John McTiernan directs Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson and Jeremy Irons in this action adventure where John McClane finds himself racing around New York solving riddles and completing impossible feats at the whim of a mad bomber.
Hot time Summer in the city… YOU ARE ABOUT TO HAVE A VERY BAD DAY! I’m just going to say it, I grew up loving this but the more I watch it the more it niggles at me. While 2 is a near perfect sequel (sue me), this feels quite cobbled together. The disorientating but blissfully unceasing first half of phone trash talking, taxi chases, subway explosions and quirky bomb disposals gives way to a very choppy and loose concluding half. The editing in the second section is atrocious, coincidences are relied on heavily and you can see the scars and severed connections created by the obviously reshot finale. Where did the battalion of terrorists go after they armed up? Why is Samuel L Jackson in that helicopter? Well, Samuel L Jackson is wonderful here as the reluctant participant in the mind games and terror tactics of a bunch of white people… so why wouldn’t you let him joyride inappropriately into the big end sequence? He never undersells the risk, kills every line and has a good rapport with Willis, who generously shares his spotlight. Race and racism is leant into frequently, leading to some witty asides (“Let me guess… Rodney King?”) and moments of gripping small scale peril. Willis’ opening salvo, forced to walk around Harlem with a charged epithet on a billboard, is a moment that feels truly original and unlikely in action cinema. Later Jackson’s Zeus has to answer a ringing phone as a beat cop points his gun at him for a misdemeanour and you never question the reality of his precarious situation as a black man. Quibbles aside, this is still a rush of adrenaline… I just kinda wish it could maintain the polished unpredictability of the earlier set pieces right up until the finish line. Still, we have John McClane chuckling deliriously as he climbs out of an obliterated subway carriage… just as incredulous as we are that he is not dead… and sometimes that’s all you need to get you through a tough week.
Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk
We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/