Tom Jolliffe mans up in preparation for The Expendables 2, taking in an overdose of explosive action cinema with ‘The Bruce Willis Rampage’…
From bartender, to TV star, to the Nakatomi Plaza, Bruce Willis broke into the action genre in a big way, offering a more everyman alternative to the likes of Stallone and Schwarzenegger. Whilst the rest of the action genre heroes looked like they had walked out of Gold’s Gym, Willis looked like he’d walked out of a bar. With a different kind of toughness, a tongue in cheek and a rogue charm, his appeal would become as enduring and iconic as his muscle bound peers. For Stallone’s Rambo, Arnold’s Terminator and Lorenzo Lamas’s Renegade (chortle), Willis had McClane. The Die Hard franchise – currently totaling five, with the latest in production – has been immensely popular. In addition to his action orientated roles, Willis has branched out into just about every genre with particular success in other iconic films like Pulp Fiction and The Sixth Sense. Certainly his versatility and performances belies some of the criticism he’s received as an actor, even if Willis has been in his share of turkeys and films where he’s looked a little bored.
So, here is the final instalment of my action rampage, in preparation for The Expendables 2. This is the Bruce Willis Rampage…
Tears of the Sun:
After Saving Private Ryan, for a good 5-6 years Hollywood was jam-packed with war films. Tears of the Sun comes in right amongst this surge in war films. Director Antoine Fuqua’s previous film was the one which really launched him – Training Day. To this day Fuqua has almost, for better or worse, lived off the name of that film. He’s yet to come close to matching let alone bettering it. That said the biggest strength in Training Day was the cast, and particularly Denzel Washington’s powerhouse performance.
Fuqua does little to make Tears of the Sun stand out amongst the innumerable competitors of that era. Just a year before, Ridley Scott delivered Black Hawk Down – a far superior movie, which in itself didn’t come close to matching Saving Private Ryan. As such, Tears of The Sun is a forgotten film, and not unfairly so.
Willis has been better too. He’s okay here, doing what is required without going the extra mile to make his Lt. Waters memorable. The support cast are average too and the combat scenes just don’t stand up to those in many other combat films. This is just middle of the road. There were worse – far worse – in that period (Windtalkers for one) but there’s little to recommend here aside from Monica Bellucci who is the standout performer and not just because she’s drop dead gorgeous (well okay, mostly for that reason).
It’s standard war film action which avoids descending into Chuck Norris cartoon fare, but Willis sneaks up on a soldier about to shoot Bellucci and for that reason alone is most deserving of a knife to the neck.
Sometimes Willis looks bored. Cop Out is one of those times. Those who feel like Kevin Smith has somehow tricked his way into movies off the back of fortunate success with Clerks won’t be in any rush to see him helming this dull and uninspired buddy cop film.
This feels like a film 15 years out of date. It’s the sort of unimaginative guff that we saw all too often in the mid 90s. There were so many dreary buddy movies bringing together an array of miss-matched stars. The screenplay is woeful but really does feel like it’s been dragged out of a vault without even the courtesy of a rewrite. It’s almost like the film’s been made with as little effort as possible just so they can get it out and make money with Willis’ face on the poster. The thing is, you only have to look at Bruce’s face on the DVD cover to know he’s not really inspired. They’ve photo-shopped the hell out of him to remove wrinkles, so you’d think they could have removed the painfully bored expression from his face, but no. No they couldn’t!
Willis’s comedy partner is Tracey Morgan, who is pretty much a poor man’s Chris Tucker. He makes Tucker look like a comedy God. Chris Tucker… like a comedy God! He’s awful and desperately claws away trying to capture laughs from an unwilling audience. It’s a little pathetic. The dire script, lacking in any sort of wit, doesn’t help but none of the performers manage to be even mildly amusing. There’s also little action worth noting. It’s all flat, style-less and ineffective.
Willis and Morgan both dispatch the bad guy. That said it’s hardly a standout moment; rather, merely a sign the film is mercifully about to end.
The Last Boy Scout:
Written by Shane Black and directed by Tony Scott with Willis at his sardonic best, this film is an awesome slice of action pie. Willis teams with Damon Wayans and the one-liners and high octane action come thick and fast.
Black’s script is typically zingy and Scott’s direction typically more style than substance, but the film is awesome. So many quotable lines and the interplay between Wayans and Willis particularly creates plenty of energy.
There’s some fantastically irksome villains throughout. Taylor Negron as Milo is especially loathsome. Die Hard aside, this is probably Willis’ most enjoyable action film. Whilst it may be an even more bummish version of McClane, it’s still vintage Willis.
Hard choice because there are so many memorable finishers but the standout is possibly Willis punching a bad guys nose into his brain, killing him instantly. That’ll teach him for not giving Bruce a cigarette!
Willis teams up with Lethal Weapon director Richard Donner to good effect here. It’s not particularly original nor loaded with big budget spectacle, but 16 Blocks is just really well made for what it is.
Willis is a burnt out cop in advancing years who’s got a drinking problem. A routine transfer of a prisoner and witness (Mos Def) to a courthouse goes wrong as a bunch of rogue cops want the witness dead. Willis has to dig deep within himself to make sure he gets Mos Def to the court on time and keep them both alive.
The performances are excellent. Willis is on top form, whilst Mos Def is also very good. David Morse is always reliable and as per usual makes for a worthy villain.
A crim is just about to pull the trigger on Mos Def, helpless in the back of Willis’s police car. BOOM! Is Mos Def dead? No, because Willis has just shot down the perp. Yippe Kay… oh wait, wrong film.
Read Tom’s review of The Expendables 2.