Out of all the burger-chain owning, cigar-chewing Eighties' action heroes, Bruce Willis was always the one I had the most time for.
Out of all the burger-chain owning, cigar-chewing Eighties’ action heroes, Bruce Willis was always the one I had the most time for.
I grew up watching Moonlighting, often transfixed by the casual way the show broke through the Fourth Wall, characters directly addressing the audience or walking off set past the cameras and into the studio. Mostly, though, I thought Bruce was great — carefree, insouciant, arch, funny, nowhere near as serious or smug as most other TV PIs in the mid-Eighties.
When he hit the movies, Bruce was a far more engaging figure than peers like Arnie or Sly — pumped and buffed and barely human. Bruce did, and still does, a great take on the harassed Everyman — that look of bafflement that’d cross his face as some nasty terrorist or crooked cop points a gun in his face, a “Why does this shit always have to happen to me..?” glance to the camera.
Comparing the trajectories of those three actors suggests Bruce is a veritable Renaissance man next to Sly and Arnie. His CV indicates a willingness to find varied and interesting projects, if admittedly not all of them are complete successes: 12 Monkeys, Bonfire Of The Vanities, Death Becomes Her, Last Man Standing, Pulp Fiction, Sixth Sense, The Fifth Element, Sin City.
Here’s a thing. In 1999, while Sly was shooting his woeful Get Carter remake and Arnie was starring as ex-cop Jericho Cane in the dire End Of Days — imagine The Terminator meets The Omen, then swiftly forget it — Bruce was playing opposite Nick Nolte and Albert Finney in Alan Rudolph’s Vonnegut adaptation, Breakfast Of Champions. It may not have been quite the masterpiece, but at least he was making an effort.
His last couple of movies have seen him play extended cameos, or supporting roles, and he seems comfortable with that. He was solid as the father in Nick Cassavetes’ Alpha Dog, and chomped his way through his uncredited, 10 minute monologue in Richard Linklater’s Fast Food Nation. He looks like he’s coasting, which I think is a clever skill, part of his charm, and undoubtedly deceptive. Playing an alcoholic cop in 16 Blocks at the start of this year, he was pudgy, bloated — the physicals easily done with make-up and prosthetics — but there was something in his gait, in his slight squint and mild air of befuddlement which suggested here was a long-term, heavy-drinker.
So it perhaps seems rather strange that, 12 years on from Die Hard With A Vengeance, Bruce has returned to the character of John McClane for Live Free Or Die Hard. Sure, Sly resurrected Rocky earlier this year and we live in fear of Rambo’s imminent return, while Arnie rebooted the rusty T-800 cyborg for 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines. But I figured Bruce was a bit more savvy than that.
Still, in comparison with the stultifyingly dull Transformers Of The Caribbean, the sight of a harrassed Bruce blowing shit up in a white vest once again is something to cherish.
Live Free Or Die Hard opens on July 4
The trailer is here: http://www.livefreeordiehard.com/index_site.html