DEATH WISH opens in theatres this weekend and, well, it looks kind of lousy. Noxious, ill-timed, and starring a sleepwalking Bruce Willis. Given the director, one can expect it to be “edgy” too. (See my look at KNOCK, KNOCK for my feelings about when Eli Roth tries to be edgy.)
Anyway, it looks like a good one to miss. However, if you are like me, you still kind of like Willis. So I have here a list of films you can watch instead of WISH to get your Willis fix.
(Alternately, you can just gaze at pictures of me as all bald men look alike.)
Fifteen Films to Scratch That Bruce Willis Itch (in Chronological Order)
1.) Blind Date- Manic fun that shows how strong Willis’s comedic instincts are when he is fully engaged.
2.) Die Hard AND Die Hard with a Vengeance- You know the deal with DIE HARD (is it a Christmas movie? Does it matter? Why are we wasting time on this dumb “discussion when we can just all agree it is one of the greatest action movies ever and move on?) Die Hard with a Vengeance isn’t as good, but Samuel L. Jackson is a live wire that forces Willis to shake off the dust and find the McClane character again. Yes this is the movie that officially makes him more super hero than man but it’s such bombastic fun here. It only ruins things in subsequent installments.
3.) The Last Boy Scout- It is hella problematic as the kids from SoCal might tell you and it is lesser Shane Black but lesser Shane Black still entertains.
4.) The Player- Altman at his most inside and, I’d argue, his best of the 90s. Willis plays himself and has a very small role but I’ll still use it to sneak this one onto your to-watch list.
5.) Pulp Fiction- Willis’s Butch Coolidge’s section of PULP FICTION is probably the least of the segments but the least of PULP is still excellent. Also it is not the least for lack of commitment from Willis or anyone else in the segment. Worth it, alone, for Willis’s drawing the distinction between a motorcycle and a “chopper” and the line “Zedd’s dead, baby.”
6.) Nobody’s Fool- Willis finds a way to be low-key without being somnambulist as Carl Roebuck’s (Paul Newman in glorious form) neighbor and rival. Uncredited but makes every second he’s on-screen work.
7.) Twelve Monkeys- The plot can’t help but make him play action star at points, but for the most part the film let’s Willis play cockeyed, confused, and desperate with little trace of his super hero default.
8.) Last Man Standing- Probably the weakest rec on this list, I’m recommending it for the proto-John Woo action scenes in the old West and Christopher Walken’s wonderfully weird energy before that become more a punchline than a underrated treat.
9.) The Siege- Moves at the pace of a well-written essay, SIEGE has its issues but Willis makes an entirely believable xenophobic monster that is all too relevant for our time. Denzel Washington is predictably strong in the lead and Tony Shalhoub brings his usual commitment to excellence in a bit of stereotypical but still chewy supporting part.
10.) The Sixth Sense- Gentle and humane, Willis’s importance in this movie is consistently underrated.
11.) Unbreakable- Weaponizing Willis’s tendency to sleepwalk through some performances, UNBREAKABLE uses it to depict his character David Dunn’s disengagement with the world and his wife. The Dragnet ending is so deflating but everything up until then is topnotch.
12.) Sin City- Mostly an exercise in incredible stale over fairly rote substances, CITY remains worth watching. Besides the style, a lot of that lies with acting that exceeds what the material demands, including Willis’s battered but still somehow moving private investigator Hartigan.
13.) 16 Blocks- Sometimes a small surprise can be the greatest delight when it comes to movies, and BLOCKS is such an example. Watch especially for David Morse’s “decent guy” villainy which is all the scarier for its geniality.
14.) Moonrise Kingdom- Like Shyamalan before him, Wes Anderson mines this low-energy version of Willis to deliver an interesting performance in the hermetically sealed world of KINDGOM.
15.) Looper- Simply put, one of my favorite time travel movies of all-time. Joseph Gordon Levitt is the headline grabber here but it wouldn’t work without Willis making it clear how terrible Gordon’s future will be.