Action Heroes – Willis: Die Hard 2: Die Harder

So over-thrilled when I heard there was a Die Hard 2 on its way! And it was around this time that I had really started to get my geeky little teenage teeth into the film world.  Bare in mind I had grown up a lover of video, and would have been an even bigger lover of cinema had I been taken there on more of a regular basis. But as it was – becoming a loudmouthed teen makes you ask for what you want. And the year previous to this in 1989 I had managed to get my father to take me to see the likes of Indiana Jones And The last Crusade as well as Ghostbusters II. Crusade worked a charm, Ghostbusters II left no memory except the fact that it is responsible for me becoming a huge Kate Bush fan (?confused? – The film was preceded by the full video to her song The Sensual World. Never seen a full music video play before a film before or since at the cinema! Must have been fate).

Anyway- from this year on I started to subscribe to the likes of Starburst Magazine to get all my movie goodies. This lead to reading Film Review from the same publishing company which the likes of FrightFest’s Alan jones wrote for back in the day. I was in the initial stages of my proper geekdom and it only grew.

Die hard 2: Die Harder came out the following year in 1990, directed by Renny Harlin who was so far responsible for only a couple of movies, including the fourth Nightmare on Elm Street flick. Quite how he got the gig seems insane considering John McTiernan at least had Predator under his belt when he got the job. But, got the job he did.

Now I watched every clip I could get my eyes on before this was released in the UK. Thanks to the US getting it before us I avidly recorded and watched a US Top Ten show that screened on ITV at about 2.30am once a week!  (Oh we are so much wiser to the popularity of film now aren’t we terrestrial TV!). I remember seeing Bruce jumping out a building with some makeshift torches and trying to flag down a passenger flight; also McClane taking flight, literally, as he ejected himself from an exploding plane. I had no idea what the context was for these scenes, but they were jolly exciting.

Anyway – I was all worked up, but there was just one problem. Die Hard 2 was being released as a 15 certificate in the UK. I was 14. And I looked 12. Some people say it’s a blessing not to look your age; but to look younger. Well, now that I am right into my mid 30’s I can safely assure you that this is true. It is great not to look my age. But when you are young, it’s a curse. Especially when you are coming of age and don’t look it, and even into your 20’s when people younger than you talk down to you because they have assumed that you are younger! Go figure. So anyone that is upset about looking old in my age bracket and are annoyed that I’m not – can BACK OFF! I paid my dues before they did.

So – anyway. I thought “Screw it! Go anyway.” The folks were going shopping; so got a lift to Colchester and trotted into the old Odeon cinema – walked up to the desk, asked politely for one ticket and promptly got turned down by the kind lady behind the desk. Can’t argue; she was right to assume I was underage. Then the unthinkable happened. My mother appeared next to me and asked what the issue was, then assured the lady that I was 15 and that she was my mother (My Mum that is; Not the lady behind the desk!). So red faced, but consoled by the fact that I was getting into my first film underage (turns out it was the only time I tried in my life!), I toddled into the large screening room, sat and let it hit me. And boy did that hit feel good. Ah yassum!, may I have another.

Die Hard 2 as we may all be familiar with by now has many similar elements to the original film. But instead of being trapped in a confined space, McClane gets the run of an entire airport. Terrorists have hacked into the landing systems and hold the planes in the sky to ransom until they get hold of a foreign general who is in custody. The faces are largely at the time unknown actors but looking at the list of actors playing some of the terrorists now is very impressive considering the other films in the series rely on largely no-name actors.

William Sadler (also appearing in our Hard to Kill retro); John Leguizamo (Also appearing in our Executive Decision retro); Robert Patrick (Hello Terminator 2); Don Harvey (Character actor also in Tank Girl and Hudson Hawk); Vondie Curtis Hall (went on to direct, also had a cameo in Coming To America as a devote fan to Eddie Murphy’s Prince); Mark Boone Junior (Another character actor who went onto appear in Seven, Batman Begins and 30 Days Of Night). Bigger actors there were perhaps John Amos (people would have already seen in Coming To America as well) and Franco Nero (Django).

Despite the fact that some of these guys come and go, you barley notice it – the film follows McClane most of the time (unless we need to see bad guys be bad, or supporting good guys brick themselves in control rooms). The rest of the cast is filled out with obstacle characters for McClane to hurdle and the odd person that helps him out. In fact Marvin the Janitor seems pretty friendly towards McClane. He even finds one of the coded walkie’s that helps McClane out when needed. So happy McClane is for it; in response to Marvin asking for 50 bucks, McClane replies “How about I let you live?” (Ok it’s a joke, but I felt that was a bit harsh!).

So he turns into a one man army and takes the fight to he bad guys, uncovering their plan and generally screwing things up for the military who are supposed to be doing it for him. Why is he bothering in the first place? Well turns out his wife is on one of the planes. It also turns out she is stuck with that slime bag reporter from the first film as well. William Atherton served the first film pretty much to unveil Holly’s identity to the bad guy in the first film. Well, that and getting one of the world’s funniest punches in movie history. Here he is pure comic relief. His career on the slide, he again makes all the wrong decisions which results in Holly zapping him with a taser that some old granny is carrying onboard. Not sure you’ll get onboard a flight with one of those these days?

We also get a cameo from Al Powell over the phone. It is borderline pointless. But what can you do. The producers probably insisted that we get as much back as possible. Writers, producers, editors and composers alike were all back. So it isn’t hard to see why it still feels so close to the original

The action is still pretty good even by today’s standards. Die Hard 2 had the impossible task of equalling the first film, but it isn’t far behind at all and works well as a decent sequel, even if the next film would be a direct sequel to the story of the first one.

Quite why it was released as an 18 on video is a mystery. The eventual 15 rated version you could get hold of removed some of the carnage, including a shot of McClane sticking an icicle in someone’s eye. Nice!

Die Hard 2 was also famous at the time for its high body count – thanks mainly to the crashing of one of the planes by the terrorist group (Irish actor Colm Meaney played the pilot!). And to be honest at the mid-point it was a pretty ballsy idea to kill so many innocents. Still we do like things to be as unpredictable as possible. And I could never have predicted that the film would end with Willis, Amos and Sadler going at it with each other on the wing of a plane. Amos gets the turbine treatment, but then surprisingly McClane gets his ass kicked by Sadler and is promptly booted off the plane. Still he manages to open a fuel valve first which then leaves a convenient trail of fluid for McClane to light with a Yippee Ki Yay Mother Fucker!


We have our happy ending and then we have only 5 more years to wait before Bruce returns to the role at 40. So I guess that makes me DIE Hard 2 aged now! And I’m still very fond of the memory of seeing it at 14.

Steven Hurst

Share this!