Bruce Willis has slowly morphed from a wise-cracking, cool-looking action star into a depressed-looking actor trapped in the past, endlessly regurgitating inferior copies of his classic films. His present day morose persona may be apt for certain movie roles but even in interviews Willis looks crestfallen and unexcitable, these days he looks as uninterested in his work as his audience are. Many people would argue that this kind of disposition is a by-product of ageing but I would staunchly disagree – look at Jack Nicholson for example, his personality has remained consistent throughout his life – everybody gets old but being miserable is surely a choice a person makes? Maybe if Bruce Willis chose better roles and made better films he wouldn’t look so dispirited.
Back in the eighties following on from a few television shows including an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ and his four-year stint in ‘Moonlighting’, Bruce Willis began transitioning to film and this was by and large successful. Not that all of his early movies were flawless (for every ‘Die Hard‘ there was a ‘Sunset’) but even his less than satisfying films like ‘Blind Date’ or ‘Hudson Hawk’, Willis’ performance possessed a charm that distracted from the mediocrity on screen.
During the nineties he made numerous enjoyable films; from the decent action-comedy ‘The Last Boy Scout’, the brilliant sci-fi flick ’12 Monkeys’, his small role in Quentin Tarantino‘s ‘Pulp Fiction’, and lets not forget his great performance in ‘Death Becomes Her’ – proving his talents for comedy as well as high-octane blockbusters. As far as blockbusters go, Willis made some very entertaining examples from the aforementioned ‘Die Hard’ to Michael Bay‘s ‘Armageddon’. He also made a worthy sequel to his greatest role in the form of ‘Die Hard With A Vengeance’. The end of the nineties and the dawn of the millennium however, signalled the descent of Bruce Willis – M. Night Shyamalan‘s ‘The Sixth Sense’ was probably his last satisfying film. Somewhere in the mid-noughties, crap like ‘Alpha Dog’ started to crop up, then ‘Die Hard 4.0’, then ‘Surrogates’, then ‘RED’, and it’s only gone downhill from there.
For a decade and a half now, it seems that Bruce Willis has been working tirelessly to ruin his own legacy, transforming the classic ‘Die Hard’ into a clichéd and stale franchise with the horrid ‘Live Free Or Die Hard‘ and the god-awful ‘A Good Day To Die Hard‘. Parallel to the descent of John McClane from a cool, witty, deliverer of one-liners into a bald, bedraggled, two-dimensional, and unbelievable character, Bruce Willis has also become a glum-looking, dull version of his previous self.
On a side-issue, you would think that working in Tinseltown for half your life would give you a level of control and increase your standing within the industry? Surely Mr. Willis now has the chops to insist a script needs re-writing or a new director needs hiring? You would also think that a person who made ‘Die Hard’ 1 and 3 would outrightly refuse ‘Die Hard’ 4 and 5, at least until there’s a better script or until a suitable replacement for John McTiernan is found. Now with the pointless ‘Die Hard Year One’ in the works you wonder why Willis hasn’t fought for McTiernan to be the director since he’s no longer in prison – is there no loyalty left these days?
It seems that Bruce is overly concerned with working in the now and less concerned with longevity, if he stepped back and looked at his entire body of work he would notice the declining quality of his movies. If he stopped to smell the Californian coffee, he’d realise that his recent films aren’t even in the same league as his nineties counterparts. Similar to Nicolas Cage, Bruce Willis was once a sturdy, bankable actor but his recent filmic choices have made his career nosedive – these days his name on a poster is a sign that the film should be avoided.
So I ask you – has Bruce Willis ever made a watchable movie after the millennium? His filmography since the noughties has been filled to the brim with bullshit; ‘Cold Light Of Day’, ‘Fire With Fire’, ‘Setup’, ‘Catch .44’, ‘Lay The Favourite’, ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’, ‘Rock The Kasbah’ – and this has gotten worse ever since the teenies came round – I mean has anybody even heard of ‘The Prince’, ‘Vice’, ‘Extraction’, ‘Precious Cargo’, or ‘Marauders’, let alone dragged their keister to the cinema to watch them?
If I backtrack for a moment, I want to point out that whilst promoting the garbage ‘RED’ and ‘RED 2’ the cast including Willis endlessly mentioned how much “fun” they had on set, but the end result for the audience was the exact opposite. Maybe these Hollywood halfwits should focus on making a watchable film rather than fannying around on the backlot? Because that might be part of the problem, maybe Willis picks and chooses his films based on how much enjoyment he’ll have whilst making them, but if this is the case, it’s been detrimental to his filmography – you have to suffer for your art, even if that art is an action-comedy. But I digress.
These days a Bruce Willis film is almost always straight to video, straight to DVD, or the modern equivalent – straight to streaming. Some years Willis makes as many as six films but what’s the point in working on so many flicks when all of them are shit? And that brings me to his upcoming movies; there’s of course the aforementioned ‘Die Hard Year One’ which will most likely be as disappointing as his previous two outings as McClane, there’s also ‘Going Under’ or ‘Once Upon A Time In Venice’, an action comedy which sounds like John Wick Lite (“an L.A. detective seeks out the ruthless gang that stole his dog”). There’s also an Eli frigging Roth remake of ‘Death Wish’ (and if you’ve watched ‘Knock Knock’ you’ll know that Roth’s remakes are completely and utterly dire) and that’s about it! If you’re someone looking forward to ‘First Kill’ or ‘The Bombing’ or any of the films I’ve mentioned above, I’d like to offer you two matchsticks to prop your eyelids open. Just reading the synopsis to these movies and I’m yawning, you can tell from a mile off that these films will be crap, not to mention box office failures. I’d love to know what Bruce Willis is thinking? Is he so desperate for cash that he’ll accept this type of banal crap over and over again?
Bruce Willis’ waning career may have something to do with his outward appearance, I don’t just mean his morose face – his political opinions since the year 2000 have come to the fore and they’ve been met with contempt by many of his fans. I guess his points of view weren’t so publicised in the last century so that kept his real-life personality suppressed, this is much harder to do in the present day. The eighties and nineties were altogether different, maybe I was oblivious, but it seemed that every thought and opinion from a celebrity wasn’t widely broadcast. People like Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sylvester Stallone went largely unnoticed as right-wing Republicans, the main thing the public knew was they were action stars, and most of us naively thought their on-screen persona was the same as they’re off-screen self. These days a celebrity is a completely different animal, you can’t go two seconds before someone retweets or posts something about them, every time they utter a single syllable, every time they pass wind, it’s out there for all to witness. In that respect it’s much easier to “hate” a famous person these days – their output is constantly cross-referenced with their comments and actions, this is no longer the good ol’ days of a discreet celeb.
In all honesty, if the Planet Hollywood Three (Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Willis) existed today, I don’t think they’d be as famous or adored as they were thirty years ago, especially by me. Ever since the millennium and especially after 9/11, we’ve witnessed these muscle-bound morons support military action, endorse various right-wing politicians, and in the case of Bruce Willis offer a bounty on Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein’s head. Alongside all this conservative canoodling, all three of these gung-ho goons have now become shells of their former selves – antiquated, worn-out, hackneyed has-beens. Their collective careers are definitely in their twilight years, maybe if they weren’t so stuck in the past, they’d make something different and against type – I mean can’t they see that a sixty year old kicking a terrorist’s arse is now unbelievable? If you absolutely have to make another action movie, at least make it enjoyable, and maybe keep your political opinions to yourself because kissing the military’s arse every two seconds doesn’t make your tedious films any better, just ask Gerard Butler. When it comes to Bruce Willis, maybe he should be more concerned with entertaining the public rather than entertaining the troops, and for god’s sake crack a fucking smile now and again. Nobody wants to see you holding a machine gun and sulking.
Don’t Bring Me Down… Bruce!