Sunday, 28 July 2013

Triumphing Over Stupid Bureaucrats

Die Hard 2 continues the pessimistic view developed in the first film in the series, but to much more incisive ends. In the first Die Hard Bruce Willis's solo cop John McClain goes up against terrorists, hindered by the stupid, greedy, or willfully malicious. The film is built around the notion that the USA in the 1980s might be a land in terminal decline that can only be saved by a few good guys who know the ropes and don't take shit from nobody. As deadly as the terrorists are dimwitted cops, FBI agents used to treating the USA like Vietnam, duplicitous yuppies, moral-less newshounds. The vital forces of action shown actually getting things done are New Women (gutsy like men, in business, although Bonnie Bidelia's Holly is defined mostly by her marriage to McClain and her family), the Japanese (the action takes place in what feels something like foreign soil, or an everyplace, a chunk of California signed off to Tokyo), and a gang of multi-national/racial terrorists.

Die Hard 2 of course repeats this, unhelpful cops and conniving bureaucrats and so forth, although actually the air control staff are depicted as resourceful and courageous: possibly, like Billy Elliott, a segment of the workforce that had struck a blow against neoliberalism, and becomes its victims (the PATCO strike of 1981), was being rehabilitated. If anything the film's failure at being as wholly enjoyable comes from repeating the first film on a vastly smaller scale (also Willis wanted out by this point, asking for his character to be killed off). What is more pointed here is that the film draws direct links between the USA's overseas wars and the military-industrial complex. The backing of a Latin American drug dealer leads to a team of US Special Forces turning rogue in a bid to free him from prison: such as links are well established and still being raised.

Though 90s action films are largely fluff, some seem very remarkable when looked back on.

Either in their vision of the 1990s as a grim near-future, or chaotic distant 'dark age':

Or in fairly critique/contempt for the government from within the military:

Something of a 'Praetorian guard taking over the republic' feel to all of it really.


William said...

"Something of a 'Praetorian guard taking over the republic' feel to all of it really." Tom Clancy was quite explicit about this in his novels.

Pre-crap Hitchens skewered this quite well:

Paul Hebron said...

It was partially inspired by a bit in a book about ex-air force people who turn into novelists during or before they quit, basically writing apocalypse porn about how the US is going to be wiped out by the latest Russian/Muslim/Chinese superweapon.

I think John McCain read one of these and started going on about EMP blasts or something, to much ridicule. But the point is that their sort of para-policy pieces trying to get the government to buy into the oncoming danger.