Surprising and defining roles of Bruce Willis

Addressing an injustice. A commanding and perhaps overblown way to start a piece which discusses why I think old Bruce has had a raw deal when it comes to how we perceive his filmography.

Despite most of us thinking action is his genre of choice – the Die Hard franchise being the obvious reference point – I think his best work is much more varied. Let’s look at some of the more intriguing characters that I’d argue have more effectively shaped his career:

  • Death Becomes Her (1992) – Ernest Menville
    Let’s face it, this film was largely a slugging match between Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn with Willis stuck in the middle. Although his character Ernest did, in some ways, hold the film together in an unhinged yet compelling way.Pulp Fiction Bruce Willis
  • Pulp Fiction (1994) – Butch Coolidge
    Career defining? Most definitely. To be honest, all the actors in this film walked away with their cool-o-meter firmly cranked to the max. Indeed, Bruce’s Butch had some standout scenes and lines; from Marsellus Wallace and the Gold Watch to ‘Zed’s dead baby, Zed’s dead.’TwelveMonkeys
  • Twelve Monkeys (1995) – James Cole
    In terms of off-the-rails performances he’s overshadowed by Brad Pitt, yet Willis puts in a commanding performance as a man whose life – and by extension his sanity – is in a constant loop. Whilst Terry Gilliam pulled the strings, Bruce deftly brought the character to life. Eminently watchable.
  • sin-city-sin-city-31200684-470-351Sin City (2005) – Hartigan
    Having been relatively quiet since the mid ’90s, this little film noir reignited the fire in old Bruce again, pushing his cool-o-meter back up to Pulp Fiction levels. A sublime portrayal of a washed up cop, fighting to save the most pure character in Frank Miller’s dark, gritty tale – Jessica Alba’s skinny little Nancy Callahan.
  • Moonrise Kingdom (2012) – Captain Sharp
    Bruce the action star in a Wes Anderson film? Surely not. Despite the part not being extensive, his character firmly earns a place on this list: a lonely, depressed police Captain, sharing some rather tender scenes with one of the film’s main characters, a young boy in love. Whilst Willis does cool well, he does flawed far better.

Christopher Walken – oh what, wow, he’s the greatest dancer!

chris-walkenAs an actor, Christopher Walken is unique. From his voice and delivery of lines to his undeniable screen presence and quirky nature, when he’s on form there’s something hypnotic, vulnerable and somewhat frightening about him.

Indeed, he’s given some mesmerising performances over the years, sometimes for the whole film, sometimes just for a scene or two. And like the cinephiles we are we’ll take what we can get, because on his day, full-on Walken is a sight to behold.

Here’s my pick of performances I’ll cherish as classic Walken:

  • King of New York (1990)
    Frank White, a drug lord fresh from prison looking to rebuild his empire, was one of the first Walken performances I saw as a youngster and it got me hooked. Playful menace doesn’t come much better in the Abel Ferrara directed crime thriller.
  • True Romance (1993)
    One of my all-time favourite scenes. Walken is astonishing as Sicilian gangster Vicenzo Coccotti. ‘You tell the angels in heaven you never saw evil so singularly personified in the face of the man who killed you.’ If there was ever a spin-off to be made with Vicenzo hunting down Clarence and Alabama again, I’d be first in line at the cinema.
  • Pulp Fiction (1994)
    One scene comprising of a monologue about a gold watch. That is all. Ok, a little more. From his off-kilter delivery of lines and wavering voice through to intelligent menace and perfect dramatic and comedic timing, this scene has it all, and provides a crash course in his appeal.
  • Catch Me If You Can (2002)
    God, which scene do you pick? From ‘Two little mice’ to ‘Where you going Frank?’, Walken’s star shines oh so bright in this film and he practically steals each scene, overshadowing DiCaprio with a twinkle in his eye. A raw, tender performance to be cherished.
  • Seven Psychopaths (2012)
    Back to his best? After years of languishing in mediocre films – particularly god-awful comedies – he pulls this out the bag. Going toe-to-toe with Woody Harrelson’s gangster, Walken just grins and turns on the malevolent menace, with some juicy lines delivered with typical gusto ‘dream sequences are for fags but…we all gotta dream don’t we?’

So there we go. Where’s The Deer Hunter you ask? Or even his sexy dance in Wayne’s World 2? Whilst the former is clearly a career-high, it felt out of keeping with the rest of my list in some ways. I suppose I just prefer Walken in playful menace mode – far more appealing. As such, I’d like to finish with this ‘motivational’ scene from Poolhall Junkies