Cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) is outside a Washington D.C. airport attempting to bargain with the policeman who is towing away his car and giving him a ticket, but to no avail. He's there to meet his wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) so they can be together for Christmas, but things might not turn out the way they expect. As McClane enters the building he hears his pager beeping and struggles to find a public telephone that is not in use, but when he does it's his wife calling from an aeroplane phone, something McClane didn't realise was possible. After the call, he accidentally bumps into an imposing man who he recognises from TV: Colonel Stuart (William Sadler), a man with a devious plan...
Considered the least of the Die Hard movies, this first sequel made much more money than its predecessor even as it was criticised for its violence, which is a strange thing to complain about for an action flick. Around this time this American genre was still reeling from the success of the original and producing variations on it, meaning this was very much Die Hard in an airport although you have to admit it's a well utilised location. Before his name was besmirched as one of the worst directors of all time, Renny Harlin was the man in charge and doing a creditable job.
However, the film is obviously so keen to replicate the formula of the first one that it has an uninspired feel, with most of the imagination going on the deaths or explosions; supposedly Die Hard 2 had the highest body count of any action movie up to that time. The plot is relatively uncomplicated, with a Central American drugs lord flying into the airport for trial in the U.S.A. and the right wing hard nut Stuart the man who wants to intercept him and take the criminal with his team of renegades to freedom. And only one man can stop him!
McClane (for it is he) spots unusual behaviour in the departure lounge and ends up in a gun battle behind the scenes with Stuart's mercenaries, with the bad guys the worse for wear. Naturally airport security become involved and McClane meets the deliberately obtuse antagonist who is not actually a bad guy, Captain Lorenzo (Dennis Franz fills that thankless role). However, the authorities notice that McClane might be right about trouble brewing when someone takes over their air traffic control and switches off the landing lights. Soon there is a fleet of aircraft circling overhead, running out of fuel - including the plane that Holly is on.
The whole film is reminiscent of a nineteen-seventies Airport blockbuster with nineties violence added to spice up the mix, and disaster movies seem the natural home for this effort with its crashing passenger jet (don't worry, they were all British!) and civilians facing certain doom if our hero can't save them. A hero who, you begin to notice, never runs out of bullets - how much ammunition does he carry with him, generally? The storyline grows ever more preposterous, but if you're a fan of this kind of thriller then you'll indulge the filmmakers their daftness, because Die Hard 2 is surprisingly good fun. Willis is more invincible than ever, so any suspense about his wellbeing is notably absent, but he carries the (lesser quality) wisecracks with customary style. Not brilliant, but better than it had a right to be, then. Music by Michael Kamen.