Death Wish (2018) Review


Wishing I was asleep

So here’s a powder keg ready to blow: a remake of the 1974 Charles Bronson-led film that popularized the modern concept of vigilante films, i.e. performing brutal acts of violence upon a conga line of criminals, in an age where gun control and extrajudicial killing in the United States are hot button issues. The room for potential exploration of difficult concepts is about as wide the controversy surrounding this film’s release in the wake of yet another mass shooting in a school…considering the fact this was supposed to come out last October were it not for the Las Vegas mass shooting. Nonetheless, perhaps this film is exactly what we need in a certain way. After all, the original Death Wish was itself an exploration on the differences between liberals and conservatives on the issue of gun ownership besides discussing the concept of vigilantism. And hey, if nothing else, maybe the director renowned for pushing the envelope in the realm of violence (the Hostel movies), would be the ideal choice for something memorable. Sadly, any iota of potential was pissed away down a storm drain and we’re left with what might be one of the frustrating films I’ve seen so far in 2018.

“The safe word is ‘Bronson'”

For this version of the story, we have Dr. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) living an idyllic life as a successful surgeon and family man to his wife (Elisabeth Shue) and his daughter, Jordan (Camila Morrone). Unfortunately for Dr. Kersey, a trio of burglars raid his home while he’s at work, and they end up killing his wife and leaving Jordan in a coma. While the lead detective on the assault, Raines (Dean Norris), assures the good doctor the police force of Chicago are doing everything they can to solve his wife’s murder; Kersey remains unconvinced. Soon thereafter, against the wishes of his brother (Vincent D’Onofrio), Kersey finds himself a gun and begins carrying out vigilante justice on a random mugger and a drug dealer earning him the unoriginal nickname of “the Grim Reaper.” While the cops begin to look into Kersey’s extracurricular activities, the doctor finds by chance a clue into the assault and begins to search for the invaders of his home to deal with them on his own terms.

“I mean come on, I’m walking around a city with one of the highest homicide rates in the country in a hoodie, what could possibly go wrong?”

That description may be the most boilerplate and generic description I could write for any odd vigilante film, but its emblematic of my issues with this remake. See, the film does the bare minimum to update itself from its predecessor in merely changing the profession of our protagonist and simply shooting the wife and daughter as opposed to a brutal sexual assault like the original and its various sequels had. But these are mere vestigial differences that do not separate the film from its source material, while other changes neuter any teeth the original 1974 film may have had. For those unaware, Charles Bronson’s character never finds the criminals who invaded his home nor indeed does he even make the attempt to find them. It was a purposeful decision on part of the filmmakers to show their protagonist’s slow descent into madness as he becomes obsessed to taking the law into his own hands, even as the initiating spark faded into his memory. But the 2018 version instead wants to be both an origin story for an anti-hero AND it wants to be a revenge tale. I guess most people would have been satisfied with such a rote plot, but unfortunately for everyone involved, the film just can’t be arsed to excite in either capacity.

This mostly comes down to the action being an absolute chore to get through. It’s not the fun kind of nonstop, visceral violence but the weak and ineffectual kind of low budget affair with poorly choreographed gunfights that the film is only peppered with. You’d think that from the mind of Eli Roth we would be entreated to some brutal and gory kills throughout the entire production, but there’s really only one kill in the whole film that could come close to triggering your gag reflex. And it’s such a quick shot that if you blink, you will indeed miss the so-called money shot. The rest of the violence against criminals are limited to mere shots to the head and chest with some bad makeup and digitally added blood. Oh but one dude gets a bowling ball to fall on top of him! That’s…some Home Alone bullshit. And it didn’t even yield a gory kill, you just a hear crack and our hero leaves the scene of a clumsy-ass accident.

There’s really no way I could write this without coming across as a violence-obsessed psychotic, but come the hell on. This is supposed to be DEATH WISH, it’s the patient zero for violent revenge fantasies; of which, we have about a dozen of every few years. If you fail to give me a decent action scene, then my mind will wander to those who did the same thing but even better: your John Wicks, your Punishers, and yes even, Atomic Blonde all have way more exciting displays of action and horrific acts on your fellow man that I have to seriously ponder what the hell the point of this remake even is. Because if you came in looking for some hardcore action, you are in for some sorry disappointment. And if you came looking for Bruce Willis to excite you, oh man do I have some bad news.

“I’m a real boy, I swear”

Aside from a thoughtful scene where Willis has to portray some emotion following the death of his wife, Brucie boy is absolutely lifeless in this trite. He has the same blank expression from beginning to end, and rarely ever taps into rage, happiness, sadness or indeed any other emotion that would give the impression that he was a human friggin being. Worst part about him is that you’re basically stuck with Willis for the majority of the film piece, so you’ll be entreated to his monotone delivery of lines in between tonally off soundtrack choices. Not like anyone else in the cast fairs any better, Norris is basically continuing his shtick from Breaking Bad and D’Onofrio disappears for a good 45 minutes that you forget he’s in the damn film before it contrives a reason to be in Bruce Willis’ life. Even the cackling villains are some generic cannon fodder that I couldn’t possibly muster the effort necessary to Wikipedia the actors’ names, that’s how goddamn forgettable they are.

So I know what you’re thinking: “Alright, the action is garbage, Bruce Willis sucks, and Eli Roth barely had the energy to enliven up the procedure with some entrails…maybe the political controversy surrounding this debacle would give us something to talk about?” Ah yes, yet another film attracting outrage in order to attract some crusaders trying to “make a statement,” because it worked so well for Ghostbusters (2016). But whereas that remake was alright, THIS remake is a veritable snooze-fest that any far-right, NRA-backed dipshits won’t be able to see this insipid nonsense on account they’ll be too busy snoring around the 25-minute mark. This is doubly frustrating since the original 1974 film took its time to bring up gun rights talking points in a reserved matter. You might agree or disagree with what’s said in that link, but it’s at the very least it’s something. This worthless remake features two lines about “defending what’s yours” and very briefly discusses the ease of purchasing firearms. That’s your lot before the film cuts to Bruce Willis at a makeshift target range while some cock rock or hip-hop plays in the background.

“On one hand, at least we don’t have to wait for some nasty debates in internet comments. On the other, a decent dickhead fumigation is always in order”

I’ve honestly mucked around in my head to say something positive about the movie and I’m really failing to find anything worth checking this out for. If you want a good violent action film starring a man who lost his family, then check out any version of The Punisher, from the three wildly different films to the very solid Netflix show. At least the latter has the damn good sense to feature a thoughtful discussion on the plight of veterans and the effects of PTSD in between all the carnage. Death Wish (2018) does not feature any nuanced discussion besides “better get a gun to defend your home” and it even fails to provide anything cool to watch. When I see a silly comedy has more thrilling action moments than a Rated-R production from a troll who’s constantly grinning about all the blood he features in his film, you know something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

I’m giving this a low rating not because I vehemently disagree with its subject matter, but because even for what it is, the movie fails to entertain on even a basic level. I don’t even have the energy to keep this around on my bottom ten list because I will forget this film even existed a week from now. This is…


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