It’s really hard to discuss the DEATH WISH remake without mentioning its not so subtle commentary on gun control and violence. Or maybe it isn’t really a commentary and was never meant to be one, but is rather the result of awkward timing. While the movie’s theatrical release was a bit too soon after the high school shooting in Parkland, FL, the producers behind DEATH WISH couldn’t predict that. At this point, there would be no good timing for a release date as it seems that every week is another gun related tragedy that sparks national debates.
Yes, there’s been plenty of action movies prior to DEATH WISH that feature plenty of gun violence. Bruce Willis has made a money making machine out of being an action star, but the film takes the time to make the audience watch how easy it is to get ahold of firearms and learn how to use them. First, let’s get to the premise and how this all ties together.
For those unfamiliar with the Charles Bronson original, there’s no need to visit it unless you’re simply looking for a better movie. Aside from the basic vigilante premise, the two movies are very different experiences. Willis plays Paul Kersey, a Chicago doctor whose wife and daughter get attacked during a home invasion while he’s at work. The police have no luck in finding justice so Kersey decides to take matters into his own hands. He comes across a gun, dropped by a patient so it can’t be traced to him. His first victory in unknowingly taped on a smartphone goes viral. With a hoodie hiding his identity, he becomes a news item and is known as Chicago’s Grim Reaper. This turns him into a Batman like figure for the city and the morale comes into play of whether what he is doing is right or wrong.
Director Eli Roth has created a reputation for himself, bringing to the big screen extreme gore and violence with not so smart teenagers who put themselves in not so smart scenarios. It started with a gruesome virus in Cabin Fever, but he hit the top of the box office with his Hostelfranchise. His name often indicates to fans what they’re in for and is an interesting, but logical choice for the director of this remake. His take, however, is quite tame compared to not only his previous work, but the original Death Wish.
The Bronson original spawned a franchise that began with a gritty look at revenge when his family becomes victims of a sexual assault in which the camera doesn’t shy away from. Roth tends to go for the extreme in his films, but completely avoids any similar assault and goes for a couple gun shots instead. Also, Bronson was a cop gone rogue, whereas Willis is supposed to be an everyday man who becomes a killer. While Willis is without a doubt an extremely talented actor and can tackle all sorts of roles, his performance in DEATH WISH can be cringe worthy at times. His character executes his revenge in elaborate set ups that one sees in slasher flicks. He learns how to shoot a gun via YouTube videos and it’s played off almost as a parody. What this movie is trying to make a point of is unclear.
DEATH WISH plays it way too straight to be a fun watch, but also makes a joke out of gun control that leaves one feeling uncomfortable. Maybe some post editing would’ve helped get some message or theme across. It’s not pro gun because it’s making fun of how easy it is to get one and use it. It’s also not against guns as they serve as the primary method of killing and make up for most of the action sequences, which are filmed in a way to raise the testosterone of a teenage boy.
DEATH WISH is now available on 4K Ultra HD and on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD. Filled to the brim with commentary, deleted scenes, and more, consider giving DEATH WISH to your badass Dad this Father’s Day.