Posted Apr 10 2018

Death Wish - This Movie Disappointingly Does Not Rock

Dir: Eli Roth

Starring Bruce Willis, Vincent D'Onofrio, Elizabeth Shue, Camila Morrone, Dean Norris

The big question is – how could Eli Roth, a man who all but invented torture porn, take a movie so potentially white hot and button pushing as a remake of the 1974 controversy-baiting ultra violent exploitation classic Death Wish, and deliver a movie as anodyne as this? Now was the perfect time for a look at a society in collapse and the rise of a brutal vigilante as murderous folk hero, a chance to examine the nature and social ills of the world we live in today. Instead, we get Bruce Willis continuing a downward spiral that is now almost on par with Nic Cage – but with none of the fun mental bits. This is a film that needed to be brutal and sleazy as all hell. It disappointingly has no intention of being either.

Willis plays Paul Kersey, now a surgeon as opposed to Charles Bronson’s architect in the Michael Winner original. Roth shies away from the unpleasantness of Winner’s film by having the early murder of Kersey’s wife happen off screen and the former sexual assault of his daughter reduced to her leg briefly being stroked. (Plus, she ends up in a coma so we just know there’s a happy ending on the way.) After that, Kersey embraces his dark side by going off and shooting bad guys in the street (and never being caught on CCTV or anyone’s phone because – Yes! – he’s wearing a hoodie!), but Willis’ less than dynamic performance never appears to more from his very precise tune of one note only.

Similarly, Roth seems to have put a muzzle on his own worse habits, (which would have been welcome here.) There is little in the way of the sadistic brutality that Winner and Bronson brought to the original. Even when the film tackles the notion of how modern media and social media link into the events that follow, at best the film lightly points, rather than aggressively pokes. It’s more like both the film and Willis are the ones in the coma, not the daughter. And Roth also harbours no time for any level of absurdism, something he made such good use of in the utterly daft but hugely entertaining Knock, Knock.

Death Wish should have been an arse-kicking hark back to the glory days of exploitation cinema. Instead it looks like an old fashioned, de-fanged, utterly underwhelming B-movie. Or in short – rubbish.



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