Death Wish

Year: 2018
Production Co: Cave 76
Director: Eli Roth
Writer: Joe Carnahan
Cast: Bruce Willis, Vincent D'Onofrio, Elizabeth Shue, Camila Morrone, Beau Knapp, Dean Norris, Kimberley Elise

I was reminded a little bit of the 2013 remake of Evil Dead while watching this. Just like the way that film took the bare-bones mythology from a kind of shoddy (however beloved) original and made something much classier and more cohesive out of it, Eli Roth does something similar here.

It's still about a mild mannered Doctor, Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis), who's left without a wife and with his daughter in a coma after a brutal home invasion, and it's also about a man driven to very Republican extremes in the face of bureaucratic ineptitude, this time set in Chicago amid an apocalyptic rise in violent crime.

But Michael Winner's 70s original was as grimy and unkempt as the New York City setting it depicted, kind of one-note and devolved into a franchise that went in increasingly silly directions until the mild mannered doctor was a tooled-up Terminator. There's an actual story here with believable characters.

In fact, the original Death Wish was an exploitation romp with slight dramatic pretensions but where Winner knew as much as you did you were there for the shootings and assaults. This one is a far more dramatic thriller that happens to have shocking violence.

Paul's journey from suburban husband and dad to menacing vigilante is entirely believable, from the machinations he has to go through to acquire and learn to use a gun to the spiritual re-engineering he has to go through to become a killer.

And all the while, he has to stay one step ahead of the detective investigating his wife and daughter's attack (including Breaking Bad's Dean Norris), offering him the revenge he's seeking in a much more practical sense.

And despite the more realistic approach than the 70s exploitation genesis of this idea, it's still an Eli Roth movie. That means the film glories in violence as squishy as it is redemptive with brains splattered across rooms, midsections pasted across walls behind victims, an M4 assault rifle hidden in a coffee table and more.

Ironically the weak link is Willis himself. I'm not sure if he was ever known for his expressive energy but he's so stony faced and seems so tired and disinterested here it left me wondering if he's even that bothered acting at all anymore.

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