Movie review: Willis hits bottom in 'Once Upon a Time in Venice'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Jun 19 2017 12:34 PM

Bruce Willis had been a star ever since he broke through big time via the TV show "Moonlighting" for which he won the Emmy for Best Actor in a Drama in 1987. He eventually transitioned to feature films, starring in big box-office hits like the "Die Hard" franchise, "12 Monkeys," "The Fifth Element," "Armageddon" and "The Sixth Sense." 

In the turn of the millennium though, Willis's career went south like other senior actors, notably Nicolas Cage and John Travolta, who still get cast in lead roles, but only in cheap-looking B-movies, many direct-to-video stuff. "Once Upon a Time in Venice" is one of them.

The Venice in the title is not the Italian city of canals but the California beach town. Steve Ford is a disgraced ex-cop who now works as a private eye. When his niece's house was broken into, Ford's precious little Jack Russell terrier Buddy is stolen and taken to drug lord Spyder. To get Buddy back, Ford is forced to retrieve the drugs spirited away by Spyder's two-timing girlfriend Lupe. 

In other minor side stories, there is Dave, Steve's best friend who is going through a rough divorce. There is John, Steve's bumbling assistant eager to work on a real case. We also get to meet a real estate broker harassed by a mysterious graffiti artist, a ruthless loan shark who demands his money back after one day, a support group for sex addicts, a couple of Samoan thugs and their promiscuous sister, a gang of cross-dressing macho men in a seedy motel, among other bizarre types in Steve's neighborhood.

I had never seen an actor of Bruce Willis's stature stoop so low as to doing some really embarrassing scenes (like skateboarding in the streets totally nude or running around a building in a ginger wig and red dress) in such a forgettable film. John Goodman, Famke Jannsen, Jason Momoa are all here too in roles beneath their talent. I was surprised to see Kal Penn and Christopher George in the mix too. Well, they are here for a paycheck, and I guess this will get some of their bills paid off.

There were so many things going on in this film to disguise how shallow everything was. However, on the plus side, Australian swimsuit model Jessica Gomes and Mexican Bond girl Stephanie Sigman are both very easy on the eyes. Looking back, being occasionally funny in its own odd way, this may actually be good for some senseless laughs on a lazy day. Afterwards though, nothing will stick. 3/10

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."