Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Die Hard 3 (and 2, briefly)


I watched a bit of Die Hard 2: Die Harder, but it was incredibly bad and boring, with all the faults of the first movie and none of the virtues. No Alan Rickman, for one thing, but also cluttered, badly shot scenes and a Bruce Willis that seemed petulant and whiny instead of snarky and competent.

It did have some nice snow. However, I quit watching while Willis was gunning down terrorists in a half-constructed wing of the airport.

10 Awesome Moments from Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990) - The Action Elite

Die Hard 2 (1990) takes place in an airport at Christmas time, I forgot to say that. There's a really boring plane crash, and a definitely political villain, a foreign guy being extradited to the USA because he's a cocaine-smuggling general or something, I didn't really follow that part. An ex-CIA co-villain is attempting to rescue him from state department custody. According to one source, this plot was based on the Iran-Contra affair. I guess if I had watched further this Ex-CIA guy would have said something about how strong men on walls have to et cetera et cetera, kind of like Oliver North.

Die Hard 3: Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)

In Die Hard 2, Holly was still working at her high-powered corporate job, and John McClane had moved out to LA to be with her. Her decision to be his help meet at the end of Die Hard  the first had apparently mended their marriage.

Now he's back in New York, though it's not clear why, and he hasn't spoken to her for a year. Also, he's been suspended from the police force though, once again, we don't really get an explanation for why. Probably, as in the first two, it's because people in charge don't like mavericks like McClane.

The movie opens with a Bonwit Teller store being exploded. We soon learn that the "terrorists" (this time they are, as in the first movie, not actual terrorists, but thieves pretending to be terrorists) are here to get revenge on McClane. See, the head villain is Alan Rickman's little brother, played her by Jeremy Irons. He's kind of boring, sadly. No Alan Rickman, at least not here.

What makes this movie work better than the second is Zeus Carver, played by Samuel L. Jackson. Simon, the character played by Irons, sends McClane off to do silly stunts and solve ridiculously easy riddles, in order -- so the police force believes -- to torment him. Actually, of course, these as red herrings, to disguise Simon's true aim, which is to rob $140 billion dollars in gold from the basement of the Federal Reserve bank. Apparently they just keep it down there inside some chickenwire cages. Who knew!

Simon's first stunt involves sending McClane down to stand in Harlem in his underwear wearing a sandwich board with a racial slur painted on it. All the scary black guys in Harlem are going to kill him, except Zeus Carver shows up and rescues him -- not to save McClane, as he later makes clear, but to save the black guys. He doesn't say they'd all be shot for assaulting a police officer, but...

This is the most interesting and also the most cringe-worthy part of the film: the politics. Here in 1995, McClane is openly playing an aggrieved white male. Jackson is playing a black activist. We first meet him lecturing his nephews about how "people" are plotting to turn them into criminals, and how they should never rely on or take help from white people, and then ordering them to get to school and work hard.

Later, as he works with McClane, against his will, he continues to point out McClane's racist assumptions, except the film makes it clear that Zeus (black people have such funny names) is just being overly sensitive and playing the race card for no reason. There's a confrontation, finally, in which McClane accuses Zeus of being racist. 

"You hate me because I'm white!" he shouts, and the scales fall from Zeus's eyes. OH NO. He HAS been hating white people just because they're white. How wrong he has been!

After that he spends the rest of the movie being McClane's loyal helpmeet. (Black people exist to save white people.)

Meanwhile, all the cops are heroes, brave and selfless, putting their lives in danger to save civilians, especially black children and women. Some of the police officers are even women! One is a black woman! Also Chakotay from Star Trek Voyager is in this one, a Mexican police officer, though they don't give him much to do. 

All the heroes of the film are either police officers or truck drivers -- white male truck drivers, needless to say.

The politics here are clear enough: 

(1) Police officers are earnest, decent people just trying to serve and protest the population of the city. 

(2) Working class white men are smarter than rich white men. 

(3) Women, unless they're police women, are murderous bitches and sluts.

(4) Non-Americans are evil.

(5) Rich white men are evil and incompetent. 

(6) Cops aren't racist. In fact, no white person is racist. The only really racist people are Black people.

(7) All problems can be solved by shooting people.

Jackson is a brilliant actor, and Willis can clearly do McClane in his sleep at this point. But this one, despite all the explosions, is seriously marred by not having Alan Rickman as McClane's foil. Also the plot is not nearly as clever as in the first movie.

Also some of the explosions and giant set pieces (blowing a dam in order to drown McClane, for instance) are risible.

I might go on to Die Hard 4: Live Free or Die Hard. That one has Timothy Olyphant in it, and I always enjoy him.


Jenny F Scientist said...

I admire your commitment to panning these movies but I am also glad to say I've never seen any of them. (I've probably seen fewer than 100 movies total and that includes the Bad Vampire Movies series in grad school. I just am indifferent, mostly.)

delagar said...

You're not missing much.

Dr. Skull and I used to go to two or three movies a week. That was before we had the kid, but still.

Now we maybe go to two movies a year. There's just not much worth seeing.

D Shannon said...

"(5) Rich white men are evil and incompetent."

No wonder Trump rubs that orange coloring all over his face. It's a loophole!

delagar said...

That explains it!