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[whitespace] Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson
Glower Power: Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson face off in 'Unbreakable.'

Willis to Power

Bruce Willis reluctantly accepts superhero status in 'Unbreakable'

By Richard von Busack

THE NEW Bruce Willis film, Unbreakable, tries a realistic take on the comic-book vigilante. Only a year after the phenomenal success of director M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense comes his slumping sophomore picture--very likely a rejected script dusted off and produced on the quick. Shymalan continues making mysteries out of mood, shadows and supernatural possibilities, but there's nothing left to hook the imagination. All beans are spilled at this movie's end.

I hate to be vague, but Unbreakable is one of those frustrating movies that, if described a little, is described completely. It is the tale of Willis' David Dunne, who is "nigh invulnerable," as that superhero the Tick describes himself. In the beginning, he's unaware of his powers and lives in depressed circumstances as a security guard in Philadelphia. His moroseness is completed by estrangement from his wife, Megan (Robin Wright), though they still sleep in their separate rooms under the same roof. After his mysterious survival from a train wreck that killed all aboard, David is sought out by a disabled cartoon-art collector, Elijah Price (Samuel Jackson), who believes David to be the kind of man you read about in comic books. This kind of talk is hard stuff to carry off, and Jackson only makes it harder. This is a prophet's role; Jackson needed enlightenment to go with his firmness, not his usual glower.

Unbreakable is unique, anyway. No director has tried to frame superhero lore in such purely somber, everyday terms. We've seen it in the comics, though. Such writers as Alan Moore (especially in his graphic novel The Watchmen) argue passionately and eloquently that the fantasy of superheroism means far more than just a grubby daydream of beating up strangers. To many men, the powers of a Superman or Batman are a fantasy more deep--and far more embarrassing--than many a sexual whim. I ask my male readers: If you knew you had superpowers, how long would it take you to put on a cape and a mask? So Unbreakable is a terminally slow picture. David's reluctance to learn whether or not he is a superman seems like artificial delay and nothing more. Unbreakable should have balanced its glumness with the other half of the fantasy: not just the summons to holy duty but the exhilaration of at long last being able to change the world.

Unbreakable (PG-13; 107 min.), directed and written by M. Night Shyamalan, photographed by Eduardo Serra and starring Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson and Robin Wright, opens Wednesday (Nov. 22) at selected theaters.

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From the November 23-29, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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