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Twinkle, Twinkle, Action Star

Category: 300 News
Article Date: March 7, 2007 | Publication: | Author: Richard Horgan

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Not so long ago, Hollywood was in an uproar over the fact that Bruce Willis was being paid $5 million to star in a movie called Die Hard. As he geared up to shoot the film in and around his daytime Moonlighting commitments, I remember having conversations with various people, all of whom thought Rupert Murdoch had clearly lost his mind.

Instead, Willis took what Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson had started and knocked it out of the park, stretching his smirk across the length of an entire picture and driving Hans absolutely batty with his devil-may-care attitude. There was something unique about the way Willis did it, with a sparkle that made you believe this joker really was having the time of his life. Ford, Gibson, even Die Hard director John McTiernan’s previous lead Arnold are all great action movie stars, but they’re not quite Willis’ match in the Yippie-ki-yay department.

For a while, people thought that maybe Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was going to be the next super-light-on-his-feet Hollywood action star. He gave it his best shot, and in fact showed as host on Saturday Night Live that he had the required comedic skills; but when you look like The Rock, it’s a little difficult to come across as the everyman underdog. Or maybe you just have to up the mismatch, like say stacking 300 of your soldiers against 300,000 of theirs.

As Willis and Ford prepare for their Die Hard and Indiana Jones final hurrahs, an actor has appeared on the action movie horizon who is the equal of Willis in the macho smirk department. As such, Gerard Butler’s gleam is as much of a reason why 300 works as the stunning CGI, even though it is doled out more intermittently and blends in a little sneer with the smirk. Still, there’s that same kind of wink-wink connection with the audience, as if he is saying, ‘Can you believe the fun I get to have?!’

Except for maybe his appearances on The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, there really was no indication for American audiences that Butler had this kind of ability in him. With Willis, you knew from Moonlighting that he could quip with the best of them. But Butler is a revelation, starring in arguably the freshest action movie experience since that original Die Hard (all that’s missing really is the line, "Yippie ki yai, brother Spartans!").

For me, the saving grace of 300 is that there cannot be a sequel, at least one that stars Butler. Somehow, like the original Die Hard, it deserves to be preserved in its own glass case as a miracle of modern moviemaking. Were there to be a 301, 302 and, twenty years later, a 303, it would surely sully the memory of those younger and more perfect quipping days. Willis and his new director pal Len Wiseman may prove me wrong this summer, but I doubt it.


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