Kevin: “They say lightning doesn’t strike twice … they were wrong.” So says the narrator for the first theatrical trailer for “Die Hard 2,” also known as “Die Harder,” also known as “the one where terrorists take over an airport” (even though they actually just take over a small church near the airport). While I’m sure the marketing guys at 20th Century Fox all congratulated themselves for coming up with that tagline over several grams of cocaine, apparently no one pointed out that the commonly known phrase isn’t “lightning doesn’t strike twice,” but that it doesn’t “strike the same place twice.” This should have been the first indication of the amount of care and detail that went into rushing “Die Hard 2” into theaters in summer of 1990:
After the surprise blockbuster success of “Die Hard” at the box office and then especially on home video in 1988, Fox was eager to get John McClane back into the theaters as soon as possible, even though original director John McTiernan was busy working on “Hunt for Red October.” Instead of waiting for his schedule to clear up, the studio picked “Nightmare on Elm Street 4” director Renny Harlin after execs were impressed by the dailies for his upcoming Andrew Dice Clay vehicle “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane.” Actually I’m just picturing a bunch of studio guys watching hours of extra footage from the scene where Ford hides out in Kari Wuhrer’s sorority house and declaring, “Oh yeah, we gotta keep working with this guy!”
They also cut a teaser that was pushed out into theaters barely a year after the original “Die Hard” was released, which consists of nothing more than a bunch of text describing Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International Airport, followed by a quick scene of Bruce Willis running around some tunnel and yelling, “How can the same thing happen to the same guy twice!”:
That’s actually a very good question in retrospect, but at the time we were so excited about seeing McClane back in action that we didn’t bother to quibble about such things as “logic” and “believability.” As with “Lethal Weapon 2” the previous summer, “Die Hard 2” similarly capitalized on the goodwill generated from its predecessor by out-grossing the original when it was released on Fourth of July weekend in 1990, and still ranks as the second-highest-grossing film in the series.
And while a number of “Die Hard” imitators came out in the wake of the first film’s success (including Harlin’s subsequent “Cliffhanger” and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s “Sudden Death,” which CJ and I reviewed last week), none of them could have copied the formula any more slavishly than “Die Harder”: Bruce vs. group of highly trained terrorists, one-location setting, Christmas Eve, returning characters such as Holly McClane, Al Powell, and Richard Thornberg, etc.
The fact that “Die Hard 2” actually came out two weeks BEFORE Harlin’s “Ford Fairlane” is another indication of how rushed the production of the sequel was, with “wet prints” being shipped to theaters due to the fact that filming was occurring right up until the release date. That perhaps explains why the first sequel is not nearly as fondly remembered as the tightly plotted and perfectly executed original, but despite all its flaws it still is a lot of fun. So since we tackled “Die Hard” last Christmas, the Tough Guy Squad (minus Anthony, who had other shit to do) decided this year to celebrate the birth of Christ with a two-part Round Table on John McClane’s other least-favorite Christmas Eve ever: “Die Hard 2.”
While the second half of our Round Table this week will cover our thoughts on the film’s overall storyline, its many, many plot holes, and welcome new additions like John Amos, for Part 1 today we wanted to focus on two of the most incompetent, annoying, and useless characters in the entire “Die Hard” universe. First up is someone who, while not technically a “bad guy” like Hans Gruber, probably has more blood on his hands than anyone in the history of the franchise just through sheer laziness and idiocy: Dulles Airport head of security Capt. Carmine Lorenzo (Dennis Franz).
Now in case you’ve forgotten, “Die Hard 2” mainly concerns the efforts of John McClane to pick his wife Holly up from the airport on Christmas Eve. Sensing that this was perhaps not enough story to sustain a summer blockbuster, the filmmakers at the last minute wisely decided to add another terrorism subplot, this time involving a deposed South American dictator named Gen. Esperanza who is being extradited to Dulles Airport on the same night. But before that can happen, his old friend and anti-Communist ally Col. Stuart plans to free him by taking over control of the airport and holding the planes in the air hostage.
I’ll start by noting that before the mission, Stuart and several of his men just wander around the airport freely and draw no attention despite their incredibly suspicious appearance. We’ll get into that more in Part 2, but I’ll just say for now that I’m still unclear about why Col. Stuart needed to be there to begin with. At the time the character was obviously supposed to be modeled on Col. Oliver North, and apparently Stuart’s face is widely known across the country, yet no one – including the numerous reporters and government officials there – find it odd that a well-known and high-ranking U.S. military associate of Esperanza’s just happens to be at the same airport the general is being extradited to.
Of course Stuart’s probably not worried because he knows that, as he tells one of his mercenaries, the security at Dulles is a “joke,” and nothing we see over the next two hours would lead to us to doubt that assessment. For instance, as the only person who does notice their unusual behavior, McClane follows a couple of Stuart’s men to a restricted baggage-handling area, and gets a handyman to let him in just by quickly flashing an out-of-state badge that could easily be a fake anyway.
But it’s hard to blame the handyman though since leadership flows from the top, and as we quickly see from our introduction to supposed head of security Lorenzo, the leadership at Dulles is pretty piss-poor indeed. For instance, after McClane engages in a gun battle with two armed men – killing one in the process – who seemed to be fucking with a control panel in the baggage area (why did no one immediately check that spot out as soon as the airport’s systems went down?), Lorenzo just brushes it off as “punks stealing luggage.” This despite the fact that everyone knows Esperanza is arriving in a couple of hours, and that the dead guy was carrying a porcelain Glock that, according to McClane, doesn’t show up on an x-ray, probably because such a gun doesn’t actually exist.
Mike: Let me jump in here and note that McClane’s explanation regarding the “Glock 7” not showing up on airport x-rays machines didn’t explain why the ammunition in the gun wouldn’t also be detected by an x-ray machine either. Then again, none of the terrorists actually went through any x-ray machines or security checkpoints anyway, so I guess the whole point is moot, which leads me to ask why the writers included it in the first place?!
Kevin: Speaking of weapons, even though they have barely had time to investigate what happened in the baggage-handling area, McClane gets his gun back with no questions asked before being taken to meet Lorenzo, who didn’t even bother to leave his office to see what’s going on!
(A quick tangent though: Since he did the same thing in the original “Die Hard,” I won’t question why McClane is carrying a gun while off-duty and way out of his jurisdiction, but considering how many times he reloads in this movie, I do have to wonder how many ammo clips he thought he needed to bring just to simply pick up his wife from the airport.)
Either way, in their first meeting Lorenzo tells McClane that he broke seven FAA violations, including carrying a gun in the airport. So why did they give the gun back to him? Also Lorenzo claims he can’t shut down the luggage area because he has everyone from the “Shriners convention to the goddamn Boy Scouts in here,” as well as lost kids, lost dogs, and international diplomats. For some reason he fails to note that he also has one of the most wanted men in the world flying in as well, and I can’t stress enough that that alone might have made him at least LEAVE HIS OFFICE to check out the scene of the gun battle that just occurred at his airport!
All right I’m starting to get a little angry here. CJ while I take a breather and try to compose myself, why don’t you add your two cents and let me know if you agree with me or if maybe I’m being too hard on Lorenzo.
CJ: No, Capt. Lorenzo is the worst fucking cop in history. He’s so bad, I fully expected him to say in his heavy New York accent, “Look pal, I’m a lifelong Washingtonian, and if there’s one thing we don’t tolerate here, it’s you goombas getting in our business. Now, where’s-a my-a meat-a-ball sandwich!”
(Kevin: On that slightly racist but also accurate note, between Lorenzo and his equally guido brother who towed McClane’s car at the beginning, did the New York mafia somehow take control of Dulles airport’s security? I was expecting to find out that Lorenzo had another brother working customs and played by Big Pussy from “The Sopranos.”)
But seriously, in their first interaction McClane enters his office and Lorenzo immediately starts going “So what, you expect some kind of free lunch?” Hey asshole, he just took down a couple of criminals who were committing a (federal?) crime. Stopping that kind of stuff is your entire purpose, so why are you giving him shit? Then when McClane logically recommends they close off the area and dust for prints, Lorenzo scoffs and basically is like “What, you expect me ta’ not let passengers walk right through this crime scene?”
YES! YES HE DOES! YES WE ALL DO! I’m sorry, but if I’m at JFK and they have to lock down part of the airport because of a major crime, I feel like my first reaction wouldn’t be “Eff these guys, I need to get to the airport Starbucks!” But if there is one thing Lorenzo is good at, it’s giving us ample evidence that he is garbage at this job and should be replaced immediately, by whomever is standing closest to his desk, or even the desk itself. Hell, Al Powell did more work over the phone from L.A. than this guy.
So here we have Lorenzo continuing to chastise McClane for stupidly wanting to do police work, taunting him by asking him if he should store luggage elsewhere while they conduct an investigation, and being all, “Hey Mr. Hollywood is telling me how to do my job, huh?”
Now let’s go back to when McClane responds that, yes, shutting down the airport would be a good idea all things considered, which prompts Lorenzo to dress him down more by explaining that he doesn’t need some forensics team just for some “punks” stealing luggage. This leads to McClane’s explanation about how this Glock 7 doesn’t show up on x-rays, and that it also “costs more than you earn in a month.”
So two things here:
1) Lorenzo believes that “basic looking around and noticing shit” is forensics.
2) “Punks” implies young people, maybe between the ages of 15-20. Does this guy who escaped from McClane looks like he qualifies?:
Anyways, you may be hoping that Lorenzo will respond to this by letting McClane know that he made some good observations, and he will launch a full investigation immediately based on this new evidence that he didn’t have time to consider before. Ha, nope, instead he says “You’d be surprised what I earn in a month.”
Oh fuck this guy!
Kevin: That exchange sets up McClane’s nonsensical insult about whether the lead in Lorenzo’s ass or the shit in his brains sets off the metal detectors first (Answer: lead, why would shit set off a metal detector?). But then what’s up with McClane disdainfully muttering under his breath “fat fuck,” considering his best friend Al Powell is probably more obese than Dennis Franz, and yet these movies find it adorable that he has such sugar insecurity that he can’t leave his desk to grab a fax without doubling back and grabbing three Twinkies. I think we know why Al never appeared in another “Die Hard” film, since he obviously died hard from diabetes.
Side note: How many times does McClane either get kicked out of or denied entry to someone’s office in this movie? It’s fine that he carries a gun and engages in his own covert missions on airport grounds on the side, but he cannot sit in on bullshit bureaucratic meetings apparently.
Mike: Maybe it has more to do with the fact that he is a huge douche in this movie, and he’s got some lame wisecrack for anything anyone says to him. I gotta say, I don’t like McClane at all in this and kinda found myself rooting against him throughout. Col. Stuart is kind of a douchebag too, but at least he’s got a bit more panache.
Kevin: Yeah as much as I usually love John McClane, it’s hard to deny that he’s kind of a prick to everyone in this movie, from the handyman he browbeats into committing an FAA violation by letting him into a restricted area, to the control tower supervisor Barnes who is nothing but helpful to McClane the entire film. Maybe this reflects the shift that Bruce Willis was starting to undergo in real life, from lovable TV star with something to prove before the first “Die Hard,” to A-list superstar who was starting to rub people on set the wrong way by the sequel.
Although it’s easy to share McClane’s frustrations when he bursts into the control tower and presents evidence that the guy who he killed was a professional mercenary who faked his death, and everyone is all, “Okay hotshot, what do you think this means?” Finally McClane points out the obvious, that maaaaaaaybe with the world’s biggest drug smuggling despot flying in that none of this is a coincidence. Then airport head Trudeau (Fred Dalton Thompson) tells Lorenzo to inform his officers to report anything unusual. You mean like a gun battle and the presence of a well-known associate of Esperanza’s on airport grounds?
CJ: All I know is that I have to give Col. Stuart credit for his awesome comedic timing, as before Lorenzo has a chance to do what he should have done hours ago, all the runway lights go off. So first we have the “punks” in the luggage hold, then we’ve got world-famous hero John McClane trying to warn everyone that something suspiciously similar to what he’s been through before is about to happen again, and all of this is occurring on the night Gen. Esperanza is scheduled to arrive. Now even a meter maid should at least agree when the runways lights go out that maybe something is afoot. Well good news all, Lorenzo’s first instinct is to ask if they should call the power company. Because oh my god, he is the dumbest fuck alive! How does no one fire him on the spot at this point? The fucking power company!?!?!?!
Kevin: Then after Col. Stuart calls them on the FAA phone and gives his demands for the release of Esperanza or else he’s going to start crashing planes, Lorenzo says, “He’s bluffing.” How the fuck did he get this job! Then he says if the bad guys are talking to them on their own systems then they have to be close, so his men are gonna tear the airport apart. It never occurs to Lorenzo to possibly take a five-minute drive outside the airport and look around there as well. Also, during this “tearing apart” of the airport, Lorenzo’s men apparently didn’t bother to look in the baggage area where McClane killed one of Stuart’s men earlier, and where they could have found the device that was hacking into their systems a lot sooner.
I think we also have to lay the death of Lorenzo’s SWAT team later in the film at his feet as well. These guys are fucking geniuses, the whole point of them going along with Barnes to the new airport annex was because of the extremely likely possibility that heavily armed terrorists might be waiting for them. Then they get there and don’t think it’s at all suspicious that a bunch of guys they weren’t told about are painting this place super late on Christmas Eve, with the head SWAT guy even setting himself up with his “Hey what do I look like to you?” query, so that a pre-“Terminator 2” Robert Patrick can deliver his “A sitting duck” zinger before shooting him in the head.
Then the six SWAT guys with machine guns get wiped out in like 30 seconds, while McClane takes out all the bad guys with just his Beretta. I used to think those SWAT guys were dumb, but considering the quality of training they probably got from Lorenzo, I can’t exactly blame them. At least McClane is polite enough to say later that Stuart wiped out Lorenzo’s best men, even though he probably doesn’t believe it any more than we do.
Shortly after, McClane unsuccessfully tries to keep the plane full of stiff-upper-lipped Brits from crashing (which once again we’ll cover more in Part 2), and he’s pretty hard on himself considering we all know the blame for this lies with Lorenzo. Then after once again going around Lorenzo’s back and almost capturing Esperanza as a bargaining chip, McClane tells him he shot the general in the shoulder and took out another one of Stuart’s men, meaning the colonel has lost six so far. Rather than saying thanks or asking if he has any other intel, Lorenzo of course immediately yells, “If we knew how many they had to start with we could get excited, but if they got 50 guys it’s a little early to open the champagne!”
Seriously, do we not agree that we like Hans Gruber way more than this asshole Lorenzo by now?
Later when they locate Stuart’s location, Barnes calls Lorenzo and in a hushed voice says that he and McClane are at that small church near the airport that probably should have been checked out by Lorenzo’s men a lot earlier, at least as part of a perimeter check (what the fuck have they been doing, just tearing apart the Cinnabon?). Rather than note that Barnes is obviously scared and assume that he is calling with a lead about where Stuart is, Lorenzo of course wastes time yelling at him about how stupid he is for … doing something Lorenzo should have already thought of by now.
Mike: Another great Lorenzo moment was when they were all sneaking up on Col. Stuart’s church/hideout, and while McClane, Barnes, John Amos, and everyone else is whispering instructions and what not, Lorenzo shows up and is all “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING HERE MCCLANE?! YOU SHOULDN’T BE HERE!!!”
CJ: He’s such a fucking dumbass!!!!!
Mike: Honestly, when McClane was demonstrating that the guns used in that subsequent gun battle were shooting blanks, how hilarious would it have been if he accidentally loaded the red magazine instead of the blue and murdered Lorenzo by mistake?
CJ: I for one would have cheered my ass off. I really don’t feel like we as an audience appreciate how much Lorenzo fucks up in this movie. Basically he is responsible for the deaths of over 200 people, and will probably spend the rest of his life being sued and investigated for gross negligence, but I guess we’re supposed to like him at the end because he ripped up McClane’s parking ticket? Either way, with all due respect to Brian “Stone Cold” Bosworth, I officially declare Dennis Franz “Worst Cop Ever,” but even so, Lorenzo can take some pride in the fact that his management of the Dulles Airport security has obviously been held up as a shining example to follow by the TSA ever since.
Kevin: Now since we’ve sufficiently exposed Lorenzo’s utter incompetence, let’s move on to the other worst character in “Die Hard” history: WNTW News night-time reporter Samantha Coleman, who makes faces like this on a regular basis:
First off, I can’t remember the last time I saw a character in which everyone in the movie hates them as much as the audience. Seriously, no one in “Die Hard 2” can stand Samantha Coleman, and the only thing McClane and Stuart have in common is that they both tell her to fuck off at one point. I actually kind of liked Col. Stuart for a second when she asked him if she could have a few words, and he responded, “You can have two: ‘fuck’ and ‘you.’” Ha ha, good one colonel!
And her skills as a reporter don’t compensate for her obnoxious personality, since her main investigative technique seems to be walking up to people and asking them, “Who are you, and what’s going on here?” For instance, here’s Samantha Coleman to the Justice Department officials who are at the airport where Esperanza is being flown to, after she just said in a news update that men from the Justice Department were at Dulles to handcuff Esperanza:
Coleman: “Excuse me, there’s a large number of you from the Justice Department here this evening. Is there any particular reason for that?”
Justice Department Guy #1: “Just routine.”
Justice Department Guy #2: “No comment right now.”
Coleman: “Thank you sir, thanks.”
Me: Way to get the scoop there Coleman!
Immediately after this she sees Col. Stuart walking by, leading to the awesome moment where he speaks for all of us watching when he tells her to go fuck herself. If nothing else she has footage of a well-known associate of Esperanza who just happens to be at the same airport he is being extradited to, and for added news value she has footage of him and one of his men trying to interfere with her report. Yet she immediately forgets about this and doesn’t bother to tell her station. Honestly I can’t tell if Coleman is working the airport angle tonight because it’s considered a shitty beat, or because everyone at the station assumed she wouldn’t mind working Christmas Eve because no one wanted to spend time with her anyway.
Mike: Like five minutes after civilian John McClane just walks right up to the top of the control tower, Coleman does the same, brandishing her tape recorder and doing her usual “Hey is there is a story going on here, and will someone please talk to me?” routine. Man Dulles Airport security really does suck. What’s great is that Trudeau says, “This place is off-limits Coleman!,” like he deals with Samantha Coleman and her bullshit every day.
Which makes it even weirder that she is given unprecedented access at Dulles, including reporting only a few feet away from the flaming carnage of an airplane crash:
Kevin: Of course here is ace journalist Samantha Coleman’s report from the scene: “Despite the fact that only one runway has been closed due to the tragedy, several dozen airliners are visible, endlessly circling the field. Other reports say there had been trouble in the tower, and that may have contributed to it. With weather conditions worsening, the problems here and in the sky will continue to grow. I’m Samantha Coleman at Dulles International Airport.”
So no mention of the fact that Gen. Esperanza is being extradited to this same airport, that a gun battle involving the hero of Nakatomi Plaza took place earlier, that she saw everyone in the control tower freaking out before she got kicked out, that airport security is on red alert, and that she has footage of the infamous Col. Stuart and his men casing the airport on the night his close friend and associate is being extradited there. Jesus, Samantha Coleman doesn’t so much connect the dots as she does spill her Diet Coke and then erase them while wiping up.
(Of course again, none of Lorenzo’s crack security squad noticed Stuart earlier either, but hey what can you expect when you have the Shriners in town? Although I will note that despite what Lorenzo said, we never actually see any of these supposed Shriners or Boy Scouts in Dulles during the movie, although I would have loved to have seen a few members of each facing off gladiator-style during the mass panic and hysteria in the airport near the end.)
Anyway, despite her obnoxiousness and utter incompetence at her job, Coleman finally lucks into a huge scoop when McClane lets her film him jumping onto Stuart’s plane, but then not only does she try to convince him not to do it, but after he lands on the wing her news copter flies away and doesn’t get any of the awesome tag team fight that follows. Worst reporter ever!
I wonder though if McClane ever took her up on her offer to have his baby? Possible DNA test needed for Lucy McClane?
Well I think that does it for Part 1 of the “Die Hard 2” Round Table, join us later this week for Part 2 in which we:
– Wonder why none of the travelers at Dulles notice the explosions and plane crashes going on around them.
– Remember that innocent time when everyone was excited about the 1990’s and super high-tech advancements like pagers and fax machines.
– Admire the fact that several characters in this movie might be drunk or at least slightly buzzed.
– And predict how long into every couples counseling session before their divorce that it took for John to remind Holly (and their therapist) that he saved her life TWICE on Christmas Eve.