Bruce Willis has a new movie, Once Upon A Time in Venice, hitting theaters and VOD this summer. And it probably won’t resuscitate a career, which has turned into a bizarre disappearing act from the one-time superstar.
Where did Bruce Willis go? The dude who was once John McClance, once Butch in Pulp Fiction, who at times would branch out into smaller films where the story was the allure, who retrenched himself with M. Night Shyamalan’s first two films, who at other times looked to be having a blast cracking wise in B-grade action flicks, has vanished. He has been replaced by a placid, disinterested actor-for-hire. His slate of direct to TV low-budget action flicks – films where he gets top billing but swings by the set for a day of filming and ten minutes screen time – are beginning to outnumber his successes.
This happens sometimes. It happened to Robert De Niro, and that decline has been dissected for about a decade now. It happens to older actors and, maddeningly, middle-aged women in Hollywood. But Willis isn’t too old yet. This isn’t an age thing, it’s a combination of poor films, a massive disinterest in promotion, and picking up the reputation as a complete asshole.
Willis has been accused of being a terror on the set, especially from Kevin Smith who claimed Bruce Willis made the shoot a “soul crusher.” He has been incredibly rude and uncomfortable with interviewers on a press tour. In 2015, Willis was fired from a Woody Allen film, the third Expendables movie, leaving a trail of bad things people have said about him in his wake. His reputation is that of a curmudgeon, a diva, someone who isn’t here to collaborate. He isn’t picking bad roles so much as he is taking the junk he’s offered to grab paychecks.
Bruce Willis is the new Val Kilmer.
Val Kilmer was, much like Bruce Willis, a terrific star at one point. But then he allowed his inflated ego ruin just about every project he was involved in until he showed up less than interested in delivering good work. Nowadays, you can catch Val Kilmer’s latest films on VOD. Right next to Bruce Willis’s latest.
Like I said, Once Upon a Time in Venice does have a promising synopsis:
ONCE UPON A TIME IN VENICE tells the story of Venice Beach P.I. Steve Ford (Bruce Willis): a detective who’s good with the ladies, bad with the punches, and wild about his dog, Buddy. But when his beloved pet is stolen by local thugs, Steve makes a questionable alliance with their devious leader, Spider (Jason Momoa). Teaming up with his best friend (John Goodman), Steve pulls out the big guns in search of Spider’s stolen cocaine and cash in order to set things straight and get Buddy back where he belongs.
Jason Momoa, John Goodman, Thomas Middleditch, Adam Goldberg, Famke Janssen, and Kal Penn. That’s a solid lineup, but nothing to make sure the film is some rebound picture for Bruce Willis. Add to that the fact that Cop Out writers have written the screenplay and are directing. Yikes.
There’s no telling if Bruce Willis will ever make any sort of comeback. Any of these actors, legendary in their own ways and their own niches, have popped up from time to time to show they still have their fastball. Robert De Niro had his chance with Silver Linings Playbook; never mind that he followed that up with one garbage movie after another. Perhaps M. Night Shyamalan’s upcoming Unbreakable sequel will right the ship for Willis, at least for a little while.
Until he pours a gas can on his comeback.