Death WishCast: Bruce Willis, Vincent D'Onofrio, Kimberly Elise, Mike Epps, Elisabeth Shue, Dean Norris, Camila Morrone, Len Cariou, Beau Knapp, Ronnie Blevins, Kirby Blanton, Jack Kesy, Andreas Apergis, Ian Matthews, Wendy CrewsonDirector: Eli RothRating:
Eli Roth's reimagining of the 1974 revenge thriller 'Death Wish' that gave Charles Bronson a super charged and successful franchise, has Bruce Willis donning the mantle as Dr. Paul Kersey, a surgeon whose experience with Big city violence is largely confined to his ER – until his wife (Elisabeth Shue) and college-age daughter (Camila Morrone) are viciously attacked in their suburban home. It's of course a given that the Police are inept and ill-prepared to deal with this new spate of crime and so Paul has to provide the bitter medicine on his own- hunt for the assailants and deliver vigilante justice. And thereafter it's the turn of the city-folk to wonder whether this new killer is really an angel or a devil in disguise.
It feels like a shop worn path to cheap thrills. Been there, seen that, creeps in at every crucial point- so there's nothing much that's new and happening here. While there's a fair bit of inscrutable humour to lessen the weight of oppressive aggression and brutal killings, there's not much else here. Bruce Willis's performance doesn't quite fit well into the Bronson mystique. His inscrutable expressions and poker-faced, monotone dialogue delivery leaves a lot to be desired. Director Eli Roth tries to salvage the effort with some deft parlays into mayhem but it's certainly not enough to keep you glued or interested for long. The narrative fails to support the anonymous killer theory with substantive forensics and as a result belief in the theories put forth are suspect and limited at best. Roth doesn't provide enough psychological heft to the vigilante reasoning and manages to blow heavy on the sound and fury instead.
The 1972 novel by Brian Garfield, on which this film is based, was intended to highlight the futility of adopting violence as a means to achieve justice but of course Bronson's later add-ons kind-of defeated the original purpose. This one doesn't even make any effort to show it's humanity. At a time when Gun violence has taken a heavy toll on the American psyche, wouldn't it have been better if Roth had made this film as an exploration on the American need to justify keeping firearms handy? Instead, this film seems to have been largely intended to resurrect Bruce Willis flagging career in a sort-of 'Die Hard' effort but I don't really think it's going to be successful even in that!
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