Steve Ford (Bruce Willis) is a down but not out L.A based Private Investigator whose professional and personal worlds collide after his loving pet Buddy is stolen by a notorious gang. A series of crazy circumstances find him doing the gang's bidding, while being chased by two vengeful Samoan brothers, a loan shark's goons, and a few other shady characters. They say a dog is a man's best friend, and Steve shows how far a man will go to be reunited with him.Written by
'Once Upon a Time in Venice Beach' was a very different film to that which I was expecting. The main reason for this? I didn't expect a comedy with Bruce Willis in the lead role. When I think of Willis I do not think of funny. He's good at the sarcastic one-liners (think 'Die Hard') evenly spread throughout a film, but not trying to carry the whole thing on his humour alone. He doesn't have the talent for that, nor did he have the script here to be fair. He may not be a funny man, but I don't think many actors in Hollywood would have been able to turn this material into something funny. There wasn't a whole lot to like about this film.
The next problem with the film is that it never actually feels like a film. It feels like the pilot for a TV series. Sure enough I looked up writer/director Mark Cullen's profile and most of his previous work has come in television (with the exception of another Bruce Willis cop movie 'Cop Out' which was also not received well). It's quite a bizarre experience to watch a film structured like a TV episode because it so rarely happens. Surely it's not that hard of a mistake to avoid? There is no focus though and the story just keeps chopping from story to story - none of which are particularly interesting. I suppose the theory was if we don't have one good story to tell let's just tell five mediocre ones instead.
There are a tonne of cameos in the film by faces you'll recognise (most have long since passed the peak of their fame), but sadly none of the them are given any decent material to work with either. No effort or thought has gone into what they could do in their cameo scenes, they simply show show up, spew out a few lines to advance the story a little, and then are gone. It's almost like they only found out they were getting that particular actor in on the morning of shooting and didn't have any time to prepare something for them. Very disappointing.
The only positive I took from the film was John Goodman. He was literally the only one in the entire film who got a laugh out of me, and the movie is undoubtedly at its strongest when he is on screen. Willis looked tired to be honest. It's sad to see, but he has clearly lost his love for the industry and it is coming across brutally on screen. This is sadly yet another very poor film to add to his résumé.
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