If you haven’t seen the original Death Wish from 1974, starring Charles Bronson, i highly recommend it. It has a specific feel to it, and makes a better statement about out of control gun violence and it’s source. And hey, you get to see a very young Jeff Goldblum as “Freak # 1”.
Written by Joe Carnahan (Narc, The Grey, The A Team), this Death Wish remake can’t seem to find it’s voice, not really being a dark satire of rising gun violence and crime, or just playing as a straight remake. Ultimately, it’s just a remake without anything to make it stand out. Not one of Carnahan’s better screenplays.
A family man (Bruce Willis) becomes a vigilante killing machine after his family is violently attacked by robbers.
I was one of six people in the theater last night – opening Thursday showing at 9:30 pm. SIX people. Whether it’s the early reviews, which I chose to avoid, or simply no one caring for a remake of this film, that is not a good sign for any film. But Death Wish also has the – poor timing?, audacity? – to be released in the midst of a pretty strong push-back on gun violence right now. This is one of those films that should have been pushed a few weeks or something to wait for things to quiet down.
Or should it even been released at all? Obviously, after seeing it, I can honestly say Death Wish was not a film in need of an update, if this is what they’re going to make.
On a technical level, all the actors are solid, it’s decently made. But I couldn’t help but wonder in the couple spots that elicited a chuckle form me, “Wait, was that SUPPOSED to be funny? Is that a moment of dark satire? Or was that intended to be serious?” As I kept watching, I felt as if it didn’t matter. This Death Wish remake was just painting by numbers and any chance to make a real satirical statement was either decided against or simply overlooked.
I can’t imagine writer Joe Carnahan would overlook the opportunity, but perhaps director Eli Roth or some producers choose not to be so daring. I really felt like if Paul Verhoeven had made this in the late 80’s or early 90’s he could have made an over-the-top satire that had something to say.
There is some representation of the subject of whether vigilante justice should be supported or not. It’s not exactly ground-breaking subject matter, though.
Eli Roth does manage to add two or three of his trademark unneeded moments of gore. They serve no purpose other than to gross us out. You feel no gratification seeing these graphically violent things happening to criminals in the film.
In relation to that, you also don’t get a real sense of rooting for someone. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is a surgeon with a wife Lucy (Elizabeth Shue) and daughter Jordan (Camila Morrone) and they’re all fine. Just fine. I just didn’t feel like there was anything unique or special about their story. Again, it all felt very paint-by-numbers.
Vincent D’Onofrio plays frank Kersey, Paul’s brother. D’Onofrio is solid, too, playing a sort of ‘voice of reason’ to Paul. But he just doesn’t get enough to do here. I feel bad for him, really. I’m a fan of his. So, I’m looking forward to him returning to Wilson Fisk on Daredevil.
This Death Wish remake is really a wasted opportunity. It’s pretty uninteresting. I could barely give this two kittenhands. Don’t bother with this, just go back and watch the original Death Wish. Bruce Willis is no Charles Bronson anyway.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, looking forward to Infinity War!