Another generic revenge film, released at the completely wrong time. Death Wish is just poor.
The debut of this film could not have been more poorly timed. Just weeks after the horrifying school shooting in Parkland, Florida, this remake of the controversial 1974 original of the same name, a glorification of vigilantism, director Eli Roth’s revenge flick sees a wooden Bruce Willis on a rampage across Chicago, gunning down and brutally murdering anyone he judges to deserve it.
Willis stars as Paul Kersey, a trauma surgeon who sees his life is flipped upside down when a group of home invaders murder his wife (Elisabeth Shue) and place his daughter (Camila Morrone) in a coma.
Angered by the police force’s inability to catch the perpetrators, Kersey takes it upon himself to find justice for his family, appointing himself judge jury and executioner of Chicago.
As the body count begins to rise, the Chicago Police Department led by Detective Kevin Raines (Dean Norris) begins to hunt Kersey, now dubbed ‘The Grim Reaper’, as he searches for those who hurt his family.
Whilst the original, with the late Charles Bronson as Kersey, was no masterstroke of cinema art and courted a fair amount of negative light, it became a semi-cult classic, with numerous sequels as Bronson took his vigilante rampage on all those who crossed the line. Whilst not amazing, the movie is memorable (even if the slew of sequels are most certainly not.)
But director Eli Roth’s remake is lacking anything creative, dynamic or even interesting. It’s a bog standard revenge flick, intercut with people talking about gun control. The performances are dull, lacking any enthusiasm or energy. Willis is the cliché quiet guy protagonist, his once sly grin from Die Hard that he cracks seems tired and depressed.
Need a generic detective? No better than Dean Norris, whose entire career has been typecast as ‘the detective’. Another wooden performance, Norris seems to be simply playing a very bored Hank Schrader from Breaking Bad. There is no stand out in the cast.
But what really kills this movie is the fact it cannot find a point to make. It forays with the ideas and arguments of gun control, but can’t seem to make any other point then ‘guns can shoot bullets’.
Occasional jokes and sly quips are thrown in, seemingly crowbarred into the movie to give it levity, but they fall astonishingly flat. The afore mentioned car kill is followed up by the line ‘I’m not going to kill you, Jack is’. Maybe in the 80’s that line may have passed, but today? It’s cringe worthy.
But it cannot find a view to follow and ends up meandering through its one hour 47 minute run time. A seemingly tired Willis kills his way to a basic conclusion, as another forgettable action film wanders off to cinema obscurity.
Verdict: The only reason anyone will remember this film is its horrid sense of timing and the only death wish here seems to be Bruce Willis’s career.