Directed by: Eli Roth
Run Time: 1h 47min
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
3 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
Death Wish is nothing if not intense. We open on 911 calls and statistics of crime rates that plague the city of Chicago. Most of the violence being reported, on TV stations, radio stations and other types of media, is due to guns which tells me one thing… there’s a clear message being made in the film and from the trailer to this smack in the face opening, it’s definitely not hidden.
Bruce Willis plays Dr. Paul Kersey who works as a surgeon in a Chicago hospital that cares for many of the wounded from this gun violence. He sees it every shift. He saves most victims, he loses some, but he isn’t prepared for who’s about to be in the operating room next.
A scene set up a little earlier than our meeting his character is our introduction to his wife Lucy (Shue) and daughter Jordan (Morrone) who are stalked by a valet and his accomplices who break into their home, demanding money and anything else of value. It’s a jarring scene and though director Eli Roth, more known for horror films such as Hostel and Cabin Fever, spares us the visuals, he doesn’t let us out of being terrified out of our wits for Lucy and her only child who are about to suffer for no reason but being present during a burglary. The scene is primed well enough that we’re vested in Lucy and Jordan when we’re there alone with them, fighting for Jordan’s innocence and fighting for both of their lives.
After the scene, we move to the hospital and are with Paul who is leaving one hospital room, ready to go to the next. Unaware of who has been brought into the operating room, he’s encouraged not to go in and is told the horrific news. Luckily, his daughter survives the home invasion, but her mother does not.
Jordan is in a coma when Paul buries her mother. While there, an idea is planted in his mind. The basic idea of which is that the police can’t stop a crime from happening if they’re not there when it happens. He vows to not only find the men who did this to his family but to be there for others… unlike the police.
This is different from the 1974 Death Wish movies that starred Charles Bronson. The concept is the same, but it has been totally modernized to fit more of what the U.S. is going through today versus what it was facing in the 1970’s. That difference is appreciated in Roth’s flair for gore and his creativity when it comes to ending human life and it’s represented here quite well. You won’t be disappointed.
He also shows the American audience how easy it is to get a gun, no matter where you are and who you are. It’s a scary thought, as much as the film’s premise is. If you have the money… you have a weapon. No problem.
After Paul decides to take matters into his own hands, he arms himself, throws on a hoodie and walks the streets. When he sees a crime in progress, he steps in. When necessary, he kills with as much ease as he does with saving lives in the operating room. Soon, as you suspect would happen, a witness to his heroism captures him on video, which she immediately uploads to the internet. The video, of course, goes viral. Memes of him are created! Though he’s killing people by being judge, jury and executioner, there’s no question to their guilt so he doesn’t carry any himself. At this point, he’s being called the Grim Reaper. He smiles at the irony of it all.
I’ll give it to you straight. It’s fun. If you were a big fan of the original film, don’t go into this thinking you’re going to find Bronson. As I stated, this isn’t the same movie. If you like Roth and Bruce Willis, there are plenty of reasons to see this. It’s filled with cringe-worthy moments and, believe it or not, the script has some flashes of comedy which make the film worth seeing even more but I would say this is more for home viewing or a save for matinee. It’s not the ‘must-see on opening weekend’ film of the year. It’s exciting, the cast is excellent and it’s well put together but nothing you haven’t necessarily seen before.