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Hard Kill review – Bruce Willis logs out in ultra-basic tech thriller | Film

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Anyone hoping Bruce Willis might enjoy a career renaissance after his rediscovery in M Night Shyamalan’s Split and Glass: lower those expectations now. Here’s Willis back in his familiar 21st-century guise of cheque-cashing frontman for tuppenny-ha’penny video-on-demand fare, drafted in to deliver terse exposition before ceding the screen to no-names with slightly more give in their knees. All evidence would suggest he spent more time than usual on this film set, albeit much of that lassoed to a chair with an extravagant snood to keep him cosy. As ex-Marine turned embattled CEO Donovan Chalmers, Willis is operating in that grey area between zero fuss and not much effort.

The main event is a nondescript shuffle around some hoary old cliches, strewn with abysmal dialogue and filmed by someone who has played a lot of first-person shooters. It transpires that Chalmers’ techno-whizz daughter (Lala Kent) has been kidnapped by international scourge named The Pardoner (Sergio Rizzuto), whose smash-the-system rhetoric, expressed in boring, sub-Dr Evil monologues, needs stomping out with privately sourced paramilitary force. The film’s stompers-in-chief are a buff platoon of kick-ass boys and girls led by erstwhile Desperate Housewives gardener Jesse Metcalfe, shrugging blandly through the kind of role (alcoholic combat veteran with a bad back) Willis himself might have enlivened in happier times.

This is certainly ascribing too much profundity to mind-numbingly basic content, but the whole does retain an oddly rueful, haunted quality. It’s there in everything from the wintry light to the supporting cast’s eerie resemblance to more established faces. (Rizzuto looks like a Bradley Cooper knock-off.) Most of all, it’s present in the primary location, a hollowed-out factory in Cincinnati. Look beyond the lifelessly choreographed shootouts and you keep catching glimpses of ghosts: those of American industry, yes, but also those of the American action movie, once manufactured with a skill, verve and wit wholly absent from these painfully long 98 minutes.

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Hear me out: why Maid in Manhattan isn’t a bad movie | Jennifer Lopez

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2002 was a bumper year for romcoms. Banking on the commercial safety of a saccharine love story, studios splashed out on everything from the Nick Hornby adaptation About A Boy to Gurinder Chadha’s Hounslow tale Bend It Like Beckham, Sandra Bullock facing off against corporate shill Hugh Grant in Two Weeks Notice, matrimonial romp My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and Reese Witherspoon’s nostalgic Sweet Home Alabama, to name just a few titles.

This was a golden age for will-they-won’t-they tales set to the backdrop of the new millennium, burgeoning digital literacy and predictable scripts that ensured that they, in fact, always did. Nestled amongst these releases was a critically derided, commercially dominating cultural relic: Maid In Manhattan.

The film stars Jennifer Lopez as a maid working in a luxury Manhattan hotel, who finds herself falling for a senatorial candidate (Ralph Fiennes) – who in turn has a soft spot for Richard Nixon – via a farcical case of mistaken identity. Lopez keeps up with her adopted, socialite guise until her secret is revealed and much hand-wringing ensues. Fiennes ultimately decides that her lowly status as a maid is good enough for him; he can share his wealth anyway. Over the closing credits we see that Fiennes has won his seat and Lopez has now transitioned from maid to an employer of maids.

Lopez was at the height of her popularity and power when the film was released, having broken through with the title role in Selena in 1997, then played alongside George Clooney in Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight, before starring in hit The Wedding Planner with Matthew McConaughey, as well as reaching number one in the US charts with her second album J.Lo – a nickname coined by director Oliver Stone on the set of his 1997 film U Turn. Lopez’s money-making credentials were solid. Fiennes, meanwhile, brought an outsized theatrical gravitas to his role, following Oscar-nominated turns in Schindler’s List and The English Patient.

From the lofty, hindsighted position of this century’s increasing political turmoil and structural inequality, their pairing in the film now becomes an excellent satire on new millennium naivety – an attempt to shoehorn fairytale tropes into an unruly and unbalanced modern society.

In the film’s moral universe, the only place for women of colour is in the bowels of the hotel, performing menial work, and the only way one of the more ambitious of their ranks, Lopez, can progress is by mistakenly posing as a white socialite and ultimately romancing her way out of her social class. Above all, Fiennes is implicitly praised for his willingness to elevate her into his ranks, to be seen with someone like a brown maid in public. And in the film’s climactic scene, Lopez’s son argues that his mother should be given a second chance, making a clumsy comparison to rehabilitating Nixon after his impeachment in the process. If nothing else, we know by now that impeachment should not be so easily glossed over …

Even the film’s poster is absurd. Lopez sits on a bench in front of the Manhattan skyline in her maid’s uniform – a visual signifier of her servitude – while she daydreams in an infantilised pose an image floating in the sky of her in a diamond necklace flanked by Fiennes, him showing more than a glimpse of his future turn as Voldemort through an unnerving smirk.

With the hindsight, too, of Lopez’s scene-stealing turn in 2019’s Hustlers, here we see her acting chops in embryonic form, while the supporting cast props her up in impressive fashion. The late Bob Hoskins provides paternal authority as butler Lionel, Stanley Tucci is on reliably camp form as Fiennes’ adviser Jerry and the late Natasha Richardson is the gleefully villainous socialite Caroline Lane. All the while Fiennes holds court as the smiling, yet ominously ambitious senatorial candidate.

In a year of popular romcoms that at least attempted to incorporate the nuances of reality – immigrant experiences in Bend It Like Beckham and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, depression in About A Boy, southern anachronism in Sweet Home Alabama – Maid in Manhattan stands out as a curious, absurdist fairytale. It deserves another watch because of its fantastic ignorance to the context of its making. It is the unexpected death knell of the romanticised American dream onscreen; it is the last gasp of old-fashioned romcom idealism in a different world. It tells us, in the most glowing of terms, that you can’t hope to work your way into a better life any more, that in fact the odds are so stacked against you if you are a single, working-class mother that all you can hope for is a chance, mistaken encounter to be swept off your feet. And then, you too can become a profiteering business owner, enacting the means of your own subjugation on those less fortunate. Happily ever after, indeed.


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Only Old Millennials And Gen X'ers Will Be Able To Do Well On This '80s Kid Quiz

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It’s time to take a trip down memory road with this quiz!


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Does Umbridge Like You?

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“You know, I really hate children.”

Editor’s Note: BuzzFeed does not support discriminatory or hateful speech in any form. We stand by the LGBTQ+ community and all fans who found a home in the Harry Potter series and will work to provide a safe space for fans. If you, like us, feel impassioned about trans rights, learn more or donate here.

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