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Review: Death Wish – Like watching blood dry

Death Wish

Who out there has been wishing for a remake of the 1974 film, Death Wish? Anyone? Maybe President Donald “I really believe I’d run in there, even if I didn’t have a weapon” Trump? There’s no way that 2018’s Death Wish is going to avoid controversy, given the current debate over gun control and potentially arming teachers to prevent violence in schools.

With the tragic events of Parkland, Florida, still fresh in most of the moviegoing public’s minds, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures could not have picked a more untimely release date for this new film. Of course, I’m sure there are those who will argue that the timing is perfect.

Death WishWhatever your political stance on guns, let’s first discuss the movie on its own merit. Directed by modern horror-movie maven Eli Roth, Death Wish is basically the same vigilante-genre movie we’ve seen a hundred times before – just not as good.

A pacifist man has a change of heart after his family is killed and he takes to the streets to enact vengeance on those who harm others. One ingenious twist, this time around, is to have the hero be a doctor who is tasked with saving lives, not killing. It’s an interesting concept that, if it had been explored properly – which it isn’t – could have made this a much better movie.

But instead of a thought-provoking study of violence in 21st-century America, this film is mostly a gratuitous, cringe-inducing celebration of gore and guns. To be fair, much of the audience I screened this film with was eating up the blood and guts and bullets – disturbingly so.

Charles Bronson as architect Paul Kersey is replaced by Bruce Willis, as the aforementioned doctor, and it’s not an improvement. Back in his Die Hard heyday, Willis could be fun to watch, but these days he’s the acting equivalent of watching paint dry (or blood dry, as it were).

The movie also stars Vincent D’Onofrio as Paul Kersey’s brother, Frank, who has some sort of gambling problem (or something) that is never fully explained; Elisabeth Shue as the short-lived wife of Dr. Kersey; Camila Morrone as Kersey’s spunky daughter; and Dean Norris, who seems doomed to forever play the role of Breaking Bad’s Detective Hank Schrader.

Another change this time around is having the story set against Chicago’s serious gun violence problem (versus the New York City setting from the original film). And that, in a nutshell, is this otherwise mediocre movie’s biggest failing, that it takes very serious issues and exploits them purely for entertainment purposes. #SAD!

If you are a fan of Roth’s brand of gore and have fantasies of saving the day with your concealed weapon – in a mostly monotonous manner – then you are probably going to have a blast at this movie; everyone else should wish for something better. Grade: 3/10

Photos © 2018 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.