Die hard' is not a christmas movie, says bruce willis

     

An assessment of the actor’s late-career B-movie filmography, including his most recent entry, “Breach.”



A critic finds patterns after watching a dozen of Bruce Willis’s movies from the past half-decade.Credit...Illustration by Mark Pernice

It’s hard lớn keep traông chồng of Bruce Willis’s filmography, especially since năm ngoái. In recent years, the star’s IMDb page has swollen with a torrent of action productions that drown out the occasional ambitious work lượt thích “Motherless Brooklyn” or “Glass.” Mnemonics are useful to keep trachồng of the banal titles: “Hard Kill” followed “First Kill”; “Trauma Center” takes place in … a trauma center. But really, anybody toàn thân would be forgiven for mixing up “Reprisal” with “Marauders,” or “Acts of Violence” with Willis’s most recent paycheck, “Breach” (available in select theaters and on-demvà, which is where most of these movies begin their careers).

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Title aside, “Breach,” a horror flick set in space, does stvà out from the ever-growing paông xã in a couple of ways.

The first is that Willis gets decent screen time as a crew thành viên who helps Cody Kearsley (“Riverdale”) battle a parasitic life size that’s turning people into murderous ghouls. That Willis would commit to lớn a Willis movie is not a given because he tends khổng lồ average 15 minutes per outing in his VOD oeuvre — it’s his (quickly waning) reputation the star rents out, not his actual presence.

But more important than Willis clocking in and out is that “Breach” is watchable — a modest but, in this context, rarely achieved unique. Add bonus points if unfamiliarity with “Alien” & John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” from which “Breach” heavily borrows, create surprises; add some more if you are amused by the sight of Thomas Jane hamming it up while wearing sunglasses inside a spaceship.


In Willisworld, this counts as exuberant praise.

As Jeff Ross said at the actor’s Comedy Central roast in 2018, “You’re lượt thích Elmer Fudd if he hunted bad scripts instead of wascally wabbits.”


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It’s true that these films are mostly bad, and I take no pleasure in writing this: I really wanted at least some of them to be enjoyable, not because I am a die-hard người of the man behind John McClane, but because I have sầu long admired B movies. At their best, they display an ingenuity & resourcefulness that I prefer khổng lồ the bloat of Hollywood’s big-budget popcorn fare; they also often make room for idiosyncratic, ridicule-embracing performances (it bears repeating that Thomas Jane is wearing shades in space).

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So the snarky articles mocking Willis’s vehicles, or rather creaky jalopies, only made me more curious: Could these movies be that awful? And what vị they say about the state of low-rent action?

Watching a dozen of the Willis movies from the past half-decade, patterns did emerge. What struchồng me most is how much they rely on gunplay. It’s not just that violence is always linked khổng lồ firearms, và vice versa, in this insular filmic ecosystem — it’s that guns and rifles & assault rifles are the whole point. I saw more shootouts than I could count, with an absurd number of bullets flying about in orgies of mamang lại one-upmanship and terrible aiming. “Hard Kill” (2020), which is ahy vọng the worst of the bunch, actually starts with such a display, then goes downhill.


And it’s not just guns — usually carried tucked in the small of the baông chồng, an action dude’s idea of accessorizing — that are fetishized, but tactical gear. The S.W.A.T. cosplay in movies like “Reprisal” (2018) would be laughably self-important if the real-world version wasn’t so chilling. The idea of masculinity these movies project is troubling, lớn say the least — which is doubly weird because Willis in his prime was not your typical pumped-up action anh hùng.


I get it, this is a fantasy, just lượt thích the kitchen in a Nancy Meyers rom-com. But in purely cinematic terms, the problem is that gun violence has replaced any attempts at coming up with decent plots. Why exert yourself thinking up twists when you can just insert a shootout? For that matter, why bother thinking up a new story when you can have sầu a heist & be done? Between their planning, execution and aftermath (hint: it never goes well), heists are the engine powering an outsize number of those movies.

As for Willis himself, he takes the baông xã seat — often literally. In the normal world, a second billing could still indicate a meaty role; in Willisworld, it means little. Sometimes he plays men who prance around in suits, looking sarcastically superior, for a minute or two at a time. Sometimes he plays tired cops or former cops who spover a lot of time on the phone. (More is not necessarily better: One of Willis’s biggest roles in recent years was in the 2017 comic-action hybrid “Once Upon a Time in Venice,” which is an embarrassment from top lớn bottom — that’s the one in which he skateboards naked.)

Mostly Willis lets the designated lead carry the action, such as it is. The best of the guys doing the actual work are the most grizzled, and they, perhaps uncoincidentally, tkết thúc khổng lồ be in the better movies, like Frank Grillo in “Reprisal,” Michael Chiklis in “10 Minutes Gone” and Christopher Meloni in “Marauders” — a 2016 release that recently popped up in the Netflix Top 10 and is directed by the low-teur Steven C. Miller, one of his three Willis flicks.

It might not be a coincidence that the movies that bother giving good parts lớn women tend lớn be above average — except for “Extraction,” from năm ngoái, which manages to lớn make Gina Carano gọi Kellan Lutz for help. In “Trauma Center” (2019), for example, the Willis proxy is a woman, played by Nicky Whelan, who must evade the crooked cops trying to kill her in a closed-off hospital wing. This is as cthua kém to lớn the “Die Hard” formula as a Willis movie gets these days.


The favorite in my action binge was “Precious Cargo” (2016), a “Miamày Vice”-esque caper that gives Willis proxy Mark-Paul Gosselaar not one but two worthy female foils, played by Claire Forlani and Jenna B. Kelly. “Precious Cargo” was also the funniest movie in my excursion inlớn modern pulp cinema, which is not that hard lớn accomplish since most of the competition seems lớn consider humor an anathema to lớn masculinity, along with basic English — though this question from “Hard Kill” did make me laugh: “You got anything for tonight planned?”

And there is so much more khổng lồ look forward in 2021, with Willis slated to lớn appear in more science fiction with “Cosmic Sin,” a human hunt in “Apex,” crime-y stuff in “Out of Death” & a thriller called “Midnight in the Switchgrass.” There is still time to lớn rename that last one “Sudden Justice” or “Lethal Vengeance.”


Chuyên mục: Tin Tức