a film that certainly was made for bruce willis. there are so many elements that reference his career, especially the die hard films – from set pieces like the fountain amongst a fiery shit storm to the estranged family life. but the film is plenty more than just a willis vehicle. the opening sequence reminded me of the first sequence in Assault on Precinct 13 in its ability to set a strong tone for the rest of the film. and, really, it’s a pretty apt comparison because there are more similar elements between the two films. both are directed by frenchmen directing their first american picture. both films feature characters who have to deal with an early mistake throughout the rest of the film. and both films were surprisingly refreshing compared to the usual hollywood fare (xxx, bruckheimer, etc.).
i’m going to write about the opening sequence because that’s all i really needed to see to know how i was going to feel about the film. it begins with a close-up of a perp who is holding two people hostage in a locked up house and the camera pulls out to reveal the police presence and the los angeles skyline. then we see willis – scruffy, bearded, sweaty, lying down with a cellphone in one hand and a comb at his beard in his other. it’s a comic moment that relieves a bit of the tension already created by the few earlier shots. willis’ lightly comic, lackadaisical demeanor in this sequence is just perfect – he exudes confidence and feeds off the success of his previous film characters (john mcclaine, butch, etc.) here while adding a new, over-the-hill, wrinkle to it. but the situation quickly grows out of control and the hostage taker spirals out of control and resolves to kill his hostages. willis runs from the rooftop where he was perched and tries to intervene, but by the time he makes it to the house it’s too late – the deed is done. it’s not just what happens or willis’ performance, it’s the way siri captures and presents it all. he cuts to the hostages briefly to make sure we know what is at stake, he’s willing to show the brutality of the kidnapper (who hits a young boy with a telephone), he employs comic relief in a tasteful way, and the slo-motion sequence wherein willis makes a dash to save the hostages is well-filmed. he uses a few different camera angles including one where the camera is attached to willis’ chest and is pointed towards his face. it’s one of my favorite types of shots, but it must be used in the right situation and in a measured way (think of how aronofsky uses it in pi).
i’m not going to say the film is perfect, but it restores your confidence in hollywood’s ability to entertain in an artful and intelligent manner. worth checking out.Watched in theater