Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: Eli Roth
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Rogier Stoffers
WRITER: Joe Carnahan
MUSIC: Ludwig Göransson
“Death Wish” is a remake of the 1974 classic starring Charles Bronson and yes, even then that film was attacked for the contents of its story. I also know that I really shouldn’t have liked this film. It is about a vigilante who takes the law into his own hands and it has been released at absolutely the worst time considering that guns and mass shootings seem to be in the news almost every other day. It also adds nothing new to the original film’s narrative other than the fact that Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is a doctor in this movie instead of an architect.
Yet, as I was watching the movie, I couldn’t help but enjoy it. It is a revenge fantasy about a person who does what we would all want to do if a loved one was killed and hurt, but we know that we absolutely can’t. I also can’t say that the film is bad just because it came out at the wrong time as I’m sure the filmmakers didn’t know what the climate around guns would be like when they started filming.
For those who have not seen the original, the movie follows Paul after his wife (Elizabeth Shue) is murdered and his daughter (Camila Morrone) is put into a coma. Soon, in order to deal with his grief, Paul starts to go after the bad guys himself and not just the ones who attacked his family. Hot on his trail are two detectives, Kevin Raine (Dean Norris) and Leonore Jackson (Kimberly Elise).
Soon, Paul becomes known as the hooded vigilante that is nicknamed, appropriately, the Grim Reaper. The debate is then shown as to whether or not Paul’s actions should be condoned in the crime ridden Chicago. This is also where the film falters the most. While it does bring up the morality of Paul’s actions, it doesn’t do a whole lot to provide us with a deeper conversation beyond a few news clips as the filmmakers leave it up to the audience to make the decision themselves.
Willis is good as Paul as he carries the same emotional weight that Bronson had in the original film. His anger and his pain are always boiling below the surface as Paul has been used to stepping away from confrontations rather than doing anything about them. It is actually quite understandable from an emotional standpoint to see why Paul becomes a vigilante.
The film’s director is Eli Roth, so the action is brutal when it happens and things definitely get bloody. The violence is there and that may be unsettling for some, but I thought that overall it was handled really well. The only problem in this department is that there were a couple of times where things fall in Paul’s favor rather conveniently but that wasn’t too bad.
Again, I must stress that I definitely understand why there will be people who will not like this film. It really shouldn’t have been released at this time and it should have had a deeper message about the nature of vigilantism and whether or not it is ever necessary. For me, despite trying not to, I must admit that I ultimately liked this particular remake.