Writings on Bruce Willis Badass Cinema and Other Important Topics

Reviewed by
Mark Richards

I like to think I can find something good to say about every book I review, whether or not I am completely satisfied. I do this so often that a friend of mine recently asked when I was going to find something bad to read so I could give it a proper panning. Although that’s not my style, I was beginning to think that maybe I have been a little too nice about some of the things I’ve read. So it’s a shame my next review is this one, because I absolutely loved this book; I cannot recommend it enough (sorry, buddy).

I urge you to go out and buy it for your friends and family and (sorry but) if I know you and you have even a vague interest in movies then you’re getting a copy for Christmas/Birthday/Hanukah/Other (delete as applicable).

As you might guess from the title, “YIPPEE KI-YAY, MOVIEGOER!” Writings on Bruce Willis Badass Cinema and Other Important Topics is a sprawling epic of love, revenge and honour, set against the backdrop of the French Revolution. As two brothers, Jacob and Philippe, fight for King and country, a mysterious woman comes into their lives to…nah; I’m just messin with you. What this is, of course, is the second book by Vern, the movie critic described by director Guillermo Del Toro as “a national treasure”, and a man best known for his frank but hysterical reviews on the Ain’t It Cool News website. Similar in content to his first book, Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Stephen Seagal, YKYMWOBWBCAOIT offers a loose collection of Vern’s personally-selected film reviews that best represents the cream of Badass Cinema, the masterworks of Bruce Willis, and Movies That Blow Things Up Real Good. What first attracted me to this review were the bold cover and the super-cool graphic of John McClane in his trademark vest, wielding a machine gun and smoking a cigarette. It’s a ballsy way to shout about your book (well done, marketing-types!); it’s the literary equivalent of Christmas Eve - you just can’t wait to get stuck into the main event. And the John McClane/Bruce Willis angle was especially attractive to someone like me who, like Vern, is a massive Bruce fan and someone who rates Die Hard as one of the greatest and baddest action movies of all time. I had a feeling I was in for something special, and I wasn’t disappointed. Vern has an easygoing style with a straightforward turn of phrase that instantly engages, talking to you as though you’re already on the same wavelength and, rather than being a lecture, it feels like chatting about your favourite films with your best buddy in a bar somewhere, around about closing time.

As I pored over this book, though, what was most invigorating is that his prose is unencumbered by pretensions such as…well…“invigorating” and “unencumbered”, and does away with all that aren’t-I-a-clever-reviewer? stuff. Instead Vern masterfully demonstrates that you don’t need to have an extensive vocabulary (or for that matter a gift for spelling & grammar) to justify why a movie does or doesn’t work, so long as you have passion for what you’re discussing and you’re able to put your point across in an entertaining and insightful way. I agree with Vern that every reviewer gets bogged down from time to time with hyperbole, forever striving for that clever turn of phrase that sets them apart from the rest. Hell, I’m as guilty of this as the next person, and reading this book made me painfully aware of it, which is why with this review I decided to drop my usual third-person style and try and be a little more open about how this book made me feel, in very much the same way that Vern does with movies. One thing Vern does well that I won’t attempt, however, is wander off the subject and turn this review into a commentary on some idea that’s important to me. I’d only be a pale imitator as this is something Vern does extremely well, and often to great comic effect, as demonstrated in his chapter “Tangents”, where Vern unapologetically wanders off the beaten track and turns a review for Walking Tall (2004) into a crusade against people with mobile phone headsets. Other stand-out moments for me have to be Vern’s disgruntled space-tourist Predator review, a commentary on why humans and cartoons should never date, and why E.T. was right not to take the dog back to his home planet (all hilarious).

Now I think it’s kinda important right now to point out that although YKYMWOBWBCAOIT is a book that celebrates Badass Cinema, it’s by no means a boys-only thing. It’s a fair assessment to say that Vern is well known for his profanely funny reviews, but he’s also a sensitive, intelligent writer, peppering his reviews with profound ideas that really make you think. He just wants movies to be as great as they can be and he goes to bat for what he believes in, never paying lip-service to a bad movie just to please some disgruntled wrestler-turned-director (true), and always happy to point out what’s wrong with today’s movie-going experience and the travesty that is the modern blockbuster (very true). And, for all his badass posturing, Vern actually makes some uniquely astute observations about movies as diverse as Crash (2005), Brokeback Mountain, and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. I’ve never heard anyone else call a film; “The Die Hard of surrealist alchemist comedies”, anyway…

As for Vern himself, I’d like to know more about the man himself, but he’s notoriously shy when it comes to giving interviews. Perhaps this is a good thing, as they say you should never meet your heroes - what if he thought I was a jerk or (worse) didn’t like this review?? There’s a school of thought that Vern might even be an alias, a phantom character made up of several different reviewers. Given his prolific output (check out his latest reviews and musings at this might be true, but going by the consistency of the writing I like to think otherwise, and anyway this all adds to the legend that is Vern. All I know is I haven’t laughed so hard for so long in ages, or found my point of view changed as a result.

In conclusion – buy this Moviegoing book, Moviegoer!


email your answers to: