to agree with the worn-out creed of "Communism must be stopped at all costs." (The Berlin wall was still standing when this film went into production.)

Several characters return from Die Hard. The most obvious (and necessary) are John and Holly McClane. Also back for a cameo is Reginald Veljohnson (eating Twinkees again), and William Atherton has a few scenes reprising his Geraldo Rivera-like muckraking reporter. The newcomers include Art Evans as an engineer who uses his electronics expertise to fight the terrorists, John Amos as the major who taught Colonel Stewart "everything he knows", and Fred Dalton Thomas as the man in charge in the control tower.

Die Hard 2 is, in the final analysis, a worthwhile action film, but it doesn't deliver nearly as much as the first Die Hard. Nevertheless, those who enjoyed spending a couple hours with John McClane atop the Los Angeles skyline will find much to savor about this outing. It's not as crisply directed, and the plot holes are easier to find, but Die Hard 2 is filled with the same sense of good-natured, wisecracking fun that infused the original. This is one sequel where deja vu doesn't necessarily mean a rehash of what went before.

Die Hard 2 (United States, 1990)

Run Time: 2:04
U.S. Release Date: -
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence, Profanity, Nudity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1