A movie like the first Die Hard took everyone by surprise. When people first saw the trailer of the movie featuring Bruce Willis as an action hero, they laughed. He was only known for his role as the wise-cracking David Addison on Moonlighting who thinks he’s a lot cooler than what he really is. I mean, he had already done the whole Bruno “Respect Yourself” thing. (The less you know about that, the better. Google it if you dare.) Before that, he had appeared on an episode of Miami Vice playing a bad guy. And he was an extra during a courtroom scene of The Verdict.
So, his only major movie roles were both working for Blake Edwards in the comedy Blind Date and as Tom Mix in Sunset, a strange crime movie that was presented as a comedy but was more darker in context as Willis alongside James Garner playing Wyatt Earp try to solve a murder. Needless to say, no one intended Die Hard to be any good. I mean, the guy playing the villain hadn’t been in anything else. What’s his name again, Alan Rickman? A lot of people were saying, who is that?
Die Hard was a success and in Hollywood, you got to have a sequel. And it had to be bigger, louder, and so much more. Willis was finally competing against the big boys, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose Total Recall, was expected to be the big hit to beat in the summer of 1990. But what was more bigger than the movie, which had more than twice the original budget and a young hotshot director, Renny Harlin, at the helm, was Willis’ ego.
You can clearly see Willis starting to portray what would become synonymous with the remainder of her character. In the first Die Hard, Det. John McClane is not perfect. He’s a flawed man who wants to rekindle his relationship with his wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), but he’s said the wrong thing. As terrorist attack the building she works at on Christmas Eve taking her and her co-workers hostage, there’s a possibility either one or without him admitting he was wrong and saying he’s sorry. That guilt hovers over John’s head the whole movie. And there’s a feeling that John knows he’s not Superman and as his body gets more bruised and bloody, he could die.
All of that went out the window with Hans Gruber’s body. John in Die Hard 2 is David Addison with a Beretta handgun and an endless supply of ammunition, especially for an off-duty cop at the Dulles Airport. John has arrived to pick up Holly who we presume is taking a non-stop flight from L.A. on Christmas Eve. They are in the Washington D.C. area to visit Holly’s parents for the holidays.
At the same time, a plane carrying a military prisoner, Gen. Ramon Esperanza (Franco Nero), is en route from the fictional country of Val Verde in Central America to the Dulles Airport so he can be turned over to officials from the State Department. This raises a lot of questions. Why would they got to Dulles since there are so many other airports in the southern portion of America? Why would they be landing at a commercial airport at all? Isn’t Andrews AFB more equipped to handle a military prisoner who lookslike he’s only going to be handed over to two men in suits. Also, why is only one soldier with Esperanza in the plane?
The movie raises a lot of questions that it doesn’t answer because it’s so absurd you shouldn’t believe one minute of it. Esperanza is working with Col. William Stuart (William Sadler), a disgraced Army colonel looslely based on Oliver North. Stuart has assembled a group of rogue Army soldiers who are going to hack into the tower system at Dulles so they can reroute Esperanza’s plane.
But John immediately notices some odd activity between some of Stuart’s men at a restaurant in the terminal and notices two of them neaking into the luggage area where he gets into a firegfight with them, killing one in the process. However, he angers the airport police captain Carmine Lorenzo (Dennis Franz) giving us a taste of his Emmy-winning role as Andy Sipowicz on NYPD Blue. John swears at him and Lorenzo swears back. In one exchange they can probably fill a Salvation Army kettle drum using it as a swear jar.
John manages to get the fingerprints off the dead person he killed that Lorenzo thought was just stealing luggage and sends them to his colleague Sgt. Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) in L.A. Powell runs the prints through the system only to discover the man was an Army sergeant trained at Fort Bragg who was listed killed in action a few years earlier. When he tries to present this information to Ed Trudeau (Fred Dalton Thompson), air traffic director, he and Lorenzo dismiss it at first.
However, Stuart’s team, working from a nearby abandoned church, shuts down the ILS at the airport and mess with other computer system. Stuart calls and tells them they’ve shut down the airport so they can reroute Esperanza’s plane where they will meet with him. They are also requesting the airport supply a jetliner for them to take Esperanza out of the country. Stuart warns them not to do anything, but Lorenzo wants to strike first and sends his SWAT team to an annex location currently under construction where Leslie Barnes (Art Evans) chief engineer, can work hook up a system to a satellite.
But Stuart anticipates this and sends a team, including an early role by Robert Patrick, there posing as construction workers to kill the SWAT members. Yet, John is able to crawl through an air duct (again!) and takes out the rogue Army team, who are supposed to be more heavily trained than him. Wouldn’t the SWAT team suspect someone off about construction workers on the job past 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve? The problem here is there were only a dozen terrorist in the first movie. Yet, here, there seems to be an infinite number of bad guys who just show up whenever it’s convenient for the plot to get into a firefight.
In a scene that makes no sense, Stuart impersonates an air traffic controller for a British plane recalibrating the landing by less than 200 feet causing it to crash in a huge fireball killing everyone on board. The only problem is someone says it’s dry and running on fumes. Even worse, they could have used the fire to tell the other planes to land. This comes back at the end. Also, wouldn’t a major crash at an airport pretty much shut it down thus the other planes would instantly be rerouted to other airports?
Trudeau says the plane Holly is flying on has about 90 minutes of fuel, which is funny because it could very easily fly hundreds of miles to a safer airport. Trudeau says National has shut down sending all the flights their way as a blizzard is coming through. But that’s only 30 miles away and pretty sure if they can’t land at National, they can’t land at Dulles. Also there’s other airports, such as Richmond and Philadelphia they could reroute these planes. I’ve flown from Tulsa to Atlanta in 90 minutes. When you’re going about 700 miles per hour, you can make good time.
At the same time, John seems to be acting like he’s the only one who can do the job right. It’s the beginning of his “He’s the only one we got” line of action movies as John criticizes the actions of others. When a crisis platoon led by Maj. Grant (John Amos) is brought on, Grant and Lorenzo take turns busting John’s balls as he just drags on a cigarette acting non-chalant. Grant says he’s “the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time,” as John just says, “Story of my life.” It reminds me of The Wild Ones where Marlon Brando answers “What have you got?” when asks what he’s rebelling against.
Barnes does use the radio beacon at the outer marker to send a message to the planes. You’d think that would give them the go-ahead to head to other airports. Even after Holly notices there are planes circling close to the ones she’s on, she never bothers to page John and have him call her until the one time he doesn’t need to be paged. Yet, she called him earlier in the movie from the plane. Also on the plane is Dick Thornburg (William Atherton), the TV news reporter Holly punched in the first movie for interviewing their daughter.
Apparently, they throw so many references to the first Die Hard in this movie, you’d think someone might not realize what the 2 in the title meant. The Nakatomi incident is mentioned by at least three people. VelJohnson’s role is very short just for us to notice him. Then, there’s Thornburg who was supposed to be sitting 15 feet away for several hours only notices Holly. And both John and Holly make metareferences on why this keeps happening to them.
But for all the cardboard characters and implausible plot points, Die Hard 2 is what is is, a mindless blockbuster. There’s explosions and machine gun fire in scenes where characters are always too busy arguing with each other. The movie has a twist that really isn’t a twist because the characters are introduced too late for it to really have the punch it otherwise would. In reality, jet fuel wouldn’t be that flammable.
Die Hard 2 would be the last time Willis and producer Joel Silver would work together on a Die Hard movie. They butted heads so badly on the production of The Last Boy Scout, that Silver was gone after that. Now, Willis has retired from acting as he is suffering from asphasia. Reportedly his last two movies are set be released on the home video market in 2023. The last movie of his to be released in theaters was Motherless Brooklyn in 2019 and he’s had about two dozen released on home video since then, most of the movies Willis shot his scenes in one or two days.
It’s sad how far he’s fallen but at least he showed the people who laughed in 1988 how wrong they were. He was still able to appear in movies like Pulp Fiction, The Sixth Sense and Noboby’s Fool but you can only go so far in Hollywood when you behave a certain way.
What do you think? Pleast comment.