Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Die Hard 2: Die Harder

A vulgar coked-out sequel about an ego-driven maniac who is always in the right. Die Hard 2 reconceptualises the vulnerable hero of the first film, taking a guy who had the ability to weep for his failing marriage then transforming him into a flippant monster in the Schwarzenegger mould. Although he shares a writer credit (with Jeb Stuart) on the first Die Hard, screenwriter Steven E de Souza isn't interested in constructing a progressive, mutating, arc for this John McClane. Die Hard 2 instead moves with the same mechanical grace as a mid-80s Austrian Oak film. In short, this McClane is an arrogant, insistent, prick. Die Hard posited a situation in which McClane fluked an inside track on the unfolding mayhem thanks, in part, to his street smarts, but mainly his physical geography. He was embedded in the panic. Die Hard 2 attempts something similar, but frames it on a hunch. 

Couple this aggressive intuition with a sequel think that demands every stake possible be raised into the heavens and you end up with a hero who spends the majority of the film seething and screaming at the people around him. An interlude in which McClane accidentally roughs up a meek janitor, doesn't apologies, then shakes him down for airport blueprints is a particularly brutal structural grind, one completely at odds with the guy we met in the first film. Fortunately this overindulgence extends to everything in Renny Harlin's film. A tidal wave of invectives is matched by some truly nasty, brain haemorrhaging violence. Die Hard 2 is unrestrained; shoot-out wish fulfilment cranked all the way up and featuring an invincible middle-aged avatar. Harder also enjoys a particular kind of mystique in the UK thanks to some BBFC deletions made to the film on its original release. Trimmed for a 15 rating then incessantly beamed into my mind on a pan and scan VHS, the unedited, widescreen 18 edit - complete with icicle injury detail and gooey pistol wounds - still registers as wonderfully, gleefully, excessive.

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