What do Speed, Cliffhanger, Air Force One, and Sudden Death have in common? They all copy the plot of Crocodile Dundee II. I’m serious. Not Die Hard. The sequel to the popular Paul Hogan vehicle from the mid-1980s debuted in theaters on May 25, 1988 – two months before Die Hard arrived on July 15. And these two films have pretty much the same plot.
So this Christmas, let’s say “Yippee ki yay” and “G’day” to all the similarities between Die Hard and Crocodile Dundee II.
Here are all the things that these two films have in common in easy-to-read bullet points.
- The hero starts out as a fish out of water.
- A couple is having relationship issues.
- The love interest gets kidnapped by the villains and must be rescued.
- The hero takes down a lone bad guy in his first encounter.
- One of the heroine’s associates is killed.
- The police are ineffective.
- The hero has to take on the villains by himself.
- He tricks the bad guys at the climax.
- The main villain falls off a cliff.
Now let’s go through each of these points in greater detail.
Out of His Element
The hero is not in familiar territory at the start of the film. John McClane is on an airplane the first time we see him and he’s clearly not happy to be there. He has flown from New York to Los Angeles to spend Christmas with his estranged wife and children. He has a gun on him, but it’s okay because he’s a police officer. The first time we see Mick Dundee, he is in a boat throwing sticks of dynamite into the Hudson River as a unique method of fishing. The police arrive in a helicopter and are about to arrest him when they realize he’s just getting breakfast in his wild Australian way, and they let him off with a warning.
The hero isn’t currently on the best terms with his significant other. McClane refused to move to Los Angeles, even though his wife Holly Genero had a great job offer out there, so he stayed in New York while she took the kids and left. Somehow, surviving a crisis helps them heal their marital rift in the end – and decide to move to McClane’s preferred spot in New York. Dundee has been dating a reporter named Sue Charlton since the first film, but she’s upset with him for not finding a job or getting more romantically involved with her. They work out their differences through the course of the film, as well, and eventually find happiness together – in Dundee’s home country of Australia.
Wife in Peril
The plot gets going when the hero’s wife/girlfriend is captured by the bad guys. In Die Hard, a dozen terrorists take over the Nakatomi Tower in the middle of an office party for Holly’s company. There are many other hostages besides Holly Genero, but she’s the most important one to McClane. He spends the entire movie trying to free her. In Crocodile Dundee II, Sue is kidnapped by drug dealers who are trying to get incriminating evidence on them from her. She is their only hostage, and Dundee spends the first half of the film trying to rescue her.
The hero has a tense first fight with a single bad guy. McClane attempts to get the police to come to the rescue by pulling a fire alarm, but his actions are nullified and they alert the terrorists to his presence. One of them tries to get the jump on McClane, but he is outsmarted and quickly dispatched. Dundee is told to give one of the drug dealers’ men the evidence against them or they will kill Sue. Dundee looks like he’s going to comply, but he winds up getting into a fight, which ends comically with Dundee getting the jump on him and using a trash can to knock him out. It’s never explained why the drug dealers don’t follow through on their promise to kill Sue as a result. I guess drugs really do affect the brain.
Minor Character Killed
A minor character is killed after giving the villains important information about the hero. One of Holly’s coworkers decides he’s had enough of being a hostage and he takes matters into his own hands. He pretends to be friends with McClane and reveals his identity to the terrorists in exchange for what he thinks will be preferential treatment. But Hans Gruber instead uses the poor fool as bait before shooting him off screen.
One of Sue’s old boyfriends takes pictures of the drug dealers engaged in illegal activities in South America, and he mails the film to Sue. While he prepares to flee the country, he leaves a message on her answering machine. Unfortunately, the drug dealers track him down and listen to everything he says, so they know who to target next. After they get as much information as possible from him, they shoot him off screen.
Police Can’t Help
The police are ineffective at dealing with the situation. After McClane finally gets the police’s attention, they send in several teams, which are repulsed and effectively neutralized by the terrorists. From then on, all they can do is wait and hope for the best. At first, Dundee avoids the police because the drug dealers threaten to kill Sue if he asks for their help. But after he rescues Sue, they go to the police expecting protection. However, an assassination attempt proves that the police are unable to fulfill that function, so the pair flees to Australia for safety.
Again, there are a few logical problems with this turn of events. With the photographic evidence in hand and plenty of physical evidence at the drug dealers’ home, the police should have no problem locking up the criminals and putting them on trial. Sue is a kidnapping victim, so maybe they would want her on hand to testify about that, but with so many other charges, she isn’t absolutely necessary anymore. Why wouldn’t they send her with a police escort to a secure location instead of just sending her and her boyfriend unguarded to the bush? Whatever. Time for the action segment of the film to begin in earnest.
The hero works alone to take down the villains. McClane picks off the terrorists one or two at a time using a combination of luck and skill. He uses distractions, explosives, and a knack for being in the wrong place at the right time to his advantage throughout the film. Dundee also uses a number of tactics to capture the bad guys once they get to Australia. He uses his knowledge of the terrain and wildlife to put his foes on edge and bring them down. Unlike McClane, he doesn’t kill anyone – he just captures them and ties them up. I guess that’s to get a PG rating and make his character likable. Mission accomplished.
Tricking the Bad Guys
In the end, the hero comes up with a cunning plan to trick the main villains and beat them once and for all. McClane only has two bullets left when he goes up against Gruber and one of his thugs. So he tapes a gun to his back to make it look like he’s unarmed and when he gets near, he shoots them both at close range.
Dundee captures one of the main villains and switches clothes with him. Then he forces him to lead the way to the other main villain’s hiding place. Unfortunately, his plan goes awry because he didn’t tell Sue about it, and when she sees her love seemingly being led to his death at gunpoint, she unwittingly shoots the real Dundee. But it all works out because the other villain sees “Dundee” running away and he shoots him and is promptly shot by Sue.
Time to Die Hard
The main villain takes a fall. Despite being shot in the chest, Gruber refuses to die as he clings to Holly’s watch on her wrist. McClane quickly unlatches the watch, sending Gruber to his titular death. Holly and McClane embrace and prepare to enjoy their wedded bliss together – at least until the third film. The main villain, dressed as Dundee, also refuses to die for a few seconds after being shot. He staggers until he, too, falls off a cliff to his death. Sue and Dundee embrace and get ready to enjoy a long fruitful life together in Australia – though they don’t actually marry until the end of the third film many years later. Go figure.
Happy Trails, Indeed
There you have it. Die Hard and Crocodile Dundee II are pretty much the same film. That means that Die Hard isn’t the original action film template that so many other action films have copied over the years. That’s a bit of trivia you can use the next time someone brings up this topic.
Of course, Die Hard is more beloved than Crocodile Dundee II, and it’s not hard to see why. Probably the biggest reason for this is because John McClane is a much more vulnerable hero. He can be punched, cut, and shot, but he keeps coming back for more, and he ultimately triumphs by using his wits more than his muscles. Crocodile Dundee is mostly untouchable. He rarely gets into an actual fistfight, and he always seems to be in control of whatever situation he finds himself in. There’s not much suspense over his wellbeing until the finale, and even then it’s short-lived.
For what they are, both of these films are enjoyable. Now that the word is out about them, maybe we’ll have to start calling them Crocodile Hard.
This is the Deja Reviewer wishing you a Merry Christmas and bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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