Death Wish follows Dr. Paul Kersey, a family man who has always played by the rules. That is, until his wife and daughter are brutally attacked in a home invasion gone horribly wrong. Now, with nothing to lose and an axe to grind, the good doctor sets out on a revenge spree with the intent of cleaning up the streets of Chicago.
When I first saw the trailer for this update of the 1974 classic, I was less than impressed. I even suggested that it looked like like a smarmy, and unnecessary cash grab. But, I am happy to admit when I am wrong and this is one of those times. That’s not to say that the remake is without its issues, but it is much better than I’d originally pegged it after watching the trailer.
The redux stars Bruce Willis (The Sixth Sense), Vincent D’Onofrio (Sinister), Kimberly Elise (Set it Off), Mike Epps (Resident Evil: Apocalypse), Elisabeth Shue (Hollow Man), and Dean Norris (Breaking Bad).
The performances are all serviceable, with Willis as the vigilante killer being the best of the bunch. The biggest problem I had in that regard was that the onscreen chemistry wasn’t always there. I love Elisabeth Shue (Adventures in Babysitting, Hollow Man) but she felt tragically miscast as Dr Kersey’s wife. There was nothing wrong with her performance. But, their connection never felt realistic. Relative newcomer Camila Morrone is slightly more believable as Willis’s onscreen daughter. But, their on-screen chemistry, nonetheless, left something to be desired.
I did really like seeing Kimberly Elise (Set it Off) as a homicide detective alongside Dean Norris (Breaking Bad). With one of her most famous screen roles seeing her firmly on the other side of the law, it was a welcome change of pace to see her as an officer of the law. Dean Norris has played a police officer more times than I can count. So, while it was a bit of type casting, he plays the role well and was believable, as per usual.
In spite of the issues I had with some of the casting choices, I really enjoyed the movie as a whole. Joe Carnahan’s (The Grey) screenplay did a nice job of staying true to certain tenets of the original while ultimately standing on its own. There are ample nods to the 1974 film but the redux rarely feels redundant. In short: The finished product is recognizable as existing in the same space as its predecessor but without coming across as a cheap imitation.
The one thing I wish had carried over from the original that didn’t is the tone. The 1974 Charles Bronson vehicle has a very gritty feel to it. Whereas, the redux abandons the grindhouse vibe of its predecessor for a more sterile approach. While this comes down to a matter of personal preference, I was a little shocked that Eli Roth wasn’t more inclined to go with a darker, grittier aesthetic given his affinity for and tendency to take influence from the films of the grindhouse era.
Despite having a more sanitary aesthetic than its predecessor, Death Wish is not without its fair share of onscreen violence. It’s restrained for an Eli Roth film but by all other standards, there is plenty of the red stuff flying and there are some truly horrifying death sequences. Gore hounds will likely not be disappointed.
Ultimately, Death Wish is a fun exercise in escapist cinema. It’s not trying to solve any of life’s big problems and it isn’t trying to be overly cerebral. However, I always welcome the opportunity to see Bruce Willis tearing shit up in an action packed romp. And that’s precisely what this is. If it’s a shoot ’em up tale of vigilante justice you seek, that is precisely what you will get with Death Wish. The film is now available on Blu-Ray, DVD, and DigitalHD.
WICKED RATING: 6.5/10
Director(s): Eli Roth
Writer(s): Joe Carnahan
Stars: Bruce Willis, Camila Morrone, Elisabeth Shue, Vincent D’Onofrio, Kimberly Elise, Dean Norris
Release: June 5 (Blu-Ray and DVD)
Studio/ Production Co: MGM
Budget: $30 Million (Estimated)
Length: 1 Hour and 47 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Action, Revenge