Death Wish: Film Review
Cast: Bruce Willis, Elisabeth Shue, Dean Norris,Vincent D'Onofrio, Camilla Morrone
Director: Eli Roth
It's hard to imagine a worse time to release a film about a guy righting wrongs with the power of a gun.
Certainly in the US, where thanks to the Parklands School shooting, the issue of gun control and the debate around it has never been stronger or more pertinent.
But horror wunderkind Eli Roth has taken on the mantle of the remake of the Charles Bronson 1974 vigilante revenge flick.
On his birthday eve, he's called to work, and forced to leave his vivacious wife (Shue, whose brief time on screen lights up the grubby sheen) and soon-to-depart-for-college daughter (Morrone) behind.
Things take a turn for the worse when criminals break in, leaving both victims of gunshots - and they're transported to the local ER.....
As the police investigate the crime, and murder, Kersey finds he has no choice but to take justice into his own hands.
Eli Roth's Death Wish is a tame, somnambulant take on the revenge thriller.
Its main problem is that it's generic, watered down and blessed with a lead who barely offers a level of emotion that engages throughout. Even though it wants to clear be a pro-NRA film that promotes the message of one man making a difference with his gun.
It also doesn't help that it squanders any chance of moral discussion, preferring briefly to flirt with the morality of whether it's wrong or right (largely through the aforementioned DJs and a line that asks whether it's good a white man is on the streets shooting black people).
Preferring to tick the boxes of a training montage, some shots of laughable violence and extreme blood splatters from close up, this 2018 version of Death Wish, from writer Joe Carnahan, appears to squander the grubbiness of the 80s revenge flicks that continued to offer vicarious thrills thanks to varying levels of violence.
While Death Wish can be commended for not putting its hoodie clad Grim Reaper into a series of shoot-outs that glamourises gun crime, its desire to avoid any of the intellectual moments that could have made it more contemporary is a major disappointment.
Police action and inaction is laughable, and while Norris' biggest sense of debate comes over a low fat diet rather than conflict over when his suspicions fall into place. The lack of moral turpitude in the film stands out like a sore thumb, especially in times of Trumpian inaction, enraging gun debate and woefully inadequate policy.
The biggest disappointment is Willis - there's only one scene toward the end which shows him remotely engaging with the material, rather than sleep-walking throughout. It's a shocking reminder of what's missing during the rest of the film - a hero whose conflict is articulated by himself rather than others around him.
Ultimately, the non-exploitation 2018 version of Death Wish is a muddled, mistaken, and misshapen attempt at a remake - lacking any contemporary feel and any directorial flair, it sticks out like a sore thumb.
But for all the wrong reasons.