Sure, it made great fodder for Kevin Smith’s books and podcasts, but I never cared about Bruce Willis’s “rep” on sets: Willis always delivered the goods — and that’s all that matters to my wallet. Plus, Bruce gave us his version of Pittsburgh with Striking Distance, so bonus points! And I should be writing a shitty review on their shatty joint effort, Cop Out — itself deserving of an “April Movie Thon: Day 18” bomb prefix: a film that’s more Smith’s fault than Bruce’s, no matter how much Smith says to contrary.
As with my beloved Eric Roberts and Nicolas Cage (Did you read our “Nic Cage Bitch” feature, yet?), Bruce hit hard times and his later movies (Precious Cargo) weren’t as good as his Die Hard heydays. Sure, those films really didn’t “star” Bruce, but I made the point to hard-copy rent or stream most of them. Why? Because I like Bruce.
It moved my heart to hear of Bruce’s affliction with aphasia diagnosis: a language disorder caused by damage to the areas of the brain responsible for expression and comprehension. It also hurts to see a man with a passion for a craft not able to share his gift with the world. It has to be soul crushing.
However, Bruce’s current life-patch doesn’t mean I am going critical backpedal my Bruce Willis reviews and wipe away bad reviews. Backpedaling would piss off Bruce more than a bad review for one of his films. John McClane doesn’t want your pity.
So, with that being said: despite the best of intentions, this movie bombed. And it also sucks.
Sure, we have Walter Hill of The Driver, The Warriors, Streets of Fire, and 48 Hours in the writer’s and director’s chairs, but a remake of a remake is still a remake of a remake as the “man with no name” from Akira Kurosawa’s samurai adventure Yojimbo (1961) — remembering it was rebooted by Sergio Leone as A Fistful of Dollars (1964) — returns. Ah, but Leone’s was an unauthorized, European-litigated remake and Kurosawa supported this American remake. Warning: Akira’s backing means nothing.
So, does Hill’s 1940s-styled film noir updating of Kurosawa’s revenge proceedings to a 1930’s gangster flick set in a dusty, western-styled Texas border town with liquor bootleggin’ afoot — with Bruce Willis in the “Robert Mitchum/Humphrey Bogart” anti-hero role — work?
The film’s worldwide gross ($18 million in the U.S.) was less than $50 million against a $40 million budget that ballooned to near $70 million. Sure, the cast is all here, with Bruce Dern as the second lead and (wimpy) town sheriff, along with William Sanderson (Blade Runner, and “April Movie Thon: Day 9” entry), Christopher Walken, R.D. Call (Waterworld), and David Patrick Kelly (Luther in The Warriors, Sully in Stallone’s Commando). So what went wrong?
Eh, it looks good . . . but it’s all boring formula from the Syd Field Aristotle, three-act screenplay book: eight sequences of stock characters doing gangstery-things threaded together by too much sex, splashy violence, and the dreaded sign that nothing is working: droning voice-over narration. Unlike its predecessors: Hill’s version is totally forgettable — and Hill made my beloved The Driver. Go figure.
Oh, ah . . . since this is B&S About Movies: We need to mention our beloved Enzo G. Castellari clipped this all before Hill did, with his post-apoc, Mad Maxian-updating as Warriors of the Wasteland. Are we suggesting an Enzo-epic over a Hill romp? This time, yeah, for Enzo entertains us, makes us yell at the screen, and jump up and down in glee at the absurdity of it all.
Hey, it could be worse: We could be bashing Frank Stallone* in my beloved Mark L. Lester’s Public Enemies, itself released during that mid-90s fascination with all things Goodfellas. Well, wait, er, according to that link, I did bash it. Well, at least Lester’s film didn’t cost as much and it turned a profit via home video.
— R.D Francis
Editor’s Note: This review previous appeared on November 20. 2021, as part of our “Exploring: Gangster Films Inspired by Goodfellas” feature.
* Frank’s brother, Sly, gets his props with our “Exploring: Sylvester Stallone 45 Years After Rocky” feature.