Death Wish – Review

Hot garbage – now with added guns.

This remake of the popular 1974 film has Bruce Willis in the Charles Bronson role – except this time he’s a doctor not an architect – and horror-loving Eli Roth takes on the directing. I’d actually like to watch the original Death Wish for comparison, having never seen it, but that’s a post for another time.

Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) turns vigilante after his family are attacked in his home. And that’s about it really. What? You want more? Forget it. If you couldn’t fill in the blanks already, he shoots a lot of bad people and seemingly comes off happier for having done so.

The big talking point here, whether they like it or not, is America’s fascination with guns. Who should have ‘em, and who shouldn’t? And somehow the film ends up sitting on the fence for most of the story, but has to plump for the right to bear arms to give the viewer a satisfying finish. Throughout, we see radio hosts (why radio?) discuss the pros and cons of what Kersey is doing, though it’s loaded by an initial shot at the police for not being able to prevent the rising number of shootings.

This shouldn’t really be a political film, but the mass shootings recently have pushed the debate on gun control to the forefront more than ever. Even in the UK, where we see a rising death toll in the capital, it’s quite obvious that more guns aren’t the answer – it’s education and community work, which is only mentioned in passing as part of the radio montage once. A bright-eyed gun shop worker makes some scenes feel like the NRA must have had a hand in this film, but in fairness there is a jab at how easy it is for people to get guns as she whispers “there is a safety test, but don’t worry, no one ever fails!”

‘It feels wrong to have this in cinemas, because at best, this is a straight-to-DVD affair’


On to the actual meat of the film then, and Bruce Willis is once again grumping his way around, this time in Chicago. It’s hard to believe he was cast to be a kindly surgeon who bumbles his way through shootings, as he just isn’t that type. This needed to be a grittier take on things to get Willis involved, and even he’s admitted he only does this type of movie for the paycheck these days. Where he’s at his best is in films like Moonrise Kingdom, Sin City and Unbreakable, playing more complex characters. Here, it feels like he’s wearing a mask of his own face throughout.

What might have been interesting is Kersey hunting down the perps a little more, but things just conveniently fall into place. The cops on the other hand (Hank from Breaking Bad finding himself a little typecast here) appears to figure out who the hooded vigilante is, but also presents no threat to Kersey’s plans. Of course, the film is based on a book, and I have no idea how well this matches up, but I suspect it is way off anyway, so why not spruce up the intrigue a little more?

There is little peril to be had, and Eli Roth just can’t resist adding a little torture porn into what could be a more philosophical film. All manner of violence is played out in fairly tame ways for a Roth film, which means there isn’t even a shock value and the deaths don’t really matter.

On top of this, there are terrible moments of editing and shooting which had me rolling my eyes every five minutes. One moment Willis is slouched on the sofa, but when it cuts back a millisecond later he’s sitting forward as if he was always like that. There are so many examples of continuity errors and bad shot choices that I can’t be bothered to type out. Even some of the plotting is bad. For instance, when a gang member is wheeled into the hospital and gun falls from his jacket, Kersey kicks it under the trolley and somehow managed to walk out of the room with it. It feels wrong to have this in cinemas, because at best, this is a straight-to-DVD affair.

The music constantly has train-like noise for no reason, perhaps it’s part of the tentative tie to Kerseys background of riding the subway? Who knows, maybe Roth just heard a train and liked it. The score also attempts to crank up tension with violin work that belongs in a horror-thriller – which this certainly ain’t! Whatever they were going for, it missed the mark by a long way.

One final note: this film attracted the worst audience I’ve sat with for a while. Several people took actual phone calls in their seats, and people were constantly talking amongst themselves. Make of that what you will, but clearly those people and this terrible movie deserved each other.


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