Tag Archives: Reginald VelJohnson

Die Hard 2 (1990, Renny Harlin)

Director Renny Harlin often takes an interesting approach to conversations in Die Hard 2. He’ll have a character look off screen and interact with what they see, without ever establishing what they’re seeing. Oftentimes it happens with someone interacting with star Bruce Willis–Harlin only gives Willis this treatment once; it both focuses attention on Willis, but also opens Die Hard 2 up a little. Harlin acknowledges the greater world the audience isn’t seeing. It’s really a neat technical move; Stuart Baird’s sublime editing makes it even better.

Willis’s appealing performance and some nice dialogue exchanges manage to divert attention from Die Hard 2‘s bigger problems. First, William Sadler’s not much of a villain. Sadler’s not bad, but the role’s poorly written. Ditto for returning cast members Bonnie Bedelia and William Atherton. Screenwriters Steven E. de Souza and Doug Richardson treat the picture as sixty percent sequel, forty percent reunion. Reginald VelJohnson shows up for a scene just to remind the audience how much they enjoyed the first film and to encourage them to give this one a pass on its lesser moments.

There’s a surprisingly lack of action for long stretches. For the first half, all the action’s fantastic. In the second, it’s passable, nothing more. Oliver Wood’s photography’s a lot more interesting in confined places. The outdoor, nighttime action sequences of the last third are a bore.

While it’s uneven (the first half’s so much better), Die Hard 2‘s still a fun time and technical marvel.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Renny Harlin; screenplay by Steven E. de Souza and Doug Richardson, based on a novel by Walter Wager; director of photography, Oliver Wood; edited by Stuart Baird; music by Michael Kamen; production designer, John Vallone; produced by Lawrence Gordon, Joel Silver and Charles Gordon; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Bruce Willis (Lt. John McClane), Bonnie Bedelia (Holly McClane), William Atherton (Richard Thornburg), William Sadler (Col. Stuart), Dennis Franz (Capt. Carmine Lorenzo), Sheila McCarthy (Samantha ‘Sam’ Coleman), Art Evans (Leslie Barnes), Fred Dalton Thompson (Trudeau), John Amos (Maj. Grant), Franco Nero (Gen. Ramon Esperanza), Tom Bower (Marvin) and Reginald VelJohnson (Sgt. Al Powell).


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Crocodile Dundee (1986, Peter Faiman)

When Crocodile Dundee starts, it’s deceptively bold. For roughly the first half of the picture, Linda Kozlowski–without any previous theatrical credits on her filmography–is the protagonist. She’s not really believable as a tenacious newspaper reporter, but she works as Jane to Paul Hogan’s Tarzan. Sorry, Mick Dundee.

During that first half, when Dundee is the odd couple trekking across the Australian wilderness, Hogan is at his best. He’s playing what should be a comic role with complete seriousness. The approach endears Hogan so much he can survive the rocky second half, when the couple heads to New York for Kozlowski to show off her caveman.

Hogan’s able to survive the vague racism, bad soundtrack and mean-spirited homophobia. He’s so charming, one doesn’t even want to blame him… even though Hogan co-wrote the script.

Kozlowski, however, doesn’t do so well in the New York parts. She’s saddled with a boring boyfriend–Mark Blum is terrible–and a boring father. The father, played by Michael Lombard (who’s bad), shows up just to give the movie a couple more scenes. The writers clearly ran out of content for the New York half.

Director Faiman misuses the Panavision frame enough one has to think he was thinking about the inevitable VHS release, though there is a great tracking shot at the end of Central Park. His cinematographer, Russell Boyd, does a wonderful job, saving the visuals.

Peter Best’s score is sometimes sublime, sometimes awful.

Dundee is half a good comedy.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Peter Faiman; screenplay by John Cornell, Paul Hogan and Ken Shadie, based on a story by Hogan; director of photography, Russell Boyd; edited by David Stiven; music by Peter Best; production designer, Graham ‘Grace’ Walker; produced by Cornell; released by Hoyts Distribution.

Starring Paul Hogan (Mick Dundee), Linda Kozlowski (Sue Charlton), John Meillon (Walter Reilly), Mark Blum (Richard Mason), David Gulpilil (Neville Bell), Michael Lombard (Sam Charlton) and Reginald VelJohnson (Gus).


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Die Hard (1988, John McTiernan)

Talking about Die Hard is complicated for lots of reasons. Besides Aliens, I think it’s the best popular action film ever made and, given when it came out, it’s very familiar. It shouldn’t be full of surprises and, in many ways, is not (though Theo and Karl having a bet on Takagi is something new to me. So instead, when watching it, it’s an appreciatory experience, rather than a–it’s still critical, but since I’m not looking to assign a value, since I know the value, I’m trying to understand how it works.

Die Hard features brutal, terrible villains. Not at all likable, but there’s almost a Helsinki syndrome with them. Theo’s funny, Karl’s crazy, Hans is great to watch. The bad guys prove more entertaining than the “good guys,” with the standard exceptions of Willis and Reginald VelJohnson. That level is always in the film, regardless of what number viewing a person is having. The “Die Hard on a dot dot dot” action movie, which has almost become every action movie (except, oddly the last two Die Hard sequels), ignores the most interesting parts of the film. Villains who are fun to watch not because of their villainy, but because the characters are bad, but entertaining. There’s also the question of the short present action. The movie starts with Willis getting there and ends with him leaving. The situation (Willis visiting estranged wife) provides for a perfect exploration of the characters, without needless exposition.

But there’s also the developing relationships through the film. The dumb cop eventually becoming… friendly (only after the dumber FBI agents show up). McTiernan directs a confined story better than anyone I can think of–because he inserts the viewer in the building with the characters… But the viewer isn’t tied down to Willis, the viewer gets to move….

There’s an element of privilege to the film. Lots of the moments Willis gets–the quiet ones–are privileged moments (which makes the lack of respect for his acting at this point in his career a tad surprising), but they don’t compare to some of the other ones. Like when Bedelia sees her practically demolished husband at the end. Just her expression brings Die Hard to a level of reality, even with the jokes, even with explosions, very few films–none featuring off-duty cops with automatic weapons–ever reach. The film encompasses the viewer in a singular way, something none of the imitators (or sequels) could duplicate.

Obviously, Rickman is outstanding and Willis is great–the most interesting thing about the two is the lack of desperate struggle. By giving Willis Alexander Godunov as a nemesis, his relationship with Rickman becomes far more interesting. Godunov is, of course, a joy to watch.

I think the only acting surprise was De’voreaux White, who I never think about doing a great job, but does.

McTiernan’s never duplicated the quality, influence or depth of Die Hard–the understanding of people relating to one another–but then, screenwriters Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza have never even come close… because another sterling aspect of the film is the conversations between the characters.

I didn’t do a particularly good job with this post but I don’t have to. Because Die Hard is, to quote a friend (on a different subject), undeniable. And because, once the experience is over… it’s hard to talk about.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by John McTiernan; screenplay by Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza, based on a novel by Roderick Thorp; director of photography, Jan de Bont; edited by John F. Link and Frank J. Urioste; music by Michael Kamen; production designer, Jackson De Govia; produced by Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Bruce Willis (John McClane), Alan Rickman (Hans Gruber), Reginald VelJohnson (Sgt. Al Powell), Alexander Godunov (Karl), Bonnie Bedelia (Holly Gennero McClane), Paul Gleason (Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson), William Atherton (Richard Thornburg), De’voreaux White (Argyle), Hart Bochner (Harry Ellis), Dennis Hayden (Eddie), Clarence Gilyard Jr. (Theo), James Shigeta (Joseph Yoshinobu Takagi), Robert Davi (FBI Special Agent Johnson) and Grand L. Bush (FBI Agent Johnson).


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