Ah, Sir Bruce of Willis, gracing our screens for more than a few decades now and so to mark the release of Trauma Centre, out now on Digital and on DVD from 24th February, we’re leaping barefoot into the reasons why Willis has kept his place as a leader of the action flicks and action men; why he’s still got it, and always will have it. He’s Bruce Willis for starters!
A true action hero is undaunted by physical toil of stifling dresswear. Belt too tight? Hole in your left sock? Too bad sucker, you must brace yourself by the britches and get a move on when, say, Hans Gruber’s dastardly doomsday clock is a-ticking. As briefly mentioned already, Bruce Willis championed the fortitude of the hero-under-footwear-duress when he stomped his way up barefoot to the villains. Even when the path to brilliance was covered in glass from a window hit by machine-gun- fire. Who can forget those bloody footsteps and that dragging, but ever-forward- motion of a true hero? Whether Die Hard was intentionally incurring some slightly Holy imagery or just helpfully pointing out that Willis’s beloved John McClane nerves were to full of steel to transmit pain – the impressive effect was the same.
As the years have passed, Willis also proves he can still tread his own path. Donning more professional gear as a seemingly upstanding (well…when you’re on his good side) gentlemen, he easily rocks a pair of sensible pair of loafers. Having perfected the persona of a good old-dad on a mission, the shoe choice of a middle-class metrosexual on his Sunday-off does not inhibit Willis whatsoever. It certainly didn’t in the Death Wish reboot when he made a swift B-line to his weapon of choice and picked off a gang of would-be home invaders in the gruesome finale. Legend.
King of the cool-head
Even before that smooth, bald bonce became an iconic silhouette, Bruce was the master of keeping his hair on when scenes and characters around him fell apart. The quintessential Willis, a disquieting persona from the shoulders up can be cold-bloodedly terrifying. Such is the case in Looper. Willis, as Joe, faces the terror of being a time-travelling executioner who is flung back to die at his own feet. And even when he faces the barrel of his younger-self’s gun, he blinketh not. The same goes in Pulp Fiction and Unbreakable, when Willis doesn’t stop to take his Pop-Tarts out of the toaster before killing John Travolta’s Vincent Vega, and bench-presses three hundred and fifty pounds at his son’s behest, he only stops to consider it the ‘most he ever lifted’ before continuing his work out.
But while cinema may now be littered with McClain-esque fighters with steady expressions, Bruce Willis has also proved that cool-headedness can also be compassionate. In Motherless Brooklyn, his detective Frank Minna takes on a protégée with such a severe case of Tourette’s that it threatens the concentration of crime scenes. But Willis uses his steeliness as a soft-touch — doing the gentle thing by barely batting an eye.
Men of action aren’t always necessary men of few words – but bullets do tend to proceed civil conversation. Luckily, a classically blasé Bruce performance means he will always make time to pause on beating his challenger to a bloody demise and bruises their feelings with the stern delivery of truthful one-liners.
Sure, sometimes the meaning must be read between the actual words: ‘Yippie Ki-yay, Motherfucker!’ is fun to say at office parties, but in Bruce Willis language it is but a poetic short-term of an indictment of terrorist tactics – it implies ‘Yay – enemies of culture and life, I laugh in the face of your power-hungry totalitarianism’…or something like that.
Among his lesser known soundbites, Willis has mastered the art of dialogue – low and dirty or high and lofty –with equal conviction and confidence. See: the resigned ‘Sometimes the truth don’t matter like it ought’ in Sin City, and “I’m temporarily insane Rock. It’s alright’ while wildly firing off a shotgun throughout his own rig in Armageddon. Cutting the crap has never sounded so cool.
An enemy of our enemy is our friend
“You invent enemies to test your strength, you invent Gods to protect you from these enemies” – Bruce Willis in The Colour of Night
Most importantly, Bruce continues to succeed as a beloved and admired leading man because we root for him to succeed. Yes, he is the strongest man in the room, the most unbreakable, the one with dynamite in his pocket and the smugness that embarrasses villains before it kills them. But even all that is secondary to the thing we like the most: he is the best man in the room.
His missions are rarely selfish – and Bruce Willis characters often represent the struggle between great evils, and even greater (and kickass) good.
Bruce fights terrorists and insidious neighbourhood crime rings, he talks through death itself to a lonely little boy in need in The Sixth Sense. In Sin City he does comic-book battle with child snatchers and predators, bleeding paper white onto grey-scale noir frames that remind us of bygone noir heroics like The Big Sleep. He is always a detective, a cop, a father, a volunteer; a boy-scout with big-man credentials.
He fights mythically huge forces of the things we fear with only his left and right hook.
And so, Bruce Willis still has it. He is the leading man of today because the leading man of today isn’t the youngest, or the biggest, or the spandex-iest – is it simply what audience have always wanted – a man trying his best to do something good.
Nowhere is this more evident than in his latest thriller Trauma Centre. As the lifeline of a woman stuck in a hospital facility with the criminals behind a murder she witnessed – Willis returns to screens as Lt Wakes to beat up institutional corruption itself. His latest work only cements his place as the one man walking justice system, and the best action-hero and leading man to watch when the going gets tough.