Death Wish review
A movie about a gun-wielding vigilante? Perhaps not the best movie to put out with the recent mass shootings…or maybe if it at least had something to say about that and the state of gun use in modern America. To back up a bit, today's movie is the remake of Death Wish. That movie too was about Charles Bronson as a vigilante who kills common crooks with a pistol. While we have a lot of these movies (I guess the people that make these movies have never seen Hobo With a Shotgun), the original movie did come at a time in which urban crime rates were at a dangerous level, especially in New York.
For the sake of fairness, I won't criticize the movie for coming out at a bad time, as that doesn't really go with the context of the film's story. All that matters is whether Death Wish is entertaining or even trying update it's themes in a more controversial period. There are a lot of ways this could have gone and even has Eli Roth in the director's chair. Alas, taking the timing out of the way, Death Wish isn't just a bad remake, but stands on it's own as a poor movie in every way.
Chicago surgeon Paul Kersey (played by Bruce Willis) seems to have a nice life; a loving wife whose about to become a doctor Lucy (played by Elisabeth Shue), a college bound daughter Jordan (played by Camila Morrone) and a supportive brother Frank (played by Vincent D'Onofrio). On his birthday, Paul is forced to come to work, canceling his family's plans to go out. Lucy and Jordan intend to surprise him with a small birthday dinner, but thieves break in and everything goes wrong. Paul is horrified to discover that the thieves killed his wife, injured his daughter into a coma, and managed to steel from his safe.
Police detective Kevin Raines (played by Dean Norris) does his best, but can't seem to find any clue to who the thieves are. Paul eventually tries to walk the streets himself to find his assailants. This leads him to acquiring a gun and taking on several criminals, making him a vigilante that the media dubs "Grim Reaper". This creates a lot of controversy with the public, as some see him as a hero while others seem him as violating the law.
I guess we can start with the fact that Death Wish is just your standard revenge thriller. In fact, while watching it, I couldn't believe just how by the book the plot was. I won't spoil it, but you are not in for surprises. In fact, I kept thinking that had this had more jokes, this could easily pass for a parody of a revenge thriller.
Now I've always liked Bruce Willis, but this is another sleepwalk performance. You do get what you expect, but this is a lot like his lower tier action movies. At least with Die Hard, you get the sense he was an average cop. In Sixth Sense, he was a tormented psychologist. In Death Wish, he's just Bruce Willis. To his credit, everyone else seems to be giving a "I don't care" performance.
So this is where I blame Eli Roth. Whether you like his gritty horror movies, he's a director who still has a visual voice. Death Wish has the distinct of a Styrofoam cup; bland and something you see a hundred of. I would have at least thought the action would be gritty. But no, the gritty elements (the surgeries and healing) have little to do with the overall story.
I'll give this half a used target out of five. Death Wish lives up to it's title; it doesn't care about anything and is willing to die even without care. If this doesn't care about offering something entertaining, then why should I or anyone else? Either coming out now, five years earlier or two years later, there would have never been a good time for this Death Wish. Just kill it and move on to something better.