I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

My new Bruce Willis essay on The Village Voice

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Check out my new Bruce essay on The Village Voice websight (web exclusive – they tried printing it on paper but my writing was so hot it caught on fire). This is basically my response to the anti-Bruce sentiments a few weeks ago when he was in the news for dropping EXPENDABLES 3 and a couple other incidents. Apparently this piece has turned out to be more of a bummer than I intended, and the headline does sound a little harsh. But really I’m just trying to illustrate how much of Bruce’s power in DIE HARD comes from not being a standard action guy, and therefore it makes sense that he’s grown restless with being pushed into the standard action guy slot. It’s a celebration of his talents and unique place in action movie history.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 at 12:38 am and is filed under Blog Post (short for weblog), Bruce. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

27 Responses to “My new Bruce Willis essay on The Village Voice”

  1. I hate to be THAT guy, but wasn’t Bruce born in Germany?

  2. But all in all, a great piece. I don’t think it’s much of a bummer. I think you ended it on a high note. Moonrise Kingdom>a million shitty Expendables/Die Hard sequels.

  3. Also, John Wayne was once a singing cowboy. Singing Sandy was his name. OK, I am THAT guy.

  4. A very good article, not nearly the bummer you were making it out to be.

  5. Good essay. It’s kind of weird how wrong you got the end of Predator, though.

  6. Excellent essay, Vern. I’ve been saying for years that Bruce doesn’t need to keep making movies on my account. I love the guy, but if he wants to chill out for a bit, record an album or do a recurring guest spot on COMMUNITY or something, I’d be all for it. I’m one of the elite few who love that last DIE HARD movie, but I’d rather Bruce be happy. He couldn’t turn off his natural charisma if he tried but I think we all agree that he’s better when his heart is in it.

  7. What disheartens me about both Bruce and erstwhile Expendables replacement Harrison Ford (and Robert De Niro) is that they now seem willing to do movies they know are mediocre, presumably for the paycheck. Aside, from the obvious patterns of carrer choices, both Ford and Willis are on record saying things that stop just short of, “Look, I need the money.”

    What boggles my mind, even with divorce settlements, is that any of these guys are hurting for money. Unless they’re on some Allen Iverson school of personal finance, each of these guys was commanding 8 figures a film in the late 90s/early 2000s.

    Did these guys badly mismanage funds? Are there no interesting dramatic roles? As Vern points out, Willis is still taking on the occasional dramatic role, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why he or De Niro have been taking on some of these projects. Harrison Ford’s indifference when he talks about Expendables 3 or his Anchorman cameo borders on contempt. In contrast, I was recently watching a behind if he’s dense on the Fugitive, and it was clear that he was incredibly involved in all facets from cast I g to rewrites, to stunts.

    I’m just trying to figure out where the passion has gone?

  8. Autocorrect: behind-the-scenes

  9. My heart sank during that uk interview Willis did for RED 2. As much as he doesn’t like the press aspect of his job, I’m sure the guy interviewing him doesn’t like getting bullied and belittled while he’s doing his job either. What did it for me was that he seemed genuinely starstruck by Willis. I know everybody changes, for better or worse, but I do miss the crazy-eyed, don’t give a fuck, laughing after a subway attack persona from the mid-nineties.

  10. Right. Also, when you are as financially comfy as these guys are, you can afford to be choosy, to include just taking a break to recharge batteries.

  11. The last ten minutes of Moonrise Kingdom makes me wish Wes Anderson would direct Die Hard 6.

  12. I wrote a review/rant on A Good Day to Die Hard when it came out where I expressed some similar thoughts on modern day Bruce. When it comes to the Die Hard series, or just action films in general, he’s clearly just zoned out. Even in G.I Joe: Retaliation, where his screentime is all of ten minutes, he still can’t be arsed to make an effort. He’s not going to stop making them since they pay the best and make the most money, but as a fan it’s depressing as hell to watch him sleepwalk his way through those roles.

  13. What I think would be great is if Bruce goes back to television, and does something worthy of his talents and his checkbook on a network like FX, AMC, HBO, or God forbid Showtime.

  14. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    October 9th, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Well written Vern. I’d rather see Bruce do the work he wants to do. But if he can’t say no to mega bucks and churn it out, I’ll still watch it. Like my favourite bands that have done their best work early on and now release weaker and weaker content, I still listen, knowing it’ll never get back to the good old days.

  15. The Original... Paul

    October 9th, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    I’m trying to remember the last Bruce action vehicle I actually saw. I think “The Expendables” (sadly), but he only got a cameo in that one.

    “Moonrise Kingdom” was very, very good indeed. One of my favorite films of that year. I liked “Assassination of a High School President” as well (Bruce plays the principal in that one). On the whole, those are the roles I’d PAY to see Bruce in. I don’t know if Bruce suffers from the “actor looking tired of his lot” syndrome quite as badly as Stallone has (the classic example being, again, “The Expendables”, and he even directed that one) but he really needs to get some roles that he actually wants to do. Either that or take a sabbatical and try doing something – directing, say.

  16. Thanks guys, I got them to fix a couple of those embarrassing errors.

    Onthewall, that’s a really good idea, he could do something great with the right people in longform television.

  17. I’d love to see him do a guest spot on JUSTIFIED. He’d nail that smart-ass Elmore Leonard (RIP) style dialog.

  18. Spot on analysis of 2013’s Bruce Willis. I think what makes Willis frustrating as an actor is that he hasn’t given up. He still does interesting work, but at the same time he spends an inordinate amount of time in movies he’s just not all that interested in. Willis keeps teasing us along with a great performance every year or two. But when it comes to other “just give me the paycheck” actors, like Robert DeNiro, I have completely given up hope.

  19. I was thinking about it and realized I owe an acknowledgment/apology to the Undefeated Gaul, whose comment on my GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD review got me thinking about the “we’re not a hugging family” line. There may also have been someone who pointed out the specific incident of him hugging Al Powell. If so thank you and my apologies because I didn’t mean to take credit for your observation.

  20. The Undefeated Gaul

    October 10th, 2013 at 1:18 am

    Thanks Vern, I appreciate it. I liked seeing the bit about the hugging in your article but figured you’d come to the same conclusion yourself!

  21. Great essay which I think nails it. I also think Harrison Ford falls into the same category. Indiana Jones, in particular, fits the unexpected action hero role much like the original version of McClane. But, then he started getting roles where he acts more like a traditional action hero. I’d love to see both of these guys get work that they can get excited about again.

  22. I’m not a big fan of Willis, but I felt sorry for him in GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD. I had the impression he too thought it was a steaming turd and would rather have been somewhere else. Is it me, or does the very fact that a movie is made in Eastern Europe automatically gives it kind of a cheapo quality?

    There seemed to be a vibe of . . . not sure “hostility” is the right word, but at least an odd incompatibility . . . between him and the Australian steroid guy playing his son that wasn’t totally accounted for by the plot device that McClain and the son were estranged. Maybe it was my perception that Courtney came across as just another uncharismatic muscle guy, the interchangeable modern action-hero template, while Willis as you note Vern was usually the non-standard action guy. I thought Bruce’s appearance in GIJ: RETALIATION was kind of charming; he seemed to be enjoying his smart-ass dialogue.

  23. Is anybody else looking forward to him hosting SNL tonight?

  24. While it’s true both him and De Niro may be taking a lot of roles just for the paycheck these days, the difference is, De Niro seems to be having fun in his roles. Ron Perlman is the same way, he’s on record as saying he does a lot of the movies he does cause “my wife likes to buy shoes” but when Perlman does a movie, he doesn’t sleepwalk through it, he makes it fun.

    Bruce just looks tired and bored.

  25. I purposely timed this essay for the week Bruce was hosting SNL, then I forgot to mention it at all.

  26. For those on twitter I will be “live tweeting” Bruce’s SNL when it starts on the west coast shortly. It will be on the @OutlawVernLive account if you’re interested. I don’t know that I will have anything worthwhile to say, but maybe we need to spend historic moments like this together.

  27. I would love to see Bruce Willis return to TV, either comedy or drama. There are some amazing talents out there who could really challenge him and bring in that Moonlighting-era charisma.

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