Bruce Willis is best known for some of his earlier works, from the Die Hard movie franchise too pulp fiction. He recently retired from acting after his family revealed he was suffering from aphasia. That didn’t stop him from ending his career with a bang, however, as he’s been producing a lot of direct-to-video films in recent years and seemingly trying to cram in as many films as possible before retiring.
Direct-to-video films never really get a chance to gain traction. Sometimes they might even be released without your knowledge because without a theatrical release and trailer, these films tend to go right under many people’s noses. Sometimes that’s not a good thing as the movie can be really well made or deep, or sometimes it’s better since the movie wasn’t very good (most are direct to video for a reason). However, with almost all of Willis’ work, you can be sure of at least one thing and that is that the film will be action packed.
survive the night
survive the night is an action thriller that takes place over the course of one night. Two criminals try to rob a garage, but when the owner fights back, one of them is injured. They manage to escape and instead break into the house, holding the family hostage and forcing the doctor inside to bandage the criminal’s gunshot wound. When the doctor’s father, Frank, finds his wife dead thanks to the criminals, he interrupts the operation and attacks. Now it’s Frank against the criminals as he tries to save the rest of the family by luring them outside in hopes he can get his family to survive the night.
Willis plays Frank in this film. While he definitely puts effort into his role, showing compassion for his family and resentment towards the criminals, it’s not enough to save the film. Spending a full 90 minutes as a bottle film in one place for one night certainly helped bring down the costs, but it makes the story feel way too long as there aren’t any really new and interesting developments pushing it forward and taking it out of the house . The film received a nomination for the Golden Raspberry Award — an awards show that highlights the worst in the film industry. Willis was nominated for the Worst Supporting Actor category, and his performance and the film at large is a blur along with the nearly two dozen films he made in the two years leading up to his retirement.
You may recognize similar themes as in other films fracture. This sci-fi horror film features a ship full of passengers as an alien breaks in and begins infecting them. An extinction event on Earth results in 300,000 passengers being chosen to send through space and take the population to New Earth, one of their space colonies. Noah stows away on the ship to stay with his pregnant girlfriend, pretending to be a janitor. Another caretaker, Clay, takes him under his wing. As the first bodies begin to appear, the crew members who are not in stasis begin to realize something is wrong, and no matter how many times they kill the infected, they always get back up. Things are getting darker for passengers as the number of infected continues to rise.
Here you’ll find Willis as Clay, a grey-haired caretaker who tries to help the protagonist in any way he can. Of course, the simultaneous use of many different films and tropes makes the film muddled and almost cliche. fracture draws on a lot of influences with alien invaders and space movies made before, particularly in extraterrestrial, although the actors try their best here, they cannot live up to their predecessors. Willis received another nomination for the Worst Supporting Actor award from the Golden Raspberrys.
Another Science Fiction Movie cosmic sin is all about an alien invasion. In the 2500s, humans control three planets, one of which is Earth. Your colonists discover and report an alien encounter, after which the unseen species begin to move. They force people into their hive mind after ingesting a certain black liquid and from there they are able to control people. This allows them to sneak past the radar since they don’t look any different. James Ford, previously dishonorably discharged from the military for his actions when one of the planets attempted to secede, is called back to help. He and a small select team struggle while attempting to land on the planet currently fighting the aliens and join forces with the remaining survivors to find a way to save humanity.
Willis plays Ford in this film and is once again starring in an action film. Although he tries his best, the amount of explanation used to explain the story really slows down the beginning. Some details aren’t even needed for the plot, such as how mankind originally colonized Mars but has since lost that colony. The story has potential, but it needed a little more focus to be really good. Willis was by this point making so many direct-to-video films, one after the other, that the Golden Raspberrys decided to create an entire category just for him. “Bruce Willis’ Worst Performance in a Movie of 2021” would have guaranteed him a win for one of his direct-to-video films if the category hadn’t been overturned after announcing his aphasia diagnosis.
survive the game
survive the game is an action thriller set in the world of crime. A drug bust that didn’t go over well injures cop David. His partner Cal decides to pursue the perpetrators only to arrest them anyway. He tracks her to a remote farm owned by Eric, a troubled veteran who teams with Cal to get rid of the criminals. As they try to hatch a plan, they are joined by an injured David, but other members of the gang arrive at the farm, outnumbering the men and forcing them to use creative tactics to bring the gang down.
Willis plays veteran Eric, a fitting role for him in this action film. Among the three who team up to bring down the gang, he definitely helps them balance out. Although the plot is general, the film avoids many classic tropes and clichés that it could have used, making it a more enjoyable experience than it could have been; James Cullen Bressack’s energetic and stylish direction helps here. However, it was also one of the films in the since-retired Golden Raspberries category, so Willis chooses it a bit and the film isn’t as good as it could be.
Since sci-fi worlds are a popular setting for action movies, that’s no surprise apex also lies in the future. Although no specific year is given, it is clear through technology that the world has changed. Thomas Malone is serving a life sentence for a crime he did not commit when he is offered a chance at freedom. He must win a game on a private island to see his family again. Essentially, he is the prey of a group of rich hunters and must survive their hunt. As the hunters slowly turn on each other, Malone may actually have a shot at gaining his freedom.
Playing Thomas Malone, Willis shows us all the stops a person will go to when being hunted down for sport. The premise is as interesting as it is outlandish, as the rich pay their way to hunt other people, but for this universe it remains an unchallenged truth. There’s a seriousness to the film’s tone and its anger at unbridled capitalism that keeps it from getting too insane, but there’s plenty of cliché and gory violence (which makes this film feel like a weak sci-fi version of The hunt) from which it is difficult to recover from as the plot is stretched enough to fit into a full-length film. This was another film in the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Performance by Bruce Willis in a Motion Picture of 2021.
Interestingly fortress is the first film in a trilogy of direct-to-video films that his co-star says “appears as a legend.” The film focuses on Robert, a retired US intelligence officer, and his son Paul. Robert lives in a top-secret resort designed specifically for retired intelligence officers. When Paul decides to drive over to see him, the location becomes compromised as Robert’s old nemesis follows him. When the criminals break in, Robert and Paul retreat to a hidden bunker but fear it won’t be enough. They must band together and work together if they hope to save the day.
Willis plays Robert and brings the retired intelligence officer to life. The film moves at just the right pace to keep you interested the whole time and it has some exciting action scenes, but it definitely has flaws, particularly with the characters. Still, it’s entertaining to watch, even though the Golden Raspberrys also made it into that reclusive category.