5 great Bruce Willis performances
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By now it's clear that nothing and no one can kill Bruce Willis, whose fifth film in the "Die Hard'' franchise, the horribly titled "A Good Day to Die Hard,'' opens this week.
It is not his finest hour. At 57, he still wreaks havoc and looks great in a tight T-shirt but he doesn't seem to be enjoying himself very much. Still, it's a good opportunity to look back at five of the best performances in Willis' eclectic, enduring career:
_ "Die Hard'' (1988): I had a huge crush on him as the quick-witted David Addison on "Moonlighting,'' which seems kinda creepy in retrospect, given that I was in junior high when the series launched and he's 17 years old than I am. But that role set the stage for the character that would go on to define his career: wisecracking New York cop John McClane. Willis is at his charismatic best in this `80s action classic: swaggering, smart-alecky and resourceful, but, at his core, just a regular guy trying to outwit the Euro baddies. The fact that he's not a superhero actually gives the character more power.
_ "Pulp Fiction'' (1994): One of the most important and influential movies of the 1990s, of course, with Willis in a role that lets him put all his talents on display at once. As a boxer named Butch who's supposed to throw a fight but ends up winning it instead, Willis is tough but tender, powerful yet vulnerable. Quentin Tarantino is in love with words and Willis is an excellent fit for his peculiar brand of verbosity; he's also very much up for the, um, many freaky and physical demands of appearing in a Tarantino film.
_ "The Sixth Sense'' (1999): If Willis' characters in the `80s were all about cunning and bravado, the late `90s and 2000s frequently found him in a more introspective mode, especially in this hell-of-a-twist blockbuster from M. Night Shyamalan. (The two would reteam the next year for another supernatural thriller, "Unbreakable,'' in which Willis is also very good in a low-key way.) Willis is the ghost at the center of this ghost story, a child psychologist working with a little boy (Haley Joel Osment) who, famously, sees dead people. The muting of Willis' action-star persona is what's so effective here; his quiet melancholy adds to the chilly mood.