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#176. Bruce Willis

There are action heroes who just brute force their way through situations, then there are action heroes who think before they act. While the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone are likely to fall into the first category, Bruce Willis would definitely be the thinking man’s action hero. Of course, he’s been in so many action films that even just a cameo appearance in a movie will immediately reference the other movies from his repertoire. In fact, even some of his more recent action films have been pretty tongue-in-cheek, knowing most of his career has been filled with explosions and bullets. That’s not to say Bruce Willis hasn’t acted in non-action films, as they are the minority of his body of work. This week’s two movies show that not much has changed in 20+ years of Bruce Willis action.

Die HardDie Hard
Year: 1988
Rating: R
Length: 131 minutes / 2.18 hours

Even though Bruce Willis had been acting since 1980, his breakout role in Die Hard (1988) really defined his work from then on. Considering the number of sequels featuring Willis’ John McClane, one wonders how one man could be so unlucky as to be caught in as many terrorist attacks. Even though the official franchise consists of Die Hard 2 (1990), Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), Live Free or Die Hard (2007), and A Good Day to Die Hard (2013), the persona of John McClane is so closely tied to Bruce Willis that it’s almost implied in every other film he acts in. Of course, the real trick to the success of the Die Hard franchise is to not take it too seriously. It’s action for entertainment’s sake, even down to the quippy lines of dialogue given by John McClane, the most famous of which is a staple of the series.

John McClane (Bruce Willis) has the fortunate chance of being out of the room when a group of German thieves takes over the entire Nakatomi Plaza building. Because he wasn’t in the room, McClane was not taken hostage by the group led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). This gives him a chance to take out the muscle of the team, one by one, gaining control over the planned heist piece by piece. After obtaining a radio to communicate, a load of C-4, and C-4 detonators, McClane attracts the attention of the Los Angeles Police Department, who send a SWAT team into the building with an armored car. Unfortunately, this attempt, as well as an attempted landing on the helipad, are thwarted by Gruber. The only person standing between Gruber and his $640 million in bearer bonds is the thorn in his side: the “cowboy,” John McClane.

Year: 2010
Rating: PG-13
Length: 111 minutes / 1.85 hours

Aside from the action genre, Bruce Willis has actually been in quite a few comedies. From voicing one of the babies in Look Who’s Talking (1989) and Look Who’s Talking Too (1990), to a nerdy doctor in Death Becomes Her (1992), to a police captain on a small island in Moonrise Kingdom (2012), Willis has a good sense of comedy, tempered by his extensive action career. With the rise of films based on comic books and graphic novels, Bruce Willis has had his hand in a few adaptations, including a part in the two Sin City films. The film which combines the comic book adaptation and the aforementioned comedy and action genres is that of RED (2010). Even though it differs from its source material, with an excellent A-list cast, RED was almost destined to be a comedy. In fact, it was so successful, it garnered a sequel three years later.

Imagine what happens to all the skilled CIA agents when they retire: do their skills just disappear? Well, Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is just such a retired CIA agent, trying to adjust to a quiet life in Cleveland. This dull life is made a little more bearable by his frequent calls to the GSA pension office to talk with Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker). In a moment of excitement, six assassins infiltrate Frank’s home, causing him to kill them and head off to Kansas City to pick up Sarah. While she was unwilling to come along, Frank brings her to a variety of other cities to meet up with contacts from his past work. As the team gathers together, they find they are being targeted due to an operation they performed in 1981. Now that they know they are targeted, the team of retired specialists takes the fight to those who want them dead.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 badass Bruce Willis characters

Bacon #: 2 (Mercury Rising / Jack Conley -> Apollo 13 / Kevin Bacon)

12 responses to “#176. Bruce Willis

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