My review for Die Hard 2 couldn’t have come out at a more appropriate time. Bruce Willis has now just signed on for another action movie called The Prince, which features him fighting a mobster who kidnapped his daughter. Willis has publicly stated he’s bored doing action movies and only makes them for the money. His lack of enthusiasm couldn’t be more evident. If anyone has seen a Bruce Willis vehicle within the past decade, you know what I’m talking about. Willis has stopped trying in movies, lazily reading his lines while looking like he’d rather be somewhere else. Sylvester Stallone even called the actor greedy after he refused to star in The Expendables 3 because he wasn’t being paid enough.
And the sad thing is that Bruce Willis isn’t a bad actor. He’s given some good and dedicated roles in movies like the original Die Hard. Willis is far from being in the league of Marlon Brando or Robert De Niro, but he does have acting chops, plus I still think he can deliver a solid performance.
Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom is a prime example. Besides being one of the best films in recent years, Moonrise offers arguably Willis’s strongest performance. He’s cast as a local, somewhat gloomy cop Captain Sharp in the picture who attempts to find the two child protagonists who have run away from home. Sharp offers one of the children Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) some advice in a very eloquent and poignant moment of the film about his own life. Willis’ delivery is impeccable and his character well-written. If Willis used this much effort in his others movies, he’d be one of the most versatile actors working today.
Now I’ll name someone else who has taken some ill-advised roles: Nic Cage. Due to some massive debt, Cage now seems takes every role offered to him, no matter the picture. He’s starred in mostly widely maligned action movies like Ghost Rider, Season of the Witch, Knowing, and most infamously The Wicker Man. While he does give memorable performances (though not in a good way), it’s hard not to feel Cage could be doing much better.
Back in the late 80s and 90s, Cage was one of the best working actors who gave brave and diverse performances. He was funny in the Coen brothers’ Raising Arizona, sad and dreary in Martin Scorsese’s overlooked Bringing Out The Dead and Leaving Las Vegas, and both in Spike Jonze’s Adaptation. Cage proved how talented he was. He needs to start shaping himself up and take the roles he used to.
And now I’m going to say a bit of a controversial choice: Adam Sandler. I’m not saying I’m a fan of Sandler; in fact, quite the opposite. I have nothing personally against the man, but I dislike almost all of his work. He strikes me as lazy and uncaring. His comedies repeat the same formulas of crude humor, his characters are mean and unlikeable, and he blatantly uses product plugs. Even back when he was popular in the 90s, I still found him unfunny. His routines on Saturday Night Live, Happy Gilmore, and Billy Madison struck me as irritating and brash.
But Sandler is not a bad actor. He proved he was better than the trash he typically stars in with Punch-Drunk Love. Teamed up with Paul Thomas Anderson, the best director working today, Sandler builds off his usual character, an angry, motor-mouthed man-child, but adds the emotion and depth that’s missing in his other roles. Sandler’s Barry is someone audiences can relate to. He’s constantly bullied and pushed to the side by everyone else. He’s a ticking time-bomb, ready to explode after he can’t handle his stress. It’s a performance worthy of an Oscar nomination in my opinion.
The problem is that Sandler, like Willis, is only concerned on money and prefers Razzie winner Dennis Dugan over Anderson. The reasons are clear: Sandler’s fanbase likes it when he stars in his typical schlock. Despie its 19 rating on Metacritic, Grown Ups 2 earned over $200 million, almost 20 times more than Punch-Drunk Love. For Sandler, paychecks mean more than critical praise.
If these three actors started working, be it hiring better agents or teaming with more respected filmmakers, they’d be doing well. If they don’t, they may succeed financially but lose any reputation they had.