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Bruce Willis: Back in the Loop?

October 11, 2012

In the current hit Looper, Bruce Willis travels back in time so a younger version of himself can kill him. In real life, Willis probably wishes he could go back in time and kill some of his recent movie misfires while they were still in development.

For example, there was The Cold Light of Day, which barely saw it. Dumped into theaters the lazy weekend after Labor Day, the spy thriller costarring a pre-Man of Steel Henry Cavill and Sigourney Weaver (whose thriller Red Lights suffered a similar fate) earned less than $3 million. The film’s spectacular box-office failure halted the momentum Willis had started to build with his role in the quirky summer sleeper Moonrise Kingdom. The Expendables 2 didn’t help matters either, as Willis expanded his role from his cameo in the original, but the sequel’s grosses contracted.

An even longer shot for success is Lay the Favorite, which will debut on VOD next month in advance of its theatrical release. I got a sneak peek at it, and it’s kind of a mess, despite a starry cast. Willis plays Dink, a shlubby Las Vegas oddsmaker who takes a ditzy young woman, Beth (Rebecca Hall, cast against type) under his wing. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays his jealous wife, and Vince Vaughn chews the scenery as a crass New York City bookie. And Joshua Jackson’s around the fringes as Beth’s bland boyfriend. You can certainly understand why Willis wanted to work with director Stephen Frears (The Grifters, The Queen), but the confusing end result—not funny enough to be a comedy, not dramatic enough to be a drama—is neither fish nor fowl.

At least Favorite will get a token theatrical release, which is more than can be said for the generically titled Fire with Fire, which hits DVD shelves early next month. Willis costars as an FBI agent with Josh Duhamel, Rosario Dawson and 50 Cent in this tale of a firefighter who’s threatened by a crime lord. It won’t be Willis’ first direct-to-DVD release; last year’s Setup, also featuring Curtis “Fitty” Jackson, took the same route.

With seemingly surefire-hit sequels to Die Hard and Red in the pipeline for 2013, you’d think Willis could stop working quite so hard. (Another action sequel, GI Joe: Retaliation, may have less firepower since its release was pushed back a year.) After all, this guy’s career has survived setbacks like Hudson Hawk, The Bonfire of the Vanities and the criminally underrated Billy Bathgate. Maybe he’s afraid he’ll end up like his character in The Sixth Sense; one morning he’ll wake up a dead man—in Hollywood terms. That would certainly explain Look Who’s Talking Too.

What’s your favorite Bruce Willis film? Any Pulp Fiction, Nobody’s Fool or Unbreakable fans out there?

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