I raced excitedly to a A Good Day To Die Hard screening earlier this week though I couldn't quite put my finger on why. As a rule of thumb, I love Bruce Willis but I don't exactly seek his movies out and haven't seen a Die Hard since the second one. (I've been the furthest thing from a loyal fan mostly because he churns out so many disposable actioners.) I was just in the right mood I guess though I am sad to report that it felt like a phone-in.
But for this week's edition of Posterized, I thought we'd look back on his whole career. I've previously applauded him for his unheralded range. Which is to say that even though he is always "Bruce Willis" he can easily slip into auteur pieces, comedies, dramas, and action flicks without ever disrupting the site-specific tonal demands. That's as true of a definition of Movie Star who also happens to be a Fine Actor as I know of. But the posters disagree with me since every other one cribs some element from the original Die Hard (1988) poster, Bruce with a tense side stare, Bruce pursing those thin lips, Bruce holding a gun (or signifying that a gun is just outside the frame with battle gear on). Every movie wants to be Die Hard... especially all the subsequent Die Hards. Die Hard 2 may be the most hilarious example of the unspoken sequel motto ("be the same movie over again... only bigger")
The "Moonlighting" Years (85-89)
aka Cybil (TV) and Demi (The Movies) share him
Blind Date (1987), Sunrise (1987), Die Hard (1988)
Seemingly hundreds of movies after the jump! How many have you seen?
Bruce Seeks Oscar Nods (Still Waiting)
In Country, Die Hard 2, Bonfire of the Vanities
Very soon after explosive stardom hit, Bruce demonstrated his willingness to do supporting roles. Not that he was a supporting player to Demi's divadom; that was a two movie stars household. This 'one of the gang' quality would serve him well in navigating the ficke waters of stardom. Some years you're hot. Some you're not.
The Mr. Demi Moore Years (1990-1996)
AKA Her Stardom Suddenly Rivals / Briefly Surpasses His Own
Mortal Thoughts, Hudson Hawk, Billy Bathgate
The Last Boy Scout, Death Becomes Her, Striking Distance
Pulp Fiction, North, Color of Night
(a particularly volatile run since Pulp was a sensation, North was savaged, and Color of Night was all "omg, Bruce's peen!")
Bruce Seeks Oscar Nods Again? (1994-1995)
Nobody's Fool, Die Hard With a Vengeance, 12 Monkeys
Bruce Focuses on Thrills (1996-1999)
Last Man Standing, The Fifth Element, The Jackal
Mercury Rising, Armageddon, The Siege
Breakfast of Champions, The Sixth Sense, The Story of Us
The Mad Prolific Genre Juggling Years (2000-2005)
The Whole Nine Yards, The Kid, Unbreakable
Bandits, Hart's War, Tears of the Sun
The Whole Ten Yards, Oceans Twelve, Hostage
There was always a grab bag quality to Bruce's filmography but shortly after the Post Demi Years begin, it starts getting especially random. Supporting roles and cameos abound -- I didn't posterize all the cameos and none of the voice work -- and he seems to choose movies irregardless of anything like cast list or auteur presence, mixing curious with cash-ins and anything else...
The Bruce Will Say Yes To Anything Years (2005-present)
Sin City, Alpha Dog, Lucky Number Slevin
16 Blocks, Fast Food Nation, Perfect Stranger
Live Free or Die Hard, Planet Terror, Assassination of a High School President
What Just Happened, Surrogates, Cop Out
RED, Set Up, Catch .44
Lay the Favourite, The Cold Light of Day, Moonrise Kingdom
The Expendables 2, Looper, A Good Day To Die Hard
Bruce is very successful and somewhat impervious to the ups and downs of fames but I can't with so many of his movies! I've seen just under half of these. He's almost 58 and still working like a dog. Do you see more randomness in his future or will one of the many auteurs he's worked with in the past (Tarantino, Anderson, Johnson) finally give him a showcased Oscar nominatable role... Oscar does love the weathered very famous male stars once they try even a little in a well regarded film.
How many have you seen? Which are your favorites? I'm partial to his 90s run Death Becomes Her, Pulp Fiction, 12 Monkeys are all pretty great in very different ways and I think he had a pretty strong 2012 (Looper & Moonrise Kingdom hit my top 20 and top 10 respectively.)