Bruce Willis seems to have been playing the washed up, aging wannabe hero now for even longer than he was playing the real thing. After breaking out of television with 1988’s Die Hard and becoming one of the big names of the action movie world, his best roles since playing the washed-up boxer in Quentin Tarantino’s superb Pulp Fiction back in 1994 have all been very similar.
Be it the confused time traveller in Twelve Monkeys or the aging cop in last year’s Sin City, Willis does “middle aged man who wishes he was still young enough to make a difference” like no other.
Here, once again, Willis is in instantly familiar territory for anyone who’s seen a few of his films. In fact, at first glance it could almost be a remake of 1995’s Die Hard With A Vengance, so similar does it seem. Whereas that earlier film saw Willis’ tired and fed up cop team up with Samuel L Jackson’s streetwise and smart-talking black civilian in a mad race against time across New York, here we get, erm, Willis’ aging cop team up with rapper Mos Def’s streetwise and smart-talking black civilian in a mad race against time across New York.
The fact that the plot is so familiar is emphasised even further by the fact that the director is Richard Donner, the man who made the Lethal Weapon series. This is the man who mastered and popularised the black/white “buddy cop” genre in the wake of 1982’s Eddie Murphy/Nick Nolte black criminal/white cop buddy movie 48 Hrs.
The racial differences between the two leads in all of these films seem largely to be included simply to present extra opportunities for cultural misunderstandings, usually presented in vastly stereotypical – and often borderline racist – ways. Yet here the race of the two protagonists seems almost entirely irrelevant – it is purely their different social backgrounds, cop and informer, and most of all age difference that makes them unlikely partners. Perhaps Donner went for a black/white partnership merely for old time’s sake?
As Willis goes up against seemingly the entire New York Police Department in his attempt to protect the life of Mos Def’s key witness from corrupt cops, this is certainly familiar territory. Anyone expecting profound insights into the human condition or a radical new style of filmmaking should certainly look elsewhere. But for those of us who like a decently-made, fairly brainless action thriller from time to time, this team-up of two of the late 80s’ most bankable action filmmakers is a bit of a guilty pleasure.
This is almost an ideal film for a lads’ night out, so expect plenty of lagered up 30-somethings reliving their youth should you choose to go and see this on a Friday or Saturday night. All it would take to make it better is some zombies and a free curry chucked in with the ticket. In other words, with some nice action sequences and plenty of adrenaline, this is nicely silly, hardly a masterpiece, but fun.