You know what? I enjoyed the new remake of DEATH WISH. I also think it is Eli Roth’s best film. So sue me. And yes, I’ve seen all of Eli Roth’s films, and I’ve seen the original Death Wish and I’ve also seen The Brave One, which was a halfassed attempt at trying to say a movie was not a remake of Death Wish by giving it a different title and casting Jodie Foster in the vigilante role. And if you’ve read the original novel, you know that the original Death Wish isn’t even a faithful adaptation. I’m going to throw an even more controversial ember into this fire I’m creating. I don’t even think the original is that much of a classic outside of Charles Bronson’s performance. There I said it. In the original, *spoiler warning*, he doesn’t even go after or find the original killers that killed his wife and hurt his daughter. So needless to say, this Death Wish is completely different from both the novel, the original film, and the hidden remake of The Brave One. And this is the one I enjoyed the most.
And I know, most critics that have seen it haven’t enjoyed it, but I think that is mostly due to the fact that they think the film is ill timed, which it sort of is but that didn’t get in the way of my movie watching experience. The movie has a lot to say actually on how stupidly easy it is to buy a gun in America. One whole scene is a joke about it. And there is a shit load of gun violence, commentary on the police and their lack of response, commentary on being a vigilante, etc. And I know what happened three weeks ago and thinking about it saddens me but this movie was originally was supposed to be released in late November near Thanksgiving, but they moved it because that weekend was already overcrowded with 6 other films. This weekend its only competition is another R rated movie Red Sparrow (review on Sunday). So I pushed all that to the side, and let’s push that out of the way and get to my real review.
I thought the movie was a lot of fun, well directed by Roth, and Bruce Willis gives his best performance since Looper, basically because it looks like he actually wanted to film this. Bruce Willis breaks down in tears two to three times in this movie, with one emotional scene with Vincent O’Donofrio, who plays his brother, and I was mouthing, “Oh My God, is this what is feels like to watch Bruce Willis actually try giving a damn and acting?” He was quite good. At the beginning of the film, I was nervous because he seemed to be bringing with him his phoned in VOD performances of the last couple of years, but then once his family is gunned down his performance goes completely 180, and he actually plays a grieving widowed doctor with vengeance in his heart. I think that might have been director Eli Roth’s intention. Let’s make them think Bruce Willis will phone it in, and then about 20 minutes into the film punch them in the nuts. If that’s the case, it worked.
Seeing Bruce Willis be the good guy and take the law into his own hands and shoot and kill and cut open and torture really bad people was just fun to watch. Eli Roth knows his audience and who comes to see his films, so there is a little horror blood and gore here and there just to wink and satisfy his fans. A scene where Willis is cutting open a major nerve to torture a bad guy is very cringe worthy and hard to watch but the payoff visuals are beautiful. Eli Roth also directs a club shoot out really really well. It seems like he wanted to make this film and took his time actually planning what he was going to shoot and how to shoot it. Good for him. Because like I said earlier, it is easily his best film.
The acting is good all around. I already talked about Willis giving a wanting to be there and trying performance. Vincent O’Donofrio playing his brother was actually quite good here too and the best thing I’ve seen him in since Netflix’s The Punisher. Elizabeth Shue plays the scared and tortured and eventually killed (not a spoiler, it’s in the trailers) wife really well and the girl that plays the daughter is good in the scenes she is in. Dean Norris and Kimberly Elise play two detectives trying to help solve everything, and even though Norris gave off his Breaking Bad character vibe, he was still good to watch as well.
To me, even though I thought it was better, for those that hold the original near to their hearts, it is a harmless remake. It is completely different, and the only thing that stands the same between the two is Brosnan and Willis doing that finger pistol thing they do at the end of the films. This is a more personal movie as Willis is actually trying to find the people that did this to his family while also being a vigilante. It was different enough to be enjoyable. It isn’t one of the years best films, and won’t be by a long shot. Just a guilty pleasure, with much much worse films and much much worse remakes and reboots out there.