Best of big-screen Bruce

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

now it’s clear that noth­ing and no one can kill Bruce Wil­lis, whose fifth film in the Die Hard fran­chise, the hor­ri­bly ti­tled A Good Day to Die Hard opens in Aus­tralia to­day. It is not his finest hour. At 58, he still wreaks havoc and looks great in a tight T-shirt but he doesn’t seem to be en­joy­ing him­self very much. Christy Lemire looks back at five of the best per­for­mances in Wil­lis’s eclec­tic, en­dur­ing ca­reer:

(1988): Loads of ladies, young and old, had a huge crush on Wil­lis as the quick-wit­ted David Ad­di­son on Moon­light­ing. It was the role that set the stage for the char­ac­ter that would go on to de­fine his ca­reer: wise­crack­ing New York cop John Mc­Clane. Wil­lis is at his charis­matic best in this ’80s ac­tion clas­sic: swag­ger­ing, smart-alecky and re­source­ful, but, at his core, just a reg­u­lar guy try­ing to out­wit the Euro bad­dies. The fact that he’s not a su­per­hero ac­tu­ally gives the char­ac­ter more power.

(1994): One of the most im­por­tant and in­flu­en­tial movies of the 1990s, of course, with Wil­lis in a role that lets him put all his tal­ents on dis­play at once. As a boxer named Butch who’s sup­posed to throw a fight but ends up win­ning it in­stead, Wil­lis is tough but ten­der, pow­er­ful yet vul­ner­a­ble. Quentin Tarantino is in love with words and Wil­lis is an ex­cel­lent fit for his pe­cu­liar brand of ver­bosity; he’s also very much up for the, um, many freaky and phys­i­cal de­mands of ap­pear­ing in a Tarantino film.

(1999): If Wil­lis’s characters in the ’80s were all about cun­ning and bravado, the late ’90s and 2000s fre­quently found him in a more in­tro­spec­tive mode, es­pe­cially in this hell-of-a-twist block­buster from M. Night Shya­malan. (The two reteamed the next year for an­other su­per­nat­u­ral thriller, Un­break­able, in which Wil­lis is also very good in a low-key way.) Wil­lis is the ghost at the cen­tre of this ghost story, a child psy­chol­o­gist work­ing with a lit­tle boy (Ha­ley Joel Os­ment) who, fa­mously, sees dead peo­ple. The mut­ing of Wil­lis’s ac­tion-star per­sona is what’s so ef­fec­tive here; his quiet melan­choly adds to the chilly mood.

(2012): Wes An­der­son’s best live-ac­tion movie since Rush­more is all about the kids: two pre­co­cious pre-teens who fall in love and run off to­gether but have nowhere to go on an in­su­lar New Eng­land is­land. Still, the adults pro­vide an ex­cel­lent sup­port­ing cast, in­clud­ing Wil­lis as the is­land’s lonely sher­iff on the hunt for the ru­n­aways. There’s great sub­tlety and sad­ness to his per­for­mance; you look at his char­ac­ter and the mid­dle-aged rut he’s got­ten him­self into and pray that th­ese love-struck kids don’t sim­i­larly lose their spark.

(2005): Wil­lis once again plays a cop (pic­tured, left) – John Har­ti­gan, the last hon­est cop in this cor­rupt town – search­ing for an 11-year-old girl who would go on to be­come an ex­otic dancer played by Jes­sica Alba. In Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s glo­ri­ously stylised graphic novel-film noir mash-up, Wil­lis is the tra­di­tion­ally hard­ened, world-weary an­ti­hero look­ing to clear his name. It’s a per­for­mance filled with both re­gret and de­ter­mi­na­tion, much of which he spells out in dra­matic but un­der­stated voiceover.

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