Renny Harlin | 118 mins | DVD | 18 / R
Good guides to how to write always advise that your hero is only as good as the villain. This is one of the reasons Die Hard is such an endlessly enjoyable film — as well as a great high-concept setup, excellent action sequences, and amusing one-liners, Alan Rickman’s villain, Hans Gruber, is one of the best ever committed to celluloid. Dry witted and clearly more educated than his opponent, Bruce Willis’ John McClane, he’s nonetheless defeated by that everyman spanner-in-the-works. Yippee-kay-aye indeed.
So how do you top that? Well, not like this. The generic Traitor General character offered here isn’t a patch on Gruber, meaning the hero/nemesis relationship between him and McClane never kicks off in quite the same way. The final act even tries to introduce a new villain, probably aware that the first one wasn’t quite working, though it’s to little avail. Their final duel — on the wing of a moving plane — is exciting enough, but doesn’t pack the same punch as the first film’s verbal sparring.
Arguably the other main reason Die Hard worked so well — the confined office block setting — is also discarded, giving McClane a whole airport to run around. We have to be grateful that this isn’t just a straightforward rehash of the first film — probably the advantage of being adapted from an unrelated novel, 58 Minutes, rather than a committee considering how to recycle the same idea — but it doesn’t have the same brilliant simplicity. That said, the line acknowledging similarities between the scenarios is a highlight, and good use is made of McClane’s fame following the events of the first film.
Die Hard 2 is by no means a bad action film — there are several sequences that are above par for the genre, an acceptable degree of silliness, and the odd spectacular explosion too — but the unavoidable comparison to one of the genre’s all-time classics is to its detriment. If only the villain was someone like Gruber’s brother…
(Originally posted on 25th January 2009.)