Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)

die harder

Another basement, another elevator. How can the same thing happen to the same guy twice?

The Scoop: 1990 R, directed by Renny Harlin and starring Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, and William Sadler

Tagline: Last time, it blew you through the back wall of the theatre. This time, it will blow you sky high!

Summary Capsule: John McClane wipes out an airport full of much less interesting terrorists.

PoolMan’s rating: So was it officially called Die Harder, or not?

PoolMan’s review: Sometimes when I stroll through the halls here at Mutant Headquarters, I can’t help but notice poor Justin’s devotion to the ’80s. Sure, we love to bug him about it, but you really haven’t seen any obsession till you’ve seen Big J standing atop a skateboard with no wheels wearing a life preserver and shouting “GO HOVERBOARD! I LOVE YOU HOVERBOARD!” as the tears stream down his face as he once again fails to fly (it’s worse when Huey Lewis is playing in the background).

But we all have to bow our heads to the Late Great Eighties in one key moviegoing category: the action flick. Filmmakers had finally gotten sophistimicated enough to make action look good, with leaping cars and giant fireballs and witty heroes, but had yet to start making everything out of CGI. Which is probably for the best, if you remember the computer graphics from the time. How convinced would we be if we had to watch characters like those in Weird Al Yankovic’s Beverly Hillbillies video?

No, the ’80s was where it was at for good action flicks. And maybe top of the heap was 1988’s Die Hard. A nonstop killing and swearfest starring tough guy Bruce Willis (still somewhere near his prime) that featured a unique setup (the whole thing basically happens in one office building) a real antihero (John McClane isn’t exactly the model of police perfection) and probably one of THE greatest villains of all time (Alan Rickman’s wonderful Hans Gruber). It was a great hit, and a born classic, so you had to know a sequel was coming. Thus, as the clock rolled over to 1990 and the Age of Action ended, McClane decided to start the new decade out with a bang.

So what did they do right with Die Hard 2? Lots, actually. The unfortunate truth of most sequels is that if there’s a scent of financial success in the wind, the film studios will create a movie with a softer rating (PG-13 instead of R) to get a wider audience. God bless Die Hard 2, it was actually created as another R-rated movie right out of the blocks, just like the original.

This is probably the biggest reason this movie is as accepted as it is. It just wouldn’t be the same without the graphic violence and curse-happy hero, and they came through in spades on both of these counts. The movie also sticks with the formula, tinkering with it just enough to make it genuinely different from the first while still being recognizeable.

Instead of clearing an office building of Euro-scum terrorists, McClane has to clear an airport of Ameri-scum (best I could think of, sorry) traitors. There’s still a harmless black guy for him to converse with (not including a cameo visit from Reggie VelJohnson, Al from the first movie), and he still gets to bust heads while cracking wise. The charm of McClane himself is not lost.

But our fair sequel is just that: fair. A large part of what made the first flick so appealing was the inclusion of Hans Gruber, a genuinely interesting, charming, and intelligent bad guy who you almost find yourself rooting for, just because he actually has so much depth. Not so here. Die Hard 2 offers us Colonel Stuart, a mercenary whose main driving characteristic is being able to purse his lips so tightly you’d think he’d been asked to lick a rhino’s butt.

There are a couple of twists and turns involving the bad guy team, but all of them put together are anywhere near as interesting as those in the first flick. The rest of the movie’s pretty good, but without the great adversary, McClane almost seems a waste. Bruce Willis is just as good as ever, but there’s nobody to really challenge him. Also, it’s kind of a shame that we lose the claustrophobia of the original. Instead of being confined to the building with the bad guys, the action sprawls around all over the place, in the airport, outside of the airport… there’s even enough room for a (snicker) snowmobile chase!

The sequel is still positively Shakespeare next to some action flicks I could think of (Schwarzenneger suddenly comes to mind… yay Kindergarten Cop!) but the truth is it would take a Herculean effort to knock its own daddy out of the number one spot. Totally recommended, but if you can get your hands the first one, so much the better.

“Doc, I keep having this dream where I’m Richard Gere’s pet hamster…”


  • THAT’S why mom never let us play with icicles as a kid! Yuck!
  • I’d fly more if they played The Simpsons on the airlines.
  • Those grenades in the cockpit of the cargo plane had loooooooong fuses, didn’t they?
  • Chief O’Brien? When’d HE turn British?
  • McClane unloads an entire clip of blanks at Lorenzo, but the security guards who should be protecting him (with guns out, mind you) don’t kill him for some reason.
  • Here’s PoolMan’s bet to you: if you can get on the iced wing of a taxiing jetliner and successfully pull off two spinning kicks while the plane’s at speed, I’ll give you a dollar. (do not actually try this, this isn’t Jackass)
  • The General is from “Valverde”, the fictitious Latin-American country used in Commando.
  • Airport runways do not have manholes. Additionally, any manhole cover which could be lifted by one person would easily be crushed by a plane.
  • As one might expect, there’s a lot of technical babble involved in this movie, as it involves terrorists taking over an airport and overriding the systems that communicate with and guide the planes overhead. So the movie’s full of little plot holes where real life technology could be used in a different way, or things could have turned out very differently. But the biggest plot hole in the whole movie is the only one that keeps the terrorists’ plan working: the airplanes circling Dulles could leave and go to another airport if their fuel was getting that low. I swear, it’s like nobody even came close to thinking of this.
  • Based on the novel “58 Minutes” by Walter Wager.
  • Some of the shots of the airport (interior and exterior) were filmed at the old Stapleton Airport in Denver, Colorado. Also, the external shots of the church were filmed in Highland Lake, just north of Denver. Denver was unseasonably snowless during the shooting of the snowstorm scenes and a fair amount of snow had to be created artificially.

Groovy Quotes

McClane: That punk pulled a Glock 7 on me! You know what that is? It’s a porcelain gun made in Germany. It doesn’t show up on your airport X-ray machines, and it costs more than you make in a month.
Lorenzo: You’d be surprised what I make in a month.
McClane: If it was more than a dollar ninety eight I’d be surprised.

[McClane has to crawl through the airport ventilation system]
McClane: Just once, I’d like a regular, normal Christmas. A little eggnog, a f****** Christmas tree, a little turkey. But no! I gotta crawl around in this motherf******* tin can!

McClane: Another basement, another elevator. How can the same thing happen to the same guy twice?

McClane: I guess I was wrong about you. You’re not such an a***** after all.
Grant: Oh, you were right about me. I’m just your kind of a******.

Marvin: How about you give me twenty bucks for it?
McClane: How ’bout I let you live?
Marvin: Man sure knows how to bargain.

[McClane looks nervous in the news chopper]
Pilot: What’s the matter cowboy? Ride too rough?
McClane: I don’t like to fly.
Coleman: Then what are you doing here?
McClane: I don’t like to lose, either.

Al Powell: What’s this about?
John McClane: Oh, just a feeling I have.
Al Powell: Ouch! When you get those feelings, insurance companies start to go bankrupt.

Al Powell: You ain’t pissing in somebody’s pool, are you?
John McClane: Yeah, and I’m fresh out of chlorine.

Grant: You are the wrong person at the wrong place at the wrong time!
John McClane: Story of my life.

Grant: Too bad, McClane. I kind of liked you.
John McClane: I got enough friends!

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