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Bruce Willis

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

Sin City2DIRECTOR: Robert Rodriguez

CAST: Josh Brolin, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green, Bruce Willis, Powers Boothe, Rosario Dawson, Dennis Haysbert, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, Ray Liotta, Christopher Lloyd, Jamie Chung, Jaime King, Julia Garner, Stacy Keach, Juno Temple, Marton Csokas, Lady Gaga

REVIEW:

Sin City was one of the coolest movies of 2005 (or any other year).  Adapted by Robert Rodriguez with painstaking accuracy from Frank Miller’s hyper-stylized, ultra-violent graphic novels, it was a blast of visually inventive, kinetic, wildly over-the-top sadistic fun.  For various reasons which vary depending on whose version of events you listen to, it took a whopping nine years for the much-discussed sequel to finally return to Basin City, and like many follow-ups that take this long to see the light of day, it’s dubious whether it was worth the wait.  It would be overly harsh to call A Dame to Kill For a trainwreck (though its disastrously abysmal box office returns would argue otherwise), but while it’s diverting, much of the freshness has evaporated.  Like other inferior sequels, it remixes a lot of familiar ingredients but without that undefinable “spark”.  Dame is not really “bad”, but while it apes its predecessor’s style, it largely lacks its panache, despite moments of flirting with recapturing it. Continue reading

Red 2 (2013)

DIRECTOR: Dean Parisot

CAST: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Byung-hun Lee, Neal McDonough, David Thewlis, Brian Cox

REVIEW:

While 2010’s Red was an enjoyable enough, if ultimately forgettable diversion, that had more to do with the B-level material inexplicably attracting a high-powered ensemble of respectable elder thespians that kicked it up a notch.  Neither its small charms nor its modest box office success particularly cried out for a sequel, but here we are.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, Red 2 lacks what little freshness the first film possessed, and while the sight of Helen Mirren handling heavy weaponry still has some amusement, it’s not as novel as it was in 2010.  Red 2 is a moderately enjoyable diversion, but the relative freshness has evaporated, and like many an unneeded and uninspired sequel, this has the feel of warmed-over leftovers. Continue reading

Looper (2012)

looperDIRECTOR: Rian Johnson

CAST: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo, Noah Segan, Garret Dillahunt, Summer Qing, Pierce Gagnon

REVIEW:

Time travel is commonplace in sci-fi stories, sometimes used effectively, sometimes as a flimsy plot device.  With Looper, writer-director Rian Johnson finds a way to embrace the inherent paradoxes and incorporate them into a hard-hitting sci-fi thriller in ways that are intelligent and unpredictable.  Looper is not just a generic action flick with time travel as a plot device; it’s a smart movie that works on different levels as an action thriller, a sci-fi story, and even a morality play, and stimulates the adrenaline, the brain, and the heart.  It’s not a perfect film, but its narrative is engaging, involving, and thoughtful, and doesn’t shy away from a tragic vein. Continue reading

Red (2010)

redDIRECTOR: Robert Schwentke

CAST: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Mary-Louise Parker, Karl Urban, Brian Cox, Richard Dreyfuss, Rebecca Pidgeon, James Remar, Julian McMahon, Ernest Borgnine

REVIEW:

Red is a prime example of how a high quality acting ensemble can elevate a movie from otherwise straight-to-DVD generic action-comedy fare into a moderately enjoyable romp.  It doesn’t do anything spectacular on either the action or comedy fronts, but the game cast makes it more fun than tedious to sit through. Continue reading

Live Free Or Die Hard (2007)

DIRECTOR: Len Wiseman

CAST:

Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Maggie Q, Kevin Smith, Cliff Curtis, Zeljko Ivanek

REVIEW:

Like Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Live Free Or Die Hard largely abandons the grittier feel of the original film in favor of more typical flashy whizz-bang action extravaganza, but since the Die Hard series doesn’t aspire to be more than action extravaganza as much as the Terminator series, that’s not as much of a detriment here. No one is likely to compare it with the original Die Hard, but if nothing else, it’s an entertaining summer action flick.

John McClane (Bruce Willis, older and balder) is divorced, and his now-grown daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) goes by her mother’s name and seemingly wants nothing to do with him. McClane gets what sounds like a routine assignment: transport hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long) to be questioned by government officials about a security breach at Homeland Security. But as usual, nothing goes routine for McClane. Turns out the security breach is just the beginning of an assault on the entire US infrastructure, shutting down Washington, Wall Street, airports, cities, and threatening to throw the country back to the Stone Age. Of course, the mastermind, Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), hasn’t counted on John McClane. But things get more personal when Gabriel decides to take Lucy hostage.

The twelve years between Die Hard With A Vengeance and Live Free Or Die Hard has done nothing to slow Bruce Willis down as action hero material, but while he’s called John McClane and sometimes acts like John McClane, he’s transformed from the scruffy everyman into more of a typical unstoppable action hero. Willis is effective in the role, and he has moments where he feels like the old McClane, especially when he confesses to Farrell the personal costs of his job, but some will miss when McClane almost seemed like an average Joe instead of pure movie action hero. Justin Long avoids making Farrell as irritating as he could have been, and he’s occasionally funny, but he doesn’t completely avoid seeming like a bit of a third wheel (I think someone like, say, the ubiquitous Shia LaBeouf, could maybe have done a little more with the role). As far as action-buddy odd couples go, Willis and Long are adequate but not as good a mesh as Willis and Samuel L. Jackson in the third installment. The bad guys are an undistinguished bunch. Timothy Olyphant is the blandest bad guy in the series, seeming to think smugly smirking and lots of wide-eyed glares constitutes a villainous performance. Maggie Q gets a to throw in a little kung-fu buttkicking in a scene that makes her almost as indestructible as Kristanna Loken’s ‘Terminatrix’ in Terminator 3, and French martial artist/stuntman Cyril Raffaelli gets to show off his Spider-Man-esque agility a couple times. Kevin Smith doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb as much as one might fear in basically a cameo, and Cliff Curtis and Zeljko Ivanek are the token cops trying to handle the situation. One cast member we wish had been given more to do is Mary Elizabeth Winstead. In fact, Winstead has enough of Dad’s attitude in her all-too-small role that things might have been kicked up a notch if it had been she and Dad teaming up instead of McClane and Farrell (the original version of the script had McClane joined by his hacker son).

While the previous Die Hard entries were wall-to-wall action, they at least kept things more gritty and semi-realistic, while Live Free Or Die Hard is more typical flashy whizz-bang action extravaganza of one wildly over-the-top action sequence after another, with each trying to top the one that came before, until the tension is diluted by our knowledge that what we’re seeing onscreen defies the laws of physics.   The bad guys’ plot is also a little too convoluted. It was inspired by a newspaper article about the danger of the US infrastructure being vulnerable to computer attack, and all the hacker mumbo-jumbo gets a little mind-boggling, until we get impatient to get back to some McClane ass-whipping. And whip serviceable amounts of baddie ass McClane does.

While it’s freely open to debate about how much or how little this actually ‘feels’ like a Die Hard movie, I’m giving it two and a half stars because it delivers on the action we expect from the series. Don’t think about it too much, just enjoy it for what it is, and strap yourself in for an entertaining ride.

**1/2

Sin City (2005)

DIRECTOR: Robert Rodriguez

CAST:

Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, Jessica Alba, Jaime King, Rosario Dawson, Benicio del Toro, Brittany Murphy, Carla Gugino, Nick Stahl, Michael Clarke Duncan, Elijah Wood, Alexis Bledel, Devon Aoki, Josh Hartnett, Michael Madsen, Rutger Hauer, Powers Boothe, Tommy Flanagan

REVIEW:

Sin City is an adaptation of three stories in a series of ultra-violent, hyper-stylized graphic novels by Frank Miller set in the crime-ridden metropolis of Basin City, dubbed Sin City by its inhabitants. Continue reading

The Jackal (1997)

DIRECTOR: Michael Caton-Jones

CAST: Bruce Willis, Richard Gere, Sidney Poitier, Diane Venora, Mathilda May, Jack Black, J.K. Simmons

REVIEW:

The Jackal, a (very) loose remake of the 1973 Fred Zinnemann film The Day of the Jackal, is a patently ridiculous action thriller at every step of the way (sad from a movie loosely based on a meticulously logical original) but alas not enough to push it out of wallowing in flat mediocrity and into “so bad it’s good” territory.  Fans of the 1973 film, or Frederick Forsyth’s 1971 novel of the same name, will be left decidedly unimpressed (unsurprisingly, both Zinnemann and Forsyth lobbied to have the film’s name changed to reduce its associations with the original), and so will everyone else save the most undemanding of action and/or Bruce Willis fans. Continue reading

The Fifth Element (1997)

DIRECTOR: Luc Besson

CAST: Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Milla Jovovich, Ian Holm, Chris Tucker, Brion James, Luke Perry, Tommy Lister

REVIEW:

It’s unsurprising that Luc Besson wrote The Fifth Element when he was a teenager, even if it took him decades to bring it to the screen.  Put simply, The Fifth Element is a hot mess of a movie, a scatterbrained, scattershot hodgepodge of colorful scenes thrown slapdash into the mix, with a borderline incoherent plot to string it all together, served up with $100 million worth of visual razzle dazzle, relying on a sensory overload to compensate for a muddled narrative.  The result still has its entertainment quota, and is a colorful, lively, and vibrant enough ride to be worth giving at least a look, but it helps to shut your brain off in the interim. Continue reading

Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995)

DIRECTOR: John McTiernan

CAST:

Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Irons, Graham Greene, Colleen Camp, Larry Bryggman

REVIEW:

I don’t know if it’s because John McTiernan is back in the director’s seat, or the inclusion of the always high-octane Samuel L. Jackson, or the script, or a combination, but Die Hard With A Vengeance has a higher energy level than Die Hard 2, even if it’s not as tightly-plotted and well-crafted as the original film. Continue reading

Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)

DIRECTOR: Renny Harlin

CAST:

Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, William Sadler, William Atherton, Franco Nero, John Amos, Fred Dalton Thompson, Dennis Franz, Art Evans, Reginald VelJohnson, Sheila McCarthy, Colm Meaney, Robert Patrick

REVIEW:

Die Hard was so solidly put together that it’s no surprise that Die Hard 2 (rather unimaginatively titled Die Harder) isn’t up to the same level, but it’s a little disappointing all the same. Continue reading

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