I used to be a Bruce worshiper in college. I had a Bruce Pulp Fiction poster hung up in my dorm room (if that disturbs you, just imagine what my parents were thinking). The guy could do no wrong. I wanted to be John McClane when I was a kid. I wanted to be Butch Coolidge when I was a teenager. And I will impale anyone who dares utter a bad word about the great Joe Hallenbeck. I even went so far as to defend Breakfast of Champions in a fit of delirium once. It stayed true to the essence of the book, damn you! It wasn't a proud moment.
I'm not going to do another top ten movie list. We already know what his best films are; am I right (hint: not North)? Instead, I'm going to focus on some signature Bruce moments, not his best movies. Not necessarily his very best performances, just some moments that really stuck with me. Here's just a five-count list:
Butch Coolidge stares down Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction.
You guys remember this scene, right? Bruce walks up to Marsellus Wallace's bar and he gets into a tiff with Travolta who calls Butch "Punchy." Ving Rhames calls Travolta over to his table, ending the quarrel but Bruce stares him down as he walks away. It's one of those "Who the hell does this clown think he is?" looks. Poor Vincent Vega will live to regret that little run-in with Butch. Until he doesn't, that is.
John McClane gets shot at by terrorists, walks barefoot on glass, barfs up a twenty-year-old Twinkie and gets crap from Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson in Die Hard.
Gotta go with the whole performance on this one. Just tremendous stuff. Bruce's work is just iconic. We don't get too many of those. And it's the little things that stay with you too. Like "Fists with your toes... " There's a reason this franchise has been around for twenty years.
Walter Davis, as played by Bruce, shoots at John Larroquette's feet in Blind Date.
I'm not saying this is one of this best movies and I'm not saying it's one of his best performances. But there is no denying this was one of the first true-blue signature Bruce roles. In fact, looking back at this movie, it kind of prepared us for John McClane. What is Blind Date if not "Die Hard on a date" (check out this clip if you don't believe me). That was early Bruce. And this is even earlier.
Butch chooses the samurai sword in Pulp Fiction.
Had to slip another Pulp Fiction moment in here. Butch escapes from the "gimp" and his pals but doubles-back to help the man who tried to kill him. He peruses through the weaponry in that hellhole of a shop. I remember when he grabbed the chainsaw, people in the theater starting "Woo!"ing like crazy. But when his eyes locked in and that samurai sword was revealed ... it was mass hysteria. Bruce sold Tarantino's genius and when he walked down those steps, deeper into the darkest of pits, he became a legend. But that's just a really flowery way of saying I love that scene.
"Head or gut?"/"Touch me again and I'll kill you" from The Last Boy Scout.
This is really two different scenes but I meshed them together because the spirit remains the same. Bruce's character from The Last Boy Scout, Joe Hallenbeck, was dissed by many as a retread of John McClane. No freaking way. Joe is a lowlife; he says as much. He smokes bummed cigarettes from off the street. He's depressed and maybe even a little nuts. In a way, he reminds me of Harvey Pekar, the guy Paul Giamatti played in American Splendor ... only he'll kill you.
Joe has such a poor outlook on life that after he finds out his "best" friend slept with his wife, he doesn't have the urge to have a long drawn-out discussion or fight over it. He just wants to give the guy one good, hard punch in the head or gut (his friend's choice).
Later when he's being held captive by some goons, he wants to smoke and asks for a light. Instead, he gets a punch in the face. Hallenbeck has such disregard for life that he threatens nonchalantly, "Touch me again and I'll kill you." Now, you may or may not know this, but "henchmen" is derived from the Latin estupidei ad moroni, so naturally the guy hits him again. Let's just say good ol' Joe Hallenbeck follows through on his promises.
If I forgot a great Bruce moment, leave a comment, why don't ya?
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