CATEGORY – THE FIVE
I told you this would be random. But, with Perfect Stranger (unfortunately) being released and Die Hard 4 set for this summer, let’s take a look back at the five best performances by everyone’s favorite bald-headed action star, pre- and post-hair.
A weird, wild sci-fi pic, with Willis in full-on cool, wisecracking mode, playing an ex-commando cabbie destined with saving the world by protecting beautiful Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) from a whole ton of snarling aliens and evil businessman Zorg (Gary Oldman). It’s wacky, colorful, and utterly unforgettable, one of the most imaginative films of the nineties.
The big rebound film after a series of flops in the mid-nineties. By now, it’s become a cultural icon–”dead people” and the like–but it’s worth it to re-examine M. Night Shamalyan’s smart, chilling film to see just how good a movie it was, and how great Willis, playing a tormented shrink trying to save troubled kid Cole (Hayley Joel Osment), is in it. His shocking revelation at the end (if you don’t know what it is by now, crawl out of whatever cave you’re in and rent it) is portrayed beautifully by Bruce.
3. “Die Hard”
The original, and still one of the best. Willis’ John McClane is a NYC cop, ready to try and patch up a failing marriage with his wife (Bonnie Bedelia) by heading out to L.A., at Christmas, for a big holiday dinner at her corporate skyscraper. Surprise–Eurotrash baddie Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) decides to crash the party by capturing his wife and dozens of others and raiding the place for hundreds of thousands in bearer bonds, with only lone wolf McClane to stand in his way. A fantastic, trend-setting action film that proves once and for all the only cure for marital blues is a tense hostage situation.
McClane is back, and just as big a smartass in this third installment of the “Die Hard” series, directed again by John McTiernan. This time, he’s led on a high-octane, enormously fun and bloody trek through New York City by Simon Gruber (Jeremy Irons), brother of his nemesis from the first film. What elevates this film above the rest is the hysterical racial banter between McClane and sidekick Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson); the two enjoy some of the best chemistry this side of Tracy and Hepburn.
He’s only in for about a third of the movie, and Travolta and Jackson got all the accolades–but it’s Willis who captures the film. It’s Willis who is put in the most precarious position–captured and hog-tied in a basement, menaced by two rapists after double-crossing a brutal L.A. mobster (Ving Rhames) and heading back into Dodge to retrieve his father’s through-hell-and-back watch (youtube “Walken” and “watch” to hear the story behind it). And it’s Willis who captures the film’s best scene, a glorious browse through the different weapons of the pawn shop as he ventures back to save his former enemy. In this, the greatest of all American films released in the last decade, it’s Willis who comes away as the biggest star of them all.
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