“Fuck you, Steve.”
I remember when Bruce Willis made traditional, big ol box office hits. I remember when he actually got people emotional, somehow, at the end of stuff like Armageddon, or when he put effort into playing it subdued in things like The Sixth Sense. Honestly, though, for the last like, half to maybe full decade, I can’t really remember too much of Willis that I haven’t seen in the bargain bin at Wal-Mart. His movies are starting to make their rounds on the glut of podcasts based off shitty films. The question we’re here to answer today is as such: Is Willis’ newest project, Once Upon a Time in Venice, a return to form, or more dollar bin fodder? Considering the film sat on the shelf, unreleased, for a good two years, I can’t say I’m surprised to tell you that maybe The Flop House might consider this for their next episode, allowing us to continue a fascinating exploration of the downward spiral of Bruce.
This film is the product of brothers Mark and Robb Cullen, famous for writing another Willis bomb, Cop Out. They’ve also been involved in a multitude of one-season TV shows. Their lack of a strong directorial hand shows, as Venice has no discernible tone of which to speak. To be honest with you all, this flick felt like a throwaway 80s or 90s comedy, full of crude, lazy humor. Manly transvestites who use their brawn to beat up on Bruce? Hilarious! A character, who is Jewish, named Lou the Jew? Fantastic! Oh, boy, and a guy spray-painted a big dick on a building and it’s a major plot point of the film? Where do you guys come up with this stuff? The brothers tend to let their assumed hilarity go on for much too long, scene by scene. It almost feels like it was some mediocre improvisation with how empty and loose some of the humor is. A dearth of a watch at 96 minutes, the pacing is completely off, thanks in no part to bad jokes going on for a good five minutes too long at a time.
The story, as well, is a jumbled mess of half-baked subplots, some of which disappear completely, while others are solved almost too simply, like these guys didn’t know how to write their way out of the hole they had dug themselves into. The ending, in particular, feels like the production literally ran out of money and couldn’t film their grand finale scene, despite there already existing a “grand” finale scene. It’s ridiculous, dude. A movie shouldn’t have you yelling “WHAT!?” when credits start to roll. The whole “they stole my dog” hook that the film’s trailer tries to sell you on doesn’t even come into play well into the second act. The trailer bills this film as a John Wick-style comedy about a detective on a warpath to get his dog back. I’d more compare this to a Dude Where’s My Car-level adventure-comedy, because Bruce just sort of stumbled through situation to situation, mugging his way through any trouble he finds himself in. There’s nothing much actually happening of substance, it’s almost as vapid as any Venice Beach surfer bro may be.
I bet I’m wrong for saying this, but it does seem like Bruce is a liiittle more involved in this film than he was in, say, A Good Day to Die Hard. He skateboards nude (any excuse to show off his 90-year-old white asscheeks), fucks, intimidates, jumps out windows, and punches people with the panache of a guy who felt like trying for a change. No, it’s not great or vintage Willis. His character is a far shade from John McClaine, but, eh, whatever, in this boring movie, he wasn’t the most boring part. I felt bad for literally everyone else in the movie, though. A wasted cast, in some cases maybe literally? John Goodman especially felt so disinterested in his line delivery that, since I do believe he stopped drinking years ago, he had to be on some of that sweet, sweet Cali Kush, maaaan. It’s so lazy and space-casey of a performance. Even though his character is supposed to be some sort of disillusioned divorcee, the polar opposite of his character from The Big Lebowski, he seemed too distant to be believable. He looks miserable. Thomas Middleditch, too, the rising comedian known for his role in Silicon Valley, struggles to force awkward comedy with all of his interactions and the terrible noir-ish voice over. Jason Momoa is probably better here than he will be in Aquaman though as a quirky, softie drug dealer named Spyder. You heard it here first, folks!
This is just another half-assed movie made by inept director/writers who need more practice, starring tired actors who just need that extra few thousand dollars to finish remodeling their second house. It’s so cynical and lazy that it doesn’t even deserve to be in the bargain bin, man. This should have just stayed on the shelf, if I’m being honest. It’s not the worst movie I’ve had to review for this site, no way. It’s just…one of the more lazier ones. Some of the stupid movies I watched at least tried to do something novel or different or capture a particular feeling or have had some kind of vision. This has nothing going for it. I didn’t laugh more than once outside of seeing Ron Funches as a talkative transvestite hooker. Featuring a barren wasteland devoid of humor, disinterested stars, an unresolved story, and no interesting aciton or hook or gimmick of which to speak, I can’t say I’d check out Once Upon a Time in Venice, even on a boring hangover-filled Sunday afternoon. Someone tweet at Paul Scheer and get a How Did This Get Made thing going!