Cast: Bruce Willis, Vincent D’Onofrio, Dean Norris, Kimberly Elise
Director: Eli Roth
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures presents director Eli Roth’s reimagining of the 1974 revenge thriller Death Wish. Dr. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is a surgeon who only sees the aftermath of his city’s violence when it is rushed into his ER – until his wife (Elisabeth Shue) and college-age daughter (Camila Morrone) are viciously attacked in their suburban home. With the police overloaded with crimes, Paul, burning for revenge, hunts his family’s assailants to deliver justice. As the anonymous slayings of criminals grabs the media’s attention, the city wonders if this deadly avenger is a guardian angel or a grim reaper. Fury and fate collide in the intense action-thriller Death Wish. Paul Kersey becomes a divided person: a man who saves lives, and a man who takes them; a husband and father trying to take care of his family, and a shadowy figure fighting crime; a surgeon extracting bullets from suspects’ bodies, and a man seeking justice that detectives are quickly closing in on.
If you are looking for a bloody, unoriginal shoot-em-up remake with perennial action star Bruce Willis, then Death Wish is the movie for you. Death Wish takes the worst elements of a B-level action movie but tries to add an element of morality that does not make any sense.
The plot revolves around Dr. Paul Kersey (Willis) who is in a period of grief after a home invasion results in his daughter (Camila Morrone) being in a coma and his wife (Elisabeth Shue) being killed by the robbers. Kersey eventually turns his grief into a feeling of vengeance as he makes it his goal to find the men who did this and punish those who are involved in violent crime. This is where the message of the film starts to fall apart. The film justifies Kersey’s actions by saying that any man has the right to defend himself and his family. I agree with that in principle, but the actions that Kersey takes go far beyond that of actions that are just for defense. If someone comes into your home and you have to kill them in defense of your family, I complete understand. It is when you go out of your way to hunt someone down and kill them is where that line is blurred. Shooting someone at point-blank range when they are no longer a threat is not something I would consider to be self-defense. If you want to movie that shows off cool guns and splatters blood all over the place, that is completely fine, but do not try to make this into an issue of morality when your lead character is clearly in the wrong at some points. Moving on to the acting, most of the dialogue is cheesier than a dairy farm in Green Bay. Willis is given nothing but corny one-liners straight from a 1980’s action movie. The difference though is that unlike movies with Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone, this film has no charm or charisma. I let these lines slide when Schwarzenegger says them, because I enjoy watching him in movies. Bruce Willis just is not likable enough to pull these lines off, and the drop in quality is apparent. These issues are not just apparent in Willis’s character, but also with the detectives (Norris and Elise) in charge of finding out who broke into Kersey’s house. In one scene, these two are interviewing Kersey about a potential lead in the case, and they do not notice that Kersey is wearing one of the watches he reported stolen but picked off one of the people who died in his emergency room. How do you not notice someone has a multi-thousand watch on, especially when you are explicitly looking for that watch? I think these two are supposed to represent the idea that the police will only do so much and sometimes a man needs to take matters into his own hands, but there is a fine line between incompetent and ridiculous and these two characters are on the ridiculous side. Top this off with a villain (Beau Knapp) that is neither compelling or interesting and you have a movie that goes nowhere for 107 minutes.
Overall, this movie knows its target demographic and hits on many of the clichés that appeal to that group. It absolutely has the Eli Roth touch to it with the amount of gore and violence throughout, so anyone who likes his style of film will enjoy Death Wish. If this film did not try to take the moral high ground, then I probably would not have had such a strong reaction towards, but its pandering and self-righteousness make a film I wish had never been remade.
Overall Score: 2/10