So yeah…after some thought, the whole “Poe Ghostal Unpegged” thing seemed like an unnecessary split. Instead, I’m just going to start writing about whatever I want right here on PGPoA. It’s my site and I just can’t write about only toys now. There will still be plenty of toy-related writing, but also stuff like this. I hope you enjoy this new direction, but if not, know that it’s probably either this or PGPoA slowly dies.
I know what you’re thinking. “Poe,” you’re thinking, “why the hell would you make Die Hard 2 your inaugural Christmas Action Movie post, instead of the far superior Die Hard?” Well, the main reason is that I’ve seen Die Hard about two dozen times and Die Hard 2 maybe three times, and two of those times have been over the last two Christmases. It’s fun to change things up occasionally. I’ll get to Die Hard eventually, worry not.
Die Hard 2 is something of a forgotten sequel, a movie that shamelessly swipes the plot of the first film. I myself often thought of Die Hard 2 this way until I re-watched the movie last year. I was surprised to find it was entertaining–in some ways almost as entertaining as the first film, if not quite as well written or acted. And the action! I think in some ways DH2 set the template for the action films of the 1990s through today: a fast-moving plot that jumps from action set piece to action set piece, anchored by a charismatic star and a ruthless villain. Oddly enough, I find DH2 feels more like a modern action film than the original Die Hard; to be fair, some of that is due to the soullessness of the production.
The plot can be summed up as “Die Hard meets Airport.” A group of renegade American special forces dudes, led by Aryan ubermensch Colonel Stuart (played William “Death in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey” Sadler, who gets one of those gratuitous 1980s action movie naked butt scenes), take over an airport. For reasons I was never entirely clear on, they’re trying to rescue Ramon Esperanza, the ousted dictator of the South American country of Val Verde who is being extradited to the U.S. to face charges of drug trafficking. Or something.
Here’s my fanfic-style explanation of the situation, based entirely on the 1980s use of the fictional country of Val Verde: Stuart was one of the American commandos who aided Esperanza in overthrowing President Arius from Commando. When Arius’s plan to use John Matrix to assassinate Esperanza fails, Esperanza consolidates his power through the drug trade and puts down a Russian-funded Communist insurgency. Due to his drug ties, Esperanza is eventually ousted by the American government that put him there in the first place. The jingoistic Stuart and his commandos remain loyal to Esperanza because of his anti-Communist stance and concoct the plan to prevent his extradition to the U.S.
Oh, and somewhere in there John Matrix changed his name to Dutch Schaefer and fought the Predator.
Anyway, so that’s out of the way. One thing I really enjoy about the first two Die Hard movies is how they integrate the Christmas theme into the story–it’s not just a setting, it plays a role. Whether it’s writing “ho ho ho” in blood on a terrorist’s shirt or a holiday blizzard snarling airport traffic, you always know it’s Christmas in these movies.
But perhaps the most entertaining aspect of Die Hard 2 are all the appearances by actors who are better known for other, often very similar, roles. You’ve got Reginald VelJohnson returning from Die Hard as buddy cop Al Powell in a small part, a few years before he became Carl Winslow (more on that at a later date); William Atherton once again playing an asshole, this time in an encore performance as a douchebag journalist from the first film; Dennis Franz playing proto-Sipowicz airport police chief Lorenzo; Robert Patrick practicing for his role as the T-1000 in Terminator 2 by portraying a terrorist; and finally, a two-second cameo by John Leguizamo as a bad guy medic or something.
At this point, I’d rate the Die Hard movies, from best to worst, like this: Die Hard, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Die Hard 2, Live Free or Die Hard. Now, I didn’t totally hate Live Free or Die Hard–certainly not anywhere near as much as I hated Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull*–but it’s definitely the least of them all. Unfortunately, it appears there’s going to be a Die Hard 5, though Patrick Stewart may be involved, so maybe it won’t totally suck.
*On a side note, I think geeks should start pushing for the phrase “nuking the fridge” to mean creating an in-continuity third+ sequel to a film at least ten years after the previous entry. It’s better than just using it as a another term for jumping the shark. There are already at least four examples: Crystal Skull, Live Free or Die Hard, Rocky Balboa, and Rambo.