This Bruce Willis blend of comedy and action was underrated by critics and under-loved at the box office but it’s the filmmakers’ own fault, and their mistake is revealing.
First, it’s basically a fun flick. Based on a graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, it’s about a bunch of aging CIA killers getting back together for a final mission. Willis and Mary-Louise Parker are as charming and funny as they can be as lovers on the run and Karl Urban is excellent in the nicely written part of a home-loving hit-man. Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren are all their terrific selves. The direction by Robert Schwentke (with a big assist by Gary Capo on the second unit) is noticeably expert. It’s entertaining stuff.
Here’s the thing, though. It’s pretty obvious that the filmmakers aren’t particularly anti-American but, try as they seem to have done in development, they can’t save themselves from a story that is – or that, at least, makes the usual tired anti-American storytelling moves. At one point, we find ourselves watching our heroes execute an elaborate plot to assassinate the Vice President. And dude, guess what: we don’t want to watch our heroes assassinate the Vice President! Even if he’s a brainless buffoon. I know this because our Vice President is a brainless buffoon and we still don’t want to see him assassinated. Voted out of office, yes – but we don’t need Bruce Willis and the gang for that.
The point is: only in the cloistered world of the American arts could it not have occurred to someone that this sort of plot point had to be changed for the movie to win big at the box office. Two or three minor plotting changes and this thing would have been a complete delight instead of a vaguely uncomfortable effort by some really first-rate talent.
So, like, Hollywood guys: try to get out more. The rest of us still love our country and don’t want to watch it run down by the people who benefit from its freedoms most. As I say, I could tell they didn’t mean to do it philosophically – they just forgot to step outside the dead-headed assumptions of the business.
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