Review: Death Wish

Death Wish
7 10

PLOT: After his wife and daughter are attacked in their own home, a successful surgeon is desperate to find the guilty party. When the police investigation seemingly comes up empty, he decides to seek out a little vengeance on his own. 

REVIEW: When the original DEATH WISH arrived in theatres back in 1974, it was met with controversy from gun control advocates for its portrayal of a vigilante hero. And now, in 2018, we are likely to see yet another round of right and wrong complaints on both sides of the gun control debate. Aside from that, what the Charles Bronson classic also did was give audiences a very successful exploitation flick that led to a number of sequels. And now, with a remake written by Joe Carnahan and directed by Eli Roth, we see a slightly different take on the everyman who decides to fight back against the criminals that terrorize his city. This time it is Bruce Willis hell bent on revenge.

Paul Kersey (Willis) is a successful surgeon and a happily married husband and father. He loves his wife Lucy (Elizabeth Shue) and his daughter Jordan (Camila Morrone), even if the long hours at work keep him away far too often. However, things change one fateful night when a group of scumbags break in to their home and attack Paul’s family. Desperate and frustrated by the lack of answers from the police, Paul takes it upon himself to get a gun and try and find the culprits. As he gets deeper and deeper into the world of crime, the media and the police begin to speculate who the vigilante killer is, and how far he will go.

This was a remake I wasn’t terribly surprised to see Eli Roth take on. Considering the filmmakers' past work, this down and dirty tale of revenge seemed a perfect fit. And after viewing it, I’d still agree. Yet this isn’t your typical Roth project. While the previews may have you thinking this is a bloodbath of a movie, it is far from it. Instead, we have a surprisingly personal tale that still has a bit of humor, but it is a mostly serious affair. Another staple of Eli Roth is the gore, and there is very little of that here. Aside from a poor slob getting crushed by a car, this version is certainly violent, but very little explicit blood and guts. While toning down on the level of blood and crude humor, this may be the directors most mature work to date. It is surprisingly emotional, and in some ways it adds to what the original had to offer.

Out of all the actors that you could have placed in this role, Bruce Willis certainly seems to be an obvious choice. After starring in a series of mediocre action flicks, it is fun to see him take on this iconic role. While it was easier to appreciate a guy like Charles Bronson who didn’t necessarily look like a “tough guy” until you tested him, Willis looks like a guy that would kick your ass. Still, the actor is believable as a man who decides to take on a bunch of criminals. And while the original film is certainly a classic, the prime directive of the hero this time is a little more focused on a personal revenge story. This isn’t just a guy trying to get rid of scum, Willis is out for blood and he will do anything to go after the men that did the crime.

As a fan of this type of cinema, I’ve always had an appreciation for what Bronson brought to the action genre. And yes, the same can be said about Willis - especially his early work. With that, both films have something to offer whether you like what they have to say or not. This is especially true if you are a fan of that kind of gritty cinema. Personally I’ve always had an affinity for revenge flicks like I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and OLDBOY, so this type of exploitation feature feeds a certain movie going enjoyment in me. While DEATH WISH isn’t going to reinvent the wheel, it is a solid remake of the original with Roth at the helm.

While DEATH WISH is a remake that retains a bit of what made the original work, the personal take is an intriguing one. Willis and Roth have given us a timely - good or bad is probably going to be up to you - story of vengeance that will probably appeal to many of Roth’s fans. However, I do sort of miss the randomness of Bronson as Kersey. After all, the original film forgets about the main villains that commit the crime. They are only the catalyst that releases the beast in Kersey’s grieving family man. Roth’s is more straightforward revenge. Bronson’s story felt more palatable to your average citizen. As hard as Willis tries, he take on the character never truly feels like an everyday citizen.

While there is less of his raunchy humor and gore and the tone is quite different from the original, DEATH WISH is still a violent and satisfying feature for Roth fans. Bruce Willis is a interesting replacement for Bronson, and the rest of the cast is quite good as well. One of the brightest spots in the film is the casting of Vincent D’Onofrio as Frank Kersey. He and Willis have terrific chemistry, and the intensely talented actor manages to offer more of a viewers take on this brutal story. Some may be turned off by the message of DEATH WISH - this version is far different than what you’d find in the original 1972 novel by Brian Garfield - others will applaud it. Yet, if you are in the mood for a little bit of exploitation and vengeance, this should feed your need.

Source: JoBlo.com



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