Starring Bruce Willis, Vincent D'Onofrio, Elizabeth Shue, Kimberly Elise,
Liberals (if they buy a ticket) will say Eli Roth’s new film, a remake of the 1974 Charles Bronson film Death Wish, is advocating gun violence. Conservatives will cheer at the screen as Bruce Willis character takes justice into his own hands, grinning as he splatters brains. The police and Chicago are the real losers here, it’s referred to as “The City of Death” and the police department are portrayed as buffoons and stereotypes. There is an embarrassing entertainment factor to these types of movies, Death Wish more so that usual because they spend a decent amount of time investing the audience in certain characters before they are brutally murdered. Not only is this a remake, but Death Wish feels like a gender flipped, carbon copy of Jodie Foster’s more nuanced, higher classed, sophisticated vigilante flick The Brave One (2007).
Dr. Paul Kersey (Willis) did everything right as a father, husband and citizen. He has a beautiful home, honest work, but in a flash the violence on the streets of Chicago knock on his doorstep. Forever changed, no leads to the killers, police inundated with unsolved cases, he becomes the cities silent executioner. The hooded vigilante the media call him, some worried his actions could inspire people for all the wrong reasons. Others happy he is taking out the trash. With each kill, Kersey becomes more comfortable with a gun in his hand. Little by little he works his way to the men responsible for his grief.
This is an Eli Roth film we are talking about, the guy behind Hostel II and Grindhouse. Nuance or realistic human behavior isn’t really his thing.
One of the biggest differences between Foster’s vigilante and Willis character is she showed real remorse and torment over her actions. Both, citizens touched by violence, responding in an abnormal way. He enjoys it, quickly comfortable with his decisions and relishes the impulse. Death Wish completely ignores the grief someone like Dr. Kersey would experience. The script is entirely dismissive in the psychology a normal person would be experiencing after such a loss. It’s quick to rush into the violent aspect of the film where the director finds his expertise. Of course, this is an Eli Roth film we are talking about, the guy behind Hostel II and Grindhouse. Nuance or realistic human behavior isn’t really his thing.
Death Wish certainly isn’t debuting at the right time in America, guns a touchy topic on both sides. One could argue it’s a warning to criminals that there could be a “Bruce Willis” behind every suburban door. Which might explain the need for such neck breaking, brain squirting or close ups on flesh cutting. A more plausible explanation is that Roth understands and wants to profit from American’s need for violence on screen. He also takes advantage of the ever-dwindling desensitization of blood and gore in cinema. Willis allows America’s favorite action grandpa Liam Neeson a much-needed break, as he momentarily steps back into the genre he arguably used to own.
Is Death Wish a remake of the 1974 film of the same name, or a gender flipped version of Jodie Foster’s The Brave One?