Do you think Hollywood invented their own language using nothing but the words “remake” and “reboot”? Kind of like the seagulls from FINDING NEMO (2003) or Groot from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. Like, if you were to sit in on a studio executive meeting, all you’d hear would be, “Remake remake.” “Reboot remake.” “Remake Reboot.” And yet they’d all understand each other. Who’d be shocked?! Honestly?!
Anywho, exactly how many Death Wish originals were there? I thought I counted… four? Oh wow, there were five. And the original was based on a book. I guess the original film was sort of its own thing because the first paragraph on the Wikipedia page says,
“The film is said to stay closer to the novel, instead of following the original.”
Obviously, I have nothing to compare this movie to. I’ve neither read the book, no shock there for anyone that knows me very well, nor have I seen the original films. I’m a cinema-goer, not a film buff, so don’t crucify me, y’all.
Question, when this trailer first premiered, did anyone else think this was going to end up being another Die Hard movie? Vigilante, Bruce Willis, violence, gun toting, the markers seemed to be there. But nope, it’s a remake of another film that seems eerily similar to Die Hard.
The story looks like it’s about an average family man. Some men invade their home, kill his wife, and injure his daughter. Since the police have been unable to do anything about it, he sets out on a vigilante killing spree to avenge his family.
Here’s the cast. Starring is the big man himself, Bruce Willis, known for SPLIT (2017), LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD (2007), DIE HARD (1988), and upcoming films THE BOMBING (2018) and GLASS (2019). In support, we have Vincent D’Onofrio (CHIPS , JURASSIC WORLD , and MEN IN BLACK ), Elisabeth Shue (BATTLE OF THE SEXES ), Dean Norris (THE BOOK OF HENRY , SECRET IN THEIR EYES , and upcoming films BEIRUT  and DUKE CITY ), Beau Knapp (BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK , SOUTHPAW , and upcoming films DESTROYER  and MEASURE OF A MAN ), and Camila Morrone, known for unknown stuff.
Now for the crew. Directing is Eli Roth, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of, and the upcoming THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS (2018). Penning the screenplay is Joe Carnahan, known for SMOKIN’ ACES (2006). Composing the score is Ludwig Göransson, known for BLACK PANTHER (2018), EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING (2017), CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE (2016), and CREED (2015). The cinematographer is Rogier Stoffers, known for EVERY DAY (2018), THE DISAPPOINTMENTS ROOM (2016), and the upcoming THE HOUSE WITH THE CLOCK IN ITS WALLS. Finally, the co-editors are Mark Goldblatt (CHAPPIE , X-MEN: THE LAST STAND , THE TERMINATOR , and JUDGMENT DAY ) and Yvonne Valdez (PANDORUM ).
Overall, I’m expecting something fun and hyper violent, since it’s a Roth project.
This is my honest opinion of: DEATH WISH
Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is a doctor in Chicago, where there’s been an increase in violence. But he and his family have stayed away from it. But one fateful night, while he’s out, his wife Lucy (Elisabeth Shue) and his teenage daughter Jordan (Camila Morrone) attempt to make a birthday cake for Paul, but instead, are met with a home invasion that leaves Jordan in a coma, but Lucy murdered. Paul, in his grief, tries to let the authorities do their job, but make no leeway after some time. Frustrated from the lack of progress, he decides that he is going to take the law into his own hands and start hunting those that hurt his family, becoming the online vigilante sensation, The Grim Reaper.
Hmm… I definitely don’t hate it, but something about it prevents me from saying too many positive things about it.
The only real negative I can think of is that the tone occasionally goes all over the place. On the one hand, you’ve got a movie that’s almost trying to be a fun violent shoot-em-up while playing some rock music the bang your head to. On the other hand, it also tries to be a dark and gritty vigilante thriller with full-on NRA propaganda stapled to it. Hell, if you really want to put a question mark over the tone, there’s a scene where Jordan finally wakes up from her coma and has to learn that her mother died. That’s supposed to be heavy drama as Paul’s had God knows how long to come to terms with his loss and pain and now has to relive it not just for himself, but with his daughter. But then seemingly two quick cuts later, and we’re seeing Jordan all smiles and happy as she’s leaving the hospital. Um… way to make a pivotal and traumatic moment in a young woman’s feel like a cliff-note for the week, movie.
And is it just me, or does Willis look like he doesn’t care about being in this movie? I don’t know what it is, but I feel like a majority of his emotions are bizarrely underplayed. When his family is brought in to the hospital and he looks under the hospital blanket to see which of his ladies is dead, his reaction to seeing Lucy is closer to an “oh darn, that sucks” rather than looking down on the love of his life who has been murdered and taken from him in a brutal fashion. But… Willis has proven to be a good actor before. If I were to have a theory, it’s not the actor. Hell, it’s not even the writing this time around. I think it’s the direction.
Really consider this, Roth has only directed six feature-length films, including this one. Yes, he’s directed short films and segments of other films, like GRINDHOUSE (2007) and INGLORIOUS BASTERDS (2009), as well as a few TV shows, but out of the film’s he’s directed, only two were met with a more positive critical reception, CABIN FEVER (2002) and HOSTEL (2005). But even those aren’t exactly received in a “will be remembered for generations to come” kind of way. Everything else has been exactly what they are: gore-sploitation where the only acting required is wide eyes and screaming. I can’t attest to what KNOCK KNOCK was like, but I’m guessing it was bad writing, therefore, bad acting. So, what do you get when you take a director who is not known for his dramatic work and give him something dramatic to work with? I think you get this movie. At the end of the day, this movie is supposed to be about a suffering husband and father, wrestling with what justice really means. Someone like James McTeigue, director of V FOR VENDETTA (2005), might be more suited as the emotions and ideas within the violence and action were very much present throughout that movie. It’s almost like Willis was told, “Eh, just react to your wife’s death, we’re just trying to get to the fun bloody stuff.” Hey, for all I know, and very likely so, I’m just talking out of my ass. Maybe Roth is a fine director, and Willis has just lost his touch. No matter which way, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Give credit where credit is due, though, the action scenes are deliciously violent and satisfying. Knowing that kids who are just trying to walk to school through a shady neighborhood have to work for a local criminal, who will shoot kids if they don’t work for him, getting his comeuppance by getting shot in his chair is particularly cheer-worthy. When a car crushes a dude’s skull and his brains and general gore make the ground look like a bowl of red chunky soup, I’d be lying if I didn’t get a sick amount of enjoyment from it. In general, when a bad guy dies, it feels good. So I give this movie that much.
I also enjoyed the family connection these characters had. I saw a loving father and husband, I like how Jordan interacted with Lucy and Frank, brief as they were, and if there’s any time I thought Willis was genuinely good in the movie was when he was acting alongside D’Onofrio. So really, my favorite actor in this movie might be D’Onofrio, who seems to always give 110 percent, followed by Shue, Morrone, and what the hell, Dean Norris as Detective Raines.
Beyond all this, the movie isn’t anything special. A standard revenge story with an inconsistent tone. Not the worst, not the best. If you’re simply in the mood to see Willis run around and kill people who deserve it, maybe this’ll be satisfying enough, but this is about as lukewarm a recommendation that I can give. If you want to see it in theaters, go for matinee pricing, or a discount day. I more recommend this as a rental than anything else. There’s some fun to be had, plenty of stupidity too, so it’s really up to you guys. How far would you go to see a standard action-revenge flick?
My honest rating for DEATH WISH: 3/5
PS: Eager to see if this movie did the book any justice? Then click the image below and head on over to Amazon and pick up your copy of the 1972 book to compare and contrast.