Me, Myself and Bruce Willis

· Oct 14, 2001 Tweet

As a critic you are forced to make judgments and take sides, pick fights and be an antagonist. In other words, if Switzerland were a critic, he wouldn’t be a very good one — he’d be writing for some small-time, Podunk paper or for an inferior campus daily.

But not all issues are as cut-and-dry as the kindergarten-level assessments that Arnold cannot act and Samuel L. is stuck in a role he cannot get out of. Often we’re left to evaluate on a case-by-case basis, preventing us from forming some all-encompassing generalization about an actor’s career, success or respectability. This can be problematic.

Let us pretend it is 2000 and I am reviewing the recently released “Get Carter” (this is hypothetical — I would never get myself into that one). While I want to start out with a simple phrase like “Sly Stallone is the worst actor ever, and he doesn’t have an ounce of acting in his meaty bones,” I know I cannot do that. There was that little thing called “Rocky,” all of its sequels (including part five), and “Copland” where he went and demonstrated that he does, indeed, have a purpose in life — he’s not a complete waste of space.

While Sly is probably the worst example I could have possibly thunk up, it demonstrates a point and suggests that there are actors who may be even more bi-polar than the Italian Stallion. Like, say, Bruce Willis. As a means of amusement, I present the mental Bruce Willis debate that has occupied my brain since viewing this week’s “Bandits.” And no, I don’t have anything better to do.

ME: Bruce Willis is a horrible, horrible actor who gets my sympathy only because he’s a victim of man’s worst fear — male pattern baldness.

MYSELF: I wholeheartedly disagree. While Willis has admittedly made a few mistakes — starting with Demi and that whole “Look Who’s Talking” mess — he is actually a fine actor capable of a wide range of highly believable characters and deserving of more respect than he gets. Plus, he did lend all MPB victims a huge helping hand by revealing that the easiest way to hide a creeping hairline is to shave your head.

ME: First of all, let me add “Die Hard 2,” “Last Man Standing,” “The Story of Us,” “The Kid” and “Mercury Rising” to that list. Oh ? and “Armageddon.” The man made a conscious decision to be in “Armageddon,” for Christ’s sake! And didn’t your mother ever tell you that avoiding the issue is never the way to solve your problems?

MYSELF: In regards to your list, at least give him credit for coming back strong in “Die Hard 3” and knowing when to hang up a role.

ME: Credit? Sure, “Die Hard: With a Vengeance” was a great installment in what should have been a washed up series, but you are naíve and incompetent if you think we’ve seen the last of Lt. John McLaine, regardless of what he’s said in public. And in regards to that “I’ll never do ‘save-the-world’ movies again” statement, I say “Phooey!” If he plans on sticking to that, he had better get over any fear of heights, because it ain’t gonna be too long before he ends up on the top row of “Hollywood Squares” — right next to Paul Reubens.

I: Hey! Paul Reubens is a very complex and talented actor!

(I has been expelled from all further Me, Myself and I debates due to his inebriated status)

MYSELF: You’re such a cynic. What about “Pulp Fiction?” And “Unbreakable?” And “The Sixth Sense?” You can’t hate Haley Joel so much that you let it overshadow a pretty impressive performance, can you?

ME: Yes, you can hate Haley Joel that much ? you really can. But you’re right — Willis has been at his best in the two Shyamalan flicks. There is one character he can do well. But isn’t it saying something when an actor’s best character is the quiet minimalist? The roles that don’t require too much, umm ? acting. You can say the same thing about Sly, but just because he can play an idiot well (ala “Copland”) doesn’t mean he’s a good actor. It seems more likely that it means he’s an idiot.

MYSELF: Give the guy some credit here. Look at everything the man has accomplished off-screen.

ME: Yeah, let’s do that. First, he married an actress who is so horrible that as soon as he let go of her hand, she disappeared off the face of the earth. Then, he was the main figurehead and a huge investor in a theme restaurant chain that was expected, like his career, to blow minds with its success. Have you seen a Planet Hollywood lately? If so, it’s probably being turned into a Jamba Juice as we speak. Oh, and then there’s the little matter of his singing career. Need I get into that one?

MYSELF: Fine, but he did have a top ten single in 1987.

ME: Yes, and so did Bananarama, Belinda Carlisle and some band called Billy Vera and the Beaters.

MYSELF: Can we at least agree on this: Given the right role, Willis can be a truly splendid actor.

ME: Given the right role, the night manager at Kwik Pantry could be a splendid actor. But, yes.

MYSELF: And “Die Hard” is the single greatest action movie of all time. ?

ME: Yes.

MYSELF: ? and Willis’ greatest performance.

ME: No, that would be the farce that was his marriage to Demi.

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This article was published Oct 14, 2001 at 12:00 am and last updated Oct 14, 2001 at 12:00 am

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