By George Rose
April 21, 2009
Death Becomes Her (1992)
It's not quite as ancient or lighthearted, but Death Becomes Her is another historic favorite of mine. Like Abbott and Costello, it was among the many movies my older brother would watch with his friends that I would later watch in private to see what all the fuss was about. Death Becomes Her soon became a film the whole family would watch again and again, as it mixed dark humor and special effects together to make one of the most exciting films of my childhood.
The cast was incredible, with Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn starring as lifelong enemies who pass around Bruce Willis as their third wheel in a twisted love-triangle tale. The competition escalates and becomes deadly, but not until after the two women discover a potion for immortality. The two women kill each other, or at least attempt to, allowing for plenty of creative and gruesome special effects that would later land the film its Best Special Effect Oscar. There's nothing quite like watching Streep's head twist around like Regan in The Exorcist or Hawn stumble around with a gaping hole in her stomach. These are Academy Award winning actresses, people, and it's great to see them let loose and take a break from all the seriousness.
It's a good thing Bruce Willis' character fixes up dead bodies for a living or else these two cat-fighting starlets would have nobody to make them look, or feel, alive. There is no surprise in learning he has become a raging alcoholic, but who could blame him? When his own mortal life becomes threatened at an event held at the headquarters for this elixir of life, he soon learns that loving either of these women is a death wish and he is better off without them. Unfortunately, we are better off with them, and this movie, so the risk of death is certainly worth the reward of watching Death Becomes Her.
The Fifth Element (1997)
Bruce Willis is wrongly best known for his Die Hard series. They are great films but because of the star power they have afforded Willis, movies like Death Becomes Her and The Fifth Element fall by the wayside. It's a massive injustice, since The Fifth Element is an amazing action movie. Think Die Hard with alien battles, exploding spaceships and the fight to build a love that can bind with the elements to stop the impeding Armageddon (nope, not the one you're thinking of). The reason it stands above so many of the other versions of this plotline is because of the futuristic setting the film takes place in. The environment is energetic, full of clever technology and perfect for an intergalactic brawl.
Despite the lackluster benefits Willis' career saw from making The Fifth Element, it was actually a launching pad for Milla Jovovich. Before she was kicking butt in the Resident Evil movies, she crash landed in Willis' taxi cab and dragged him into saving the world yet again. This time, he faces Gary Oldman, who never fails in completely immersing himself into any character. Oldman's Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg is a weapons dealer and corporate mogul, which fits well into the government controlled world the movie created. Though these three actors set the stage for the well developed and executed plot, the movie should belong to Chris Tucker.
Though I'm not a fan of Tucker's incessant screeching and complaining in the Rush Hour films, he plays the obnoxiously flamboyant Ruby Rhod with such intensity and genuine humor that he carries the film beyond the blandness so many action films fall into. I wish it had been a bigger hit for no other reason than a much deserved sequel. The ending doesn't really set the film up as a franchise and any additional entries would probably be terrible, but the movie is so good (even on many multiple repeat viewings) that I'd rather see the story continue poorly than have their world end where it does. Though I loved Live Free or Die Hard, I can't help but hope Willis passes on Die Hard 5 to go on another voyage through space with Ruby Rhod.