By Owen Gleiberman
July 06, 1990 at 04:00 AM EDT

It took a certain audacity to set an entire 100-megaton thriller inside a high-rise office building, and Die Hard (1988) was an exhilarating blowout. The movie proved that Bruce Willis, toning down his TV smirk, could hold the big screen with surprising authority; that director John McTiernan was a summa cum laude graduate of the slam-bang school; and that it would be far from a bad thing if all movie villains were as charming as Alan Rickman’s suavely malicious German terrorist, the rare criminal mastermind who could have equal appeal to the Baader-Meinhof Group and Oscar Wilde.

Die Hard 2 plunges John McClane (Bruce Willis) into yet another lone-wolf commando raid. This time, the setting ii Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International Airport. Heading up the terrorist hanky-panky is an Oliver North-style renegade (Bill Sadler) who has turned against the United States. He plans to intercept the plane of a notoriously corrupt Central Amel Ame dictator whom the U.S. has arrested on drug charges and taken into custody. Sound familiar?

This thinly veiled takeoff of l’affaire Noriega doesn’t exactly tickle the imagination, and the terrorist has zero personality (aside from the fact that he looks like a troop leader of the Hitler Youth). Taking over the control tower electronically, he issues commands from a nearby church and threatens to keep the incoming planes circling until they run out of fuel. A number of scenes have been staged with satisfying kinetic flair, and Willis once again makes an appealing superhero. Yet without that great big booby-trapped skyscraper to hold the action together, the suspense dissipates, and Die Hard 2 stands revealed as a grimly hit-or-miss version of that old ’70s dinosaur, the disaster movie.

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  • R
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  • 124 minutes
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