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DIE HARD 2
Thrilling sequel score picks up where the first one left off
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1990 Twentieth Century Fox; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
PThe surprise hit Die Hard didn't take long to get a sequel, with the most surprising thing about it being that it was really pretty good, as far as these things go. While Renny Harlin put in some of his trademark so-dumb-it-hurts moments, he generally managed to steer clear of landing himself in danger and this is easily his most satisfying film. This time round the action is taken to an airport, with Bruce Willis fortunately on hand to avert disaster. The cast is impressive, and while there is no villain as satisfying as Alan Rickman's in the first film (and, indeed, no actor as satisfying as Rickman), it's still good stuff.
Michael Kamen returned to provide the score. This time - much to his frustration, apparently - he was required to deliver a straight action score, steering clear of the clever and subtle approach he somehow found himself able to take to the first film. The results - while not nearly so outlandish as his efforts on that - are still very satisfying for fans of action film music. There's still a healthy dose of suspense - and the overall sound world is very familiar from the first Die Hard - the pizzicato strings everywhere, the chimes and percussion, the slightly dissonant brass - but the emphasis here is much more on straight action. There are several excellent set-pieces, all culminating in a spectacular end to the album with "The Runway" to "The Terminal" being effectively one long, thrilling 18-minute sequence.
The opening part features some wonderful brassy action music as multi-layered as may be expected from this great composer - the way he manages to build ideas on top of each other, all based around fragmentary motifs which somehow bind together to form something very cohesive, is impressive indeed. "Icicle" is even more exciting, Kamen generating as much tension as he can, and holding nothing back with the brass and percussion sections of the Hollywood musicians giving it all they've got. "Snowmobiles" includes a not-so-subtle interpolation of Sibelius's great "Finlandia", which meshes with Kamen's own motifs really well; and the Sibelius piece is presented in all its glory at the end of the album.
While it doesn't quite contain the delights of the first Die Hard score, this music from the sequel is still surprisingly intelligent, and often beautifully-drawn. Kamen was such a fine composer, of all sorts of film music, and there's nobody around today who would write a score quite like this for a simple action film; highly recommended.