This text initially ran in 2020 and has been up to date to incorporate Bruce Willis’ newest straight-to-VOD titles.
The films are (principally) again, however if you happen to’re nonetheless cautious about venturing right into a movie show, Bruce Willis is near-singlehandedly maintaining the straight-to-streaming flowing with a gradual launch of generic actioners that aren’t doing his legacy any favors. However not less than you don’t have to go away house to see them. The star has participated in a decades-long spate of principally motion and crime movies that premiered on VOD. Since this rating was initially printed final fall, 4 extra have come to mild, the sci-fi actioners, Cosmic Sin and Breach, Homicide within the Switchgrass and Out of Dying. By the point you end studying this, there could also be a pair extra. Whereas the pandemic has compelled many main studios to offer their huge titles, from The Suicide Squad to Memory, simultaneous house releases, make no mistake: A large theatrical run was by no means within the playing cards for Onerous Kill, nor Survive the Evening, Trauma Heart, 10 Minutes Gone, or any of the 22 (and counting) VOD-bound B-movies Willis has made in earnest since 2011.
At this level, these movies are virtually their very own style. Ye shall know them by their generic titles and even handed use of Bruce, whose complete display screen time in every not often surpasses quarter-hour. However Bruce places asses on the sofa, so he’s prominently featured within the trailers and on the posters.
Critiques of those movies are typically scathing, snide, and snarky (and people are simply the S’s) and have been the topic of think pieces (nicely, not a lot assume items as WTF items) that ponder variations on the theme: Why does one of many as soon as greatest motion stars on the planet maintain turning up on this dreck?
However why ask why? You want Bruce and also you’ve bought 90 minutes to kill. You are able to do worse than, say, Fireplace With Fireplace. Our rating beneath determines which of those movies delivers your Willis price, and that are probably the most entertaining 75 minutes that Bruce isn’t onscreen. Take pleasure in them, if you happen to dare.
22. Homicide within the Switchgrass (2021)
Bruce is an inessential employee right here. His lower than eight minutes of display screen time are dedicated to generic straight strains (“This is gonna be bad”) and a few diner-set two-handers with Megan Fox that scream, “We only have Bruce for the day.” Fox, although, carries her scenes as a rogue FBI agent whose sex-trafficking investigation dovetails with the seek for a serial killer. The lone and fleeting brilliant spot is Welker White, a Scorsese veteran (Goodfellas, The Irishman), in a bracing little bit of character work because the mom of one of many lacking women. However the shameless opening crib from Blood Easy (drawling about predators and prey, the narrator says, “Humans are the only creatures on Earth given a choice. I don’t know who said that, but I’m pretty sure they never imagined a place like Pensacola”) is unforgiveable.
21. Air Strike (2018)
An alternate title for this World Struggle II Chinese language propaganda movie is The Bombing. (Insert your personal joke right here.) Willis will get his John Wayne on as army adviser Colonel Jack Johnson, who whips Chinese language aviators into combating form to tackle the superior Japanese forces. On the 54-minute mark, Willis presents his squadron a pre-raid toast: “My father was a soldier as well. This is his watch. He said that if anything ever happened to him, he should give it to his son, and he did. This is his watch.” I do know; Pulp Fiction, proper? If Bruce Willis really sneaked a Christopher Walken impression right into a Chinese language propaganda movie, then he really is, as one of many Chinese language aviators anachronistically describes him, a badass.
20. Out of Dying (2021)
No sooner does Jamie King enterprise into the woods to scatter her lifeless father’s ashes then she witnesses a crooked officer killing her associate in crime. Bruce, a 35-year veteran cop, has additionally come to this neck of the woods following the dying of his spouse for a little bit peace and quiet. Right here, Bruce actually doesn’t appear to offer an precise fuck. His line readings are unsettlingly off, and his reported one-day availability required some resourceful use of stunt doubles (photographs of his character operating by means of the woods seen solely from the waist down are a lifeless giveaway). How about that title, although?
19. Reprisal (2018)
Frank Grillo stars as a Cincinnati banker who enlists the assistance of his next-door neighbor, an ex-cop (Bruce), to take down the psychopath who’s robbing his financial institution branches. Reportedly, Bruce’s scenes have been filmed in at some point. No matter; one thing is unsuitable when Bruce Willis isn’t convincing as a cop. Johnathon Schaech, because the brutal financial institution robber, could also be greatest identified for That Factor You Do! Like Willis, showing in these movies is now that factor he does. He’s in 5 of them.
18. Onerous Kill (2020)
When you’re a terrorist who insists on calling himself “the Pardoner,” but in addition has to clarify the identify to your confused adversaries, you may need to contemplate getting a brand new moniker. The Pardoner has gotten ahold of the vaguely named Undertaking 725, which was developed by Bruce’s high-tech firm. If the gadget ought to fall into the unsuitable fingers, yada yada yada. Jesse Metcalfe is top-billed as a mercenary who has a historical past with “the terrorist revolutionary who has been raising hell all over the globe.” Willis’s Donovan Chalmers will get one emotional scene along with his daughter, who — unsure why — handed over the gadget to the Pardoner and has been taken prisoner together with dad. However Bruce shouldn’t be allowed any fly-in-the-ointment heroics. There are extra generic and fewer distinguished motion pictures on this record, however for that truth alone, it receives this low rating on precept.
17. Vice (2015)
Bruce lords over one thing referred to as Vice, “a utopian paradise where you can have or do anything you want” with no legal guidelines, guidelines, or penalties. So, it’s Westworld run out of an unique, elite resort populated by feminine “artificials” who look and act like people and are mentioned to “have real emotions.” A grubby-looking Thomas Jane stars as a cop who thinks Vice is desensitizing patrons so they are going to commit crimes in the actual world. Ambyr Childers co-stars as a malfunctioning bot who turns into self-aware and goes off the grid, giving Jane the impetus to convey down the well-connected Bruce, a lot of whose display screen time is spent trying out Vice’s displays to verify patrons aren’t being slaughtered.
16. Extraction (2015)
This one begins off promisingly with a robust Bruce scene during which his undercover CIA agent turns the tables on his interrogators. Then he all however disappears till the tip of the film whereas his son (Kellan Lutz), additionally within the firm, goes rogue when dad is kidnapped and held for ransom. The MacGuffin is one thing referred to as the Condor, “the ultimate hack,” which the dangerous guys need, or have, or one thing. As Bruce says in Marauders — one other of those motion pictures, however higher — I’d ask if I gave a fuck.
15. First Kill (2017)
Hayden Christensen, in a film far, far-off from the Star Wars universe, stars as a dad who takes his bullied younger son again to his hometown for the boy’s first searching journey. Bruce co-stars because the native police chief, a good friend of his late father, who died in a tragic accident. When you odor a rat, then little of what transpires will shock you.
14. Survive the Evening (2020)
Two brothers with a Hell or Excessive Water dynamic take a disgraced physician and his household hostage and power him to function on one of many bros who’s been shot in a stickup gone unsuitable. Bruce performs the doc’s dad, a retired cop. “You used to be the big dog in town,” the extra unhinged brother taunts him, in one of many movie’s most memorable strains. One other phrase in regards to the Emmett/Furla Oasis Movies inventory firm behind so many of those movies: Tyler Jon Olson, the wounded brother, is in ten of those; Lydia Hull, the doc’s spouse, is in six. After you get a number of of those motion pictures below your belt, it turns into enjoyable to identify them as if they’re beloved character actors.
13. Cosmic Sin (2021)
Within the yr 2524 (which doesn’t have the ring of the 1969 one-hit wonder), we will not be alone within the universe. Bruce stars as disgraced former basic James Ford (as in, “Get me James Ford”), who’s recruited to wipe out a race of zombie-like aliens. Excessive-minded concepts (“You want peace, get rid of war”) are dropped at Earth with customary situation video game-like motion and macho badassery. Filmed in 9 days prematurely of the Covid shutdown, this rushed manufacturing finds some resourceful methods to masks Bruce’s restricted availability. His character is usually seen from the again, or his face is obscured by foreground characters, the worldwide indicators of a stunt double. There are too-on-the-nose nods towards Bruce’s new standing because the On-Demand King. “Once upon a time you were a big bad motherfucker,” he’s taunted early on, simply earlier than he bashes the man to point out he’s nonetheless bought it.
12. Acts of Violence (2018)
Intercourse traffickers decide the unsuitable girl to kidnap when her future brother-in-law (Cole Hauser), a psyche-scarred veteran, enlists his two brothers to assist him observe her down. Bruce is relegated to the sidelines because the standard-issue weary cop with a bottle of Jim Beam in his prime desk drawer. Lengthy pissed off in his by-the-book makes an attempt to convey down the trafficking kingpin, he lets the brothers have their vigilante method. The ending lets Bruce free to manage his personal model of justice, but it surely’s too little, too late to redeem the film.
11. The Set Up (2011)
It’s an Italian Job state of affairs when one among three heisters (Ryan Phillippe!) decides to kill his two companions in crime and take $5 million in diamonds for himself. 50 Cent (!!) stars as Sonny, who survives the betrayal and is hell-bent on revenge. The diamonds belong to mob boss Bruce, “the most ruthless, cold motherfucker you’ll ever meet.” Bruce will get line or two (“Every fucking thing I say is right”), however successful man performed by Shaun Toub steals the present: “You took something from us … and I’m the guy they picked to get it back.”
10. Trauma Heart (2019)
Nicky Whelan stars as Madison, whom Bruce — you guessed it, a cop — installs in an extremely understaffed hospital’s isolation ward after she witnesses a homicide. The resourceful Madison has our rooting curiosity, however Bruce is conveniently lacking in motion. Moonlighting followers might get a nostalgic tingle when, at one level, he refers to her as “Maddie.” Steve Guttenberg cameos as her doctor, as a result of why not?
9. Assassination of a Excessive College President (2009)
“Forget it, Funke. It’s high school.” A put-upon high-school sophomore and aspiring journalist tries to parlay a sizzling story about stolen SATs into Northwestern admittance. That is probably the most well-regarded movie on the record, however regardless of a social-media marketing campaign, the unique distributor’s chapter killed any probabilities for a theatrical launch. As a high-school-set noir, Brick was first and much better, however Bruce is clearly energized making an attempt to recapture a few of his Sundance indie cred because the unhinged Desert Storm vet turned principal, who at one level reprimands a tardy pupil: “Do I come down to the strip club where you work and knock the dick out of your mouth?”
8. 10 Minutes Gone (2019)
A meticulously deliberate heist goes unsuitable and Michael Chiklis has to determine who killed his brother, made off with the loot, and why he can’t account for ten minutes following an ambush that left him unconscious. That is the quintessential Bruce VOD movie: His scenes principally happen in a single room, and in a number of, it’s simply him speaking right into a telephone. Lydia Hull will get her showiest function but as Bruce’s icy, Terminator-like enforcer. She deftly pulls off what each B-movie villain strives for: a slo-mo explosion walk-away.
7. The Prince (2014)
Within the golden age of direct to video, enterprising producers would take a preferred theatrical movie and rush a equally titled knockoff onto VHS to idiot a lower than cinema-savvy public. This Taken ripoff would have in all probability been referred to as Took. Jason Patric stars as a former shadowy underworld determine whose sure set of expertise as soon as included blowing up a automotive that contained the spouse and daughter of Bruce, a neighborhood crime boss. So when Jason goes in search of his lacking and messed-up daughter, Bruce is decided to search out her first. About an hour in, John Cusack reveals up as a Jason ally. It makes for a pleasant break from asking, “What’s Bruce Willis doing in this?” to inquire, “What’s John Cusack doing in this?”
6. Marauders (2016)
A needlessly sophisticated bank-heist thriller (suffice to say, “something is dirty”) is redeemed by a stronger-than-usual forged for these movies, together with a stable Christopher Meloni as an FBI agent investigating the theft of $3 million from financial institution mogul Bruce, Dave Bautista as his sidekick, and Adrian Grenier as a brand new member of the workforce. Schaech will get his most dramatic function in these movies as a compromised cop with a cancer-stricken spouse. One in every of Bruce’s most oddball moments is his curious monologue targeted on the spider crawling up his skyscraper window within the rain.
5. Breach (2021)
The yr is 2242 and a plague has worn out a lot of the planet. Survivors board a shuttle for New Earth. Whereas 300,000 take a cyro-nap, Willis and his custodial crew go about their chores till a parasite goes about infecting crew members resulting in a zombie siege. Greater manufacturing values and a seemingly extra engaged Willis make this Alien/The Factor retread a minimize above so far as Alien/The Factor retreads go. Willis reveals indicators of his signature swagger and smirk as when he presents the brand new man recommendation about methods to deal with a take-off: “Get the fuck out of my seat.” However later, in one of many movie’s quieter moments, he remarks, “I’m good at failing up,” which is method too self-referential for consolation.
4. Catch .44 (2011)
Three gun-toting women (Malin Akerman, Nikki Reed, and Deborah Ann Woll) head for a diner on behalf of drug boss Bruce, and issues go south fairly fast. It is a pretty first rate “fauxrantino,” with the requisite time jumps, hyperaware dialogue exchanges, and surf guitar on the soundtrack. This got here early in Bruce’s VOD profession, and he seems totally invested in his glad-handing, pecan-loving kingpin who might or might not have set the trio up. And when he has an actor the caliber of Forest Whitaker to play towards, he rises to the event. Cult character-actor aficionados might stream this solely for Brad Dourif’s cameo as an ill-fated sheriff.
3. Fireplace With Fireplace (2012)
Come for Bruce, keep for Josh Duhamel as a fireman compelled into witness safety when he runs afoul of white-supremacist chief Vincent D’Onofrio. There’s one scene that’s pure, classic Bruce: He’s a cop confronting D’Onofrio, who beforehand had Bruce’s associate killed. D’Onofrio needs Bruce to put off and makes all types of threats. An unblinking Bruce stares him down, leans in and whispers, “You’re not going to kill anybody else,” and walks out, however not earlier than disposing of one among his goons. In this sort of film, the place expectations are diminished, it performs like De Niro and Pacino’s coffee-shop scene in Heat.
2. Treasured Cargo (2016)
This one delivers as a responsible pleasure. Mark-Paul Gosselaar has a Ryan Reynolds–ian lovable-rogue factor going for him right here, and a Mr. & Mrs. Smith chemistry with Claire Forlani as a former lover who recruits him to steal a cargo of uncommon gems on behalf of crime boss Bruce. The novelty of Bruce taking part in towards sort as a villain has lengthy since worn skinny, however he does appear to be having fun with himself, placing his outdated wiseass spin on the entire affair.
1. As soon as Upon a Time in Venice (2017)
Bruce Willis seems to be having a blast in his first comic-action function since Purple 2 seven years in the past. Bruce is the titular California metropolis’s “only licensed detective.” The movie ambles amiably for 40 minutes earlier than the story correct kicks in: A drug vendor (an on-the-cusp-of-stardom Jason Momoa) takes Bruce’s beloved canine, forcing him to leap by means of more and more absurd and harmful hoops to get him again. John Goodman is his sad-sack greatest good friend, a surf-shop proprietor within the throes of a divorce. Critics may name it a thankless function, however viewers are apt to thank the film gods for Goodman’s welcome presence, particularly compared to a maddeningly annoying Thomas Middleditch as Bruce’s awkward and bumbling protégé. When you solely have the time or inclination to lease one straight-to-VOD Willis title, this ought to be your decide.