Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “Die Hard 2.”
The Movie: “Die Hard 2”
Starring: Bruce Willis, William Atherton, Bonnie Bedelia
Director: Renny Harlin
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) John McClane attempts to avert disaster as rogue military operatives seize control of Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 70 percent
The “Die Hard” franchise.
Yup, the franchise that made a schlub like Bruce Willis into an action movie superstar, which still boggles the mind, is now in our sights.
So, WELCOME TO THE PARTY, PA— wait, no I didn’t go with that one, I went with the first sequel: “Die Hard 2: Same As The First, But This Time In An Airport.”
Look, the first “Die Hard” is pretty much cinematic perfection and I will pick it sometime to crush Joe Brown’s spirit, but for now, I chose the low-hanging fruit of the franchise (at least it was until the 2000s when even worse sequels came out).
So Brown, what are your first thoughts on this movie that gave me constant déjà vu?
Brown: If you pick “Die Hard,” you’ll be reviewing it yourself because there is nothing negative to say about that movie. It’s perfect.
“Die Hard 2,” not so much.
You know when a sequel is trying TOO hard to remind you of what you loved the first time? That’s what this movie does. Another one that comes to mind that suffers from this problem is “The Hangover” sequels.
Everything in “Die Hard 2” is good-ish, but it’s not as good as the first movie.
Now, that’s the markings of a disappointing movie, and I’ll say right now that this is a disappointing movie. But does that make it bad? I guess we’ll figure that out.
Because there’s nothing I hate more than standing around a crowded airport, I’ll let Froemming get this insanity underway.
Froemming: It is Christmas, and John McClane has traveled across the country to celebrate the holiday with his wife when things go awry when terrorist…
THIS IS THE SAME (REDACTED) PREMISE AT THE FIRST MOVIE!!!
OK, well some things are different. McClane is now part of the LAPD, where in the first movie he was part of the NYPD. And he is meeting his wife at the airport instead of Nakatomi Plaza. And he is now on the East Coast instead of the West Coast.
I’ll let Vanilla Ice explain the difference.
Brown: And none of this NYPD/LAPD stuff actually matters because we’re in Washington D.C. And it’s also a D.C. where the cops all speak in New York accents? Maybe work is tough to find in Brooklyn, but no cop is going to make a four-hour trip to Georgetown to make ends meet.
You may think “But Brown, you idiot, how can you confuse New York and D.C. ways of talking?” Well, when you have “NYPD Blue” lead Dennis Franz as a main character, it’s hard to believe him as anything but Sipowicz.
Anywho, McClane had to go to D.C. early so he’s waiting for Holly to arrive at the snow-covered airport. And all the while, there’s news reports all over about a drug lord named Esperanza who is being extradited from the country of Val Verde, which I think is a neighboring country to Wakanda and Genovia.
Froemming: McClane also parks illegally in front of the airport, causing the police to ticket him and tow away his mother-in-law’s vehicle. And because two years prior he thwarted Hans Gruber and tossed the man from a tall building to his death, he acts like a big shot.
Not on the East Coast pal. The officer is not impressed with your celebrity, homicidal tendencies and badge.
We then get some naked Tai Chi from our antagonist of the film, Colonel Stuart, who is a U.S. military guy who thinks the Reagan Administration is too liberal and pansy in world affairs.
Stuart, if he survived, would have been a shoe-in for a cabinet position in the Trump White House.
Brown: Between this and “Road House,” what is up with this Tai Chi obsession in these movies we’ve reviewed lately?
Froemming: The late 80s and early 90s were obsessed with martial arts and the idea of American military turning on their own country. I dunno what was happening, I was nine when this came out and was more concerned with Nintendo than global politics. As for the martial arts, let’s blame that craze on “The Karate Kid.”
Brown: Speaking of these soldiers of fortune, along with Stuart, one of the mercenaries in his group is the (REDACTED) T-1000! Any time he’s on screen, I kept making the “Terminator 2” drum noise in my head.
Because of how much of a nerd I am, here’s that drum beat done by a crowd as wrestler Kenny Omega performs the “Rise of the Terminator.”
Froemming: #HotTake I like “Terminator 2” more than the first “Die Hard.”
Brown: I disagree, but I’m not mad over that hot take.
Froemming: So we have McClane in the airport where he notices some dudes looking suspicious. He has some sort of sixth sense in that he knows criminals by sight. And yes, I know Willis was in a movie called “The Sixth Sense.” I never watched it. I guess he was dead the whole time or something.
So he follows these two jabronis into the luggage area. How does McClane get into a restricted area? He just asks the janitor to let him and to tell the authorities to follow him.
Between this, an old lady with a taser on an airplane and easy access to cockpits, pre-9/11 air travel was like the (REDACTED) wild west.
Brown: I did refer to that woman’s taser as “Chekov’s Taser.” You knew that was coming back.
So yeah, when these hired goons are about to go into the luggage area, they synchronize watches. I hope to one day have a reason to synchronize watches with someone. As a kid, I thought that was something that would be a bigger part of my life than it is now.
Now, the baggage area… it was honestly a batch of molten metal away from looking like a dead ringer for the steel mill at the end of “T:2.” Yes, “Terminator” is in my brain a lot.
Because this is “Die Hard,” we get a gun fight, which sees one man blinded by a can of hairspray? (REDACTED) you, movie. This guy eventually is killed by a thingamabob (technical term).
Quick aside: Was it kind of refreshing to watch this movie and see American terrorists for hire as opposed to Arab terrorists like we’re used to seeing nowadays in the post-9/11 world?
Froemming: Yeah, even though we never know why they are turning against their country. It’s like they did it because they were bored or something.
Brown: The government had no more use for them. They became soldiers of fortune. They’re the nega-A-Team.
Froemming: Also, the fight scenes in this movie are hilarious. The stunt doubles are comically mismatched at times. It is almost on par with this classic clip:
You literally see mannequins fall from high places. It looks so cheap compared to the first movie.
So McClane eventually crushes a man with a baggage machine, committing homicide in an airport and not even being questioned all that much about it. I’d normally say this is kinda outlandish, but given today’s news, I am not at all surprised.
Brown: In the sorta B-story of this movie, while Holly is in the air, reporter Richard Thornburg is on the plane with her. Turns out, Dick has a restraining order on Holly following the events of the first movie where he revealed John’s identity in the Nakatomi Tower incident.
Brown: When Dick’s news career falters, he goes back to school and becomes the lead scientist for the Bio-Dome project… where he goes crazy and nearly kills a pair of stoners.
Froemming: Because she knocked a few of Richard’s teeth out which is the reason for the restraining order, Holly gets all the free champagne she wants. This movie promotes more violence on journalists than a Trump rally.
Brown: I’m also fearful of Holly’s drinking on the plane. One in the air is like two on the ground, lady.
Froemming: She is married to Bruce Willis. This clip alone would inspire anyone to alcoholism if they had to live with the man.
One of the baggage baddies got away and we see he is working with Stuart, who had his men go to a church and kill the guy who works there. You know, they bemoan Godless communism in this movie, but they literally shot a man in a church.
What they are doing is hacking into the airport’s systems so they can overtake the communication and keep the planes in a holding pattern they are already in due to bad weather. Then they will break Poor Man’s Fidel Castro General Ramon Esperanza from his captivity and fly to a country with no extradition rules.
Now here is one of my big beefs with this movie: This whole plan is based on bad weather at the airport. If the TV weather-person is wrong 75 percent of the time, how are they going to get this right?
Brown: It’s not based on bad weather. The idea is to clear the runways so they can make an escape. When the tower doesn’t cooperate, they tinker with the planes’ navigation, like they do with the London flight. They kill the lights on the runway and say the runway is 200 feet lower than it actually is. Yes, the snowstorm impedes them, but even without it, it would be a pitch-black runway that they’re run into anyhow.
Froemming: The whole reason all these planes are in a holding pattern is weather. If the skies were clear, the pilots would go to another airport. The bad weather insures they stay in the sky over D.C., thus being the bargaining chip for the terrorists.
Brown: The planes that have enough fuel go to other airports. The ones that don’t keep in a holding pattern because they aren’t cleared to land. There’s no lights.
Froemming: They are in the sky for more than two hours! They have enough fuel to head somewhere else. Again, the bad weather keeps them in the area because they think they will land soon.
Brown: Can we agree that this movie uses too much airport/airplane jargon that doesn’t make me care more? This is where I remind our audience that we are not airplane experts nor enthusiasts. Airplane are nothing more than sky buses.
Froemming: It’s all mumbo jumbo to me.
Anyway, McClane butts heads with Captain Carmine Lorenzo after he just murdered a man in cold blood outside his jurisdiction. Lorenzo, like you mentioned, has a thick New York accent and his beat is in D.C. Though he does tell McClane he makes pretty good money so maybe he does travel three-to-four hours to work everyday.
McClane wants him to shut things down and investigate the crime scene. It is Christmas in a huge airport, so that isn’t going to happen. So McClane takes things into his own hands and fingerprints the stiff, and we get a cameo from Carl Winslow Sgt. Al Powell, the cop from the first movie. Remember him and how awesome the first movie was? I do. I wished I was watching that instead at this point.
Turns out the dead guy has been reported dead for a few years now. He is a soldier who was reportedly killed in Honduras, so now McClane is dealing with some paranoid nonsense that fuels Alex Jones’ worldviews.
Brown: The folks in the tower decide they can reach the planes trapped in the air by using the antenna in the new addition to the airport. So, airport SWAT (wait, that’s a thing?!) walks there while McClane climbs through the (REDACTED) vent.
Just like the first movie. This movie is so (REDACTED) lazy.
Froemming: McClane even mentions something like “why does this happens to the same guy.” Sorry, having your character point out your lazy writing doesn’t excuse your lazy writing.
Brown: When we get to the addition, there are more hired goons disguised as painters. Including the T-1000.
And it’s here we get… another gun fight!
Froemming: I messaged you when I was watching this that “Die Hard 2” has the worst case of “God Mode” of any action movie. At no point really does anyone need to reload their weapons, including McClane and his handgun that this movie suggests holds about 1,000 rounds at minimum.
Also, there is a lot of gunfire and at one one point earlier, a guy shoots the can of hairspray out of McClane’s hand. Yet, nobody can ever hit the guy. And he fires blindly and kills everyone.
Brown: To be fair to this movie, ammo eventually plays a factor into the climax, which I did enjoy.
But you are right: McClain definitely pressed pause and entered the infinite ammo cheat at some point because the dude never reloads.
Also, he uses just one bullet to take out the T-1000. It takes way more than one bullet to kill the T-1000. You need molten metal and a shotgun. Observe.
During the shootout, the mercenaries have uzis. And yet, John McClane, a slow man in his late 30s-early 40s is rolling on the ground, picking them off one by one. A stray bullet would at least graze him. But no.
Froemming: I am glad I wasn’t the only one who noticed how out of shape Willis was in this movie. They hide his gut with a Christmas sweater for the first part of the movie.
Brown: He was never Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky IV”-level jacked. But there probably is a reason he wasn’t waltzing around in a wife beater in this one compared to the first.
Froemming: Yup, that reason being cheap beer and fast food.
Defying the law of physics by not getting shot to death here, he helps the radio engineer guy back to the tower, where Fred Thompson from “Law & Order” and 2008 Republican presidential runner is not too happy with what is going on. He keeps listening to Lorenzo, which after a while became an eye-rolling experience: Who you going to believe? The fat D.C. airport cop who has never been in this sort of thing or the fat LAPD cop who has?
Brown: Lorenzo, because this is NOWHERE close to McClane’s jurisdiction? Cops have problems going over county lines. We’re talking a cross-continental flight.
It’s not just an airport police issue anymore. After the London plane crashes (and McClane is allowed to just waltz through the burning wreckage), the U.S. Army Special Forces enter the fray, led by Major Grant, who is played by John Amos. Between Reginald VelJohnson (of “Family Matters” fame) and Amos, who starred in “Good Times,” “Die Hard” movies love putting black sitcom dads into its film franchise.
Froemming: It’s like when “Pulp Fiction” used has-been actors like John Travolta and Bruce Willis. It’s great stuff seeing these folks come back!
So the tower explodes and the terrorists crash a plane and what is there to do? The special forces are in, and they are big fans of McClane (note: EVERYONE knows who John McClane is in this movie. He is sort of like the Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger of fiction).
Brown: I was kind of waiting for everyone to say “I thought you’d be bigger” to McClane like they did to Dalton in “Road House,” or Snake Plisskin in the “Escape” movies.
Froemming: We already noted he was bigger in this movie, Christmas sweater hid it.
Now with the radio, McClane hears that Esperanza’s flight is coming in and you know, it all starts to add up. Esperanza has killed the pilot of his plane and like a dofus, shot in the cockpit, causing all sorts of cabin pressure problems so he needs to land the plane quickly.
I thought he was already going to land at Dulles…that was the point I thought? But now it is an emergency landing? I probably missed something from my eyes rolling into the back of my head.
Brown: How the hell does a drug lord know how to fly a military plane? I would get a Cessna, like in “Blow,” but you are dealing with a whole ‘nother issue with that big a plane.
Brown: Also, I laughed when, before he tries to open a grate to the runway, McClane checks his clip. Ammo has not mattered up to this point.
While I’m at it, when John opens the grate and nearly gets run over by the landing plane… why not just go back under the grate instead of having this split-second escape?
Froemming: That confused me too.
Brown: McClane gets into the plane and starts attacking Esperanza, managing to shoot him in the shoulder. But Stuart and co. show up, help Esperanza escape and shoot up the plane. For good measure, they throw grenades into the cockpit with McClane.
And McClane somehow escapes this.
Froemming: Whomever built that plane must have bought the ejection seat from the ACME company that Wile E. Coyote goes to.
Now that the terrorists have escaped, and McClane is somehow still alive, everything is back to square one.
On the plane, Richard and his sound guy have got onto the frequency between the terrorists and the tower. And he sees this as his opportunity to report on what is going on. I did not hate Richard for doing this, this is a breaking story and people should know. He is not the bad guy at this point. He is doing his job.
Unfortunately his job causes pandemonium at the airport and on the plane, when everyone realized the (REDACTED) is going down.
Um. How did the people at the airport not notice the London plane crashing at the airport? Or Esperanza’s plane. TWO PLANES HAVE EXPLODED IN ONE NIGHT!
Brown: But the people in the air are having a good time. They’re watching “The Simpsons” while they slowly run out of fuel.
With the help of Barnes, McClane finds the church hideout and has a fight with one of the hired goons outside. Stuart says they’re in the clear “if there are no more surprises.” Wait, you don’t hear this donnybrook outside? They’re smashing boards and grunting loudly. How do you not hear at least a faint sound of that?
Froemming: My favorite part: McClane stabbing the man in the eye with an icicle. That was pretty good.
Brown: I wrote in my notes that that moment is ground zero for why this movie is inferior to the first “Die Hard.”
Froemming: Really? Not the (REDACTED) show that was the first-hour-and-40 minutes?
Brown: The icicle was the moment that sealed it.
While this is going on, Special Forces are on their way. And look, I get that they’re putting on snow gear, but how uncomfortable is it for Major Grant, played by John Amos who was in “Roots,” to be surrounded by a bunch of guys in white ski masks?
Froemming: They show up, but our antagonists flee via snowmobiles. That was so stupid. I get it, there is snow, but there are faster, more easily maneuverable vehicles to flee in. But they do not make for a not-so thrilling chase scene.
And McClane is after them on a snowmobile he jacked from a dead terrorist guy and we get the dumbest, most idiotic moment in the movie: McClane is being shot at and flies into the air on his machine, where the terrorists blow it up with gunfire. Did his snowmobile also have a comedic ejection seat like the airplane?
Brown: He’s Die Hard, man. It is hard for him to die!
McClane is also curious why he wasn’t able to hit any terrorists with an uzi, since before he would shoot randomly in the air and his bullets would hit a baddie like it was a homing missile. He finds out that there are clips with blue tape on them that were holding blanks. The Special Forces are in on this plan, too!
I will say, I really liked the way they pulled that twist. Grant was super aggressive to the mercenaries and yet, they played these airport cops for fools. Maybe too advanced considering who they’re trying to trick, but effective nonetheless.
Froemming: Would have been better if this movie didn’t make bullets as abundant as grains of sand on a beach. But yeah, it was a decent bait-and-switch there.
So the tower thinks the special forces are heading to the airport to the agreed area where their airplane is. McClane storms in and says they are in on it (did he walk from the woods? I don’t remember) and to prove it, he fires A WEAPON AT LORENZO SURROUNDED BY OTHER COPS.
I’m sorry, McClane would have been shot into Swiss cheese at that point.
But proving the guns had blanks, now it is time for the law to stop these baddies! How? Well the airport is in chaos so McClane talks the TV reporters to fly their helicopter to the runaway plane. I was hoping the pilot was Arnie Pye.
Brown: I was hoping they would fly Airwolf.
Also, how attractive is John McClane in this world? FIrst, he has a ticket lady early in the movie giving him (REDACTED)-me eyes asking if he wants to get a drink after her shift. Then, when he hops on the copter. Sam Coleman, the TV reporter, tells John “Get me this story and I’ll let you have my baby.” This pudgy cop has the same sexual prowess as Sam Hell somehow.
Froemming: It’s like women finding Joe Don Baker in “Mitchell” attractive, it baffles the mind.
Brown: So like any sensible person, McClane jumps from the helicopter to the wing of the escape plane and jams one of the wings with his coat. This brings Grant out for a fight atop the moving plane which results in Grant becoming a meal for Springfield Elementary like in “Treehouse of Horror V.”
Then it’s Stuart’s turn. Stuart loses a finger in the worst case of “Charlie bit my finger” ever. Stuart gets the upper hand by booting McClane off the plane, but not after McClane opens the wing’s fuel latch, pouring flammable liquid all over the runway.
Froemming: Instead of choosing to let the plane run out of fuel and crash, McClane decides “what the hell, let’s have a fiery holocaust in the sky” and throws a flame onto the gas like he was breaking a Fratelli out of prison in “The Goonies.” And not only does he murder a bunch of terrorists, he creates a landing strip for the pilots to guide their planes in.
(REDACTED) you, movie.
McClane reunites with Holly and she brings up why this keeps happening to them as I was wondering when I can shut this stupid movie off.
Brown: Look, I’m a 32-year-old man, but I don’t know about you Froemming, but I REALLY want to jump down one of those inflatable plane slides. I don’t want to deal with the reasons for its deployment, but I just wanna do it. I like fun, OK?
Froemming: The day is saved, John McClane will never be held accountable for his actions and by this website’s count, McClane has killed 24 people in this movie. That is a lot of paperwork for someone.
Brown: Seems low.
Froemming: Combine all five films, John McClane has killed 73 people.
Look, let’s ride our snowmobiles over to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: Of the first three “Die Hard” movies, this one is easily skippable. The first one and “Die Hard WIth A Vengeance” are solid. I say skip it.
Brown: Despite its flaws, this is still a watchable movie. Don’t think much and don’t constantly compare it to the first movie and you’ll be OK.