One of the peculiar things about Bruce Willis’ body of work is the fact that quite a few of his movies feature numbers in their names. Mark Fraser counts his way through 10 of them.
10. Ocean’s Twelve (Steven Soderbergh, 2004)
Willis only has a somewhat self-deprecating, three minute, uncredited cameo playing himself in this sequel to Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven. Fittingly, his scene also involves two of the film’s biggest stars (Matt Damon and Julia Roberts), indicating he is still in their league despite his acting abilities being quietly ridiculed by Linus Caldwell (Damon).
9. Loaded Weapon 1 (Gene Quintano, 1993)
Another cameo, only this time Bruce is on screen for around 30 seconds playing none other than John “Die Hard” McClane, whose Los Angeles beach caravan is mistakenly blown-up by some helicopter gangsters who have targeted the wrong address.
8. Four Rooms (Quentin Tarantino, 1995)
Bruce’s presence rescues the final episode (called The Man from Hollywood) of this quartet of short vignettes, which seems to have been written by director Quentin Tarantino to highlight the thespian talents of the scene’s lead actor (Tarantino). Willis was uncredited to appease the Screen Actors Guild, which took exception to the fact that he worked on the film for no pay.
7. Die Hard 4.0 AKA Live Free or Die Hard* (Len Wiseman, 2007)
It’s John McClane by numbers as this eponymous, wisecracking, shaggy dog hero gets caught up in a battle with a bunch of cyber-terrorists intent on gutting the US financial system. Another one from this franchise – the much better Die Hard 2: Die Harder – also features a number in its name. (*Admittedly Live Free or Die Hard was the film’s original title, while the one with the decimal pointed figure was designed for the international market, so maybe the second Die Hard should have been the official entry here. Nevertheless, it still highlights the fact that Hollywood, for whatever reason, likes to associate Bruce’s name with numbers – going so far as to specifically target audiences outside of the US using this strange marketing strategy.)
6. Catch .44 (Aaron Harvey, 2011)
A cocaine heist at a roadside diner conducted by three women (Malin Akerman, Nikki Read and Deborah Ann Woll) – and instigated by their gangster boss “Uncle” Mel (Willis) – goes awry when it turns out the whole thing is a set up to trap his partner (Forest Whitaker). A gimmicky non-linear misfire that plays some of its hand far too early. Violent neo-noir has enjoyed way better moments.
5. The Whole Nine Yards (Jonathan Lynn, 2000)
Effectively a gangster sitcom, in which Bruce plays a hitman-in-hiding who gets caught up in a multiple double crossing switcheroo involving (among others) his dentist neighbour (Matthew Perry), the dentist’s assistant (Amanda Peet), the son of his ex-boss (Kevin Pollak), his best friend (Michael Clarke Duncan), his ex-wife (Natasha Henstridge) and an undercover cop (Harland Williams). It was followed by the less successful, Howard Deutch-directed sequel The Whole 10 Yards in 2004.
4. 16 Blocks (Richard Donner, 2006)
Heavy drinking NYPD detective Jack Mosley (Willis) is given the task of escorting a grand jury witness (Mos Def) 16 city blocks to the courthouse to testify in a corruption case. The trouble is some of his police colleagues are caught up in the charges and are keen to stop it all from happening. As expected, the morally flawed Mosley ends up taking on the bad guys and doing the right thing.
3. The Fifth Element (Luc Besson, 1997)
Korben Dallas (Bruce), a former army major and taxi driver in 2263, gets involved in a convoluted plot to make sure the Fifth Element – a force which will bring the other four elements (earth, air, fire and water) together to fight the Great Evil – does not fall into the hands of a group of aliens (the Mangalores) or a crazed industrialist (Gary Oldman). Ultimately, Dallas’ mission involves protecting the human manifestation of this unifying element (Milla Jovovich) from her dastardly pursuers. With its budget of US$80 million, this was the most expensive French movie of its day. Unfortunately it’s all a bit hit-and-miss. As usual, Willis is a lot of fun (the same could be said about Oldman for that matter); and as a science fiction yarn The Fifth Element is truly a handsome looking film, being a triumph in both costume and set design. Unfortunately, it is pulled down by director Luc Besson’s penchant for childish slapstick and an annoying performance by Chris Rock, who ends up being the movie’s Jar Jar Binks.
2. The Sixth Sense (M Night Shyamalan, 1999)
SPOILER WARNING – Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), a boy whose sixth sense allows him to see dead people, encounters the ghost of murdered child psychologist Dr Malcolm Crowe (Bruce), who can’t seem to let life go. A well-made – and sometimes quite suspenseful – film about grief, family, social isolation and the need for closure. A solemn Willis doesn’t put a foot wrong in this one.
1. 12 Monkeys (Terry Gilliam, 1995)
One of Bruce’s greatest roles, in which he plays an enslaved time traveller trying to hunt down the source of a virus that wiped out most of humanity a few decades earlier. Willis is perfectly cast as the disorientated foot soldier who ends up getting killed as he tries to save the world while his younger self looks on.
Written and compiled by Mark Fraser
How did we get on with the order of these Bruce Willis movies? Any you love? Any you hate? Let us know!