Saturday, August 18, 2012

Avoiding expendability

If G.I. Joe: Retaliation hadn't been pushed to 2013, Bruce Willis might have been the biggest movie star of the summer.

Not the summer of 1992. Not the summer of 2002. The summer of 2012.

If G.I. Joe had come out on June 29th as originally planned, The Expendables 2 (releasing today) would have been the second of three high-profile Willis action movies coming out before the end of September. The third is Looper, which I wrote about last week. Don't forget he was also in Moonrise Kingdom, though that was obviously a very different kind of role.

Methinks Willis' cameo in The Expendables in 2010 was some kind of career wake-up call. Maybe the title didn't only refer to a bunch of soldiers of fortune whose lives were of no consequence. Maybe the title referred to former action stars of his age group, who were teetering on the age of their own expendability.

Having a more significant role in the sequel to Expendables seemed like a good start.

And once he started, it seems like he couldn't stop. Willis is also credited as appearing in an action movie called Fire With Fire alongside Josh Duhamel and 50 Cent, which is supposed to be releasing just two weeks from now. However, this could be straight to video, as I'm having a hard time finding much promotional material on it. And some movie called The Cold Light of Day, which features Henry Cavill and Sigourney Weaver, is supposed to get a limited U.S. release a week after that.

2013? In additional to the delayed G.I. Joe, how about A Good Day to Die Hard, the video game adaptation Kane & Lynch, and Red 2?

Okay, Vance. Maybe Willis is just a busy guy. So what?

Except he hasn't really been. It's not like Willis turned away from acting or even action movies in the five years since Live Free or Die Hard came out. But he had been doing a lot fewer of them. He had a small role in Planet Terror in 2007, though that actually came out before LFODH. Then What Just Happened in 2008, Surrogates in 2009, Cop Out in 2010 and Red later in 2010. Last year brought a pair of very limited releases, the more prominent of which was Catch .44.

I know careers have their ebbs and flows, and the events of a person's private life can have a significant impact on their professional life. (Willis got married in 2009, so perhaps he was just dutifully devoting a couple years to his new wife.) But Willis' current pace of making movies gives the impression that he has stared into the abyss, and didn't like what he saw. The man is 57 years old, and perhaps he figures it's now or never if he wants to appear in 19 more action movies before he gets too gray. (Not that his bald dome would actually reveal any encroaching grayness, though the beard he grew for his role in What Just Happened certainly did.)

The nice thing about Willis relative to some of the other stars of The Expendables 2 is that he doesn't look dramatically different from how he did in his prime. Granted, the other two of the film's informal holy triumvirate -- Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger -- have nearly a decade on him. But their faces have become puffy and misshapen -- not altogether surprising for guys facing the latter half of their sixties, but funny indeed for action movie stars.

So go forth, Willis. Make The Expendables 3 and Red 3 and G.I. Joe 3 and Die Hard 6 and Cop Out 2 and Moonrise Kingdom 2. I'll keep watching.

Starting with Looper, that is. If Expendables 2 is anything like The Expendables, I'm sitting it out.

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