Director: Eli Roth
Writers: Joe Carnahan (screenplay by), Brian Garfield (from the novel by)
Stars: Bruce Willis, Vincent D’Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue, Camila Morrone and Dean Norris
Vigilante films have been a mixed bag over the last decade or so. Death Sentence starring Kevin Bacon was more a revenge film than vigilante and Jodie Foster’s The Brave One which I felt was more in line with a vigilante storyline both came out in 2007 and are probably the best of the genre in recent times. Death Wish the original film starring Charles Bronson was the first film of it’s kind that I can remember watching and experiencing some satisfaction watching Paul Kersey the New York architect transforming into a one man vigilante after his wife is murdered.
This version starring Bruce Willis as Paul Kersey or that should be Dr. Paul Kersey an experienced surgeon who spends his life saving others. After an attack on his family leaving his Wife (Elizabeth Shue) dead and his Daughter (Camilo Morrone) in a comatose state, Paul sets out for his own brand of Justice. The plot to this version is similar to the original and to be fair the Kersey character is realistic to a point and Willis plays the role as an ordinary straight down the line type of family man and his portrayal from the beginning of the movie is a likeable character and you see this early on in the opening scenes where he helps his Brother played by Vincent D’Onofrio out financially in a very small scene to show he would do anything for his family. After the attack on his family he also tries to do the right thing by letting the police do their job.
Bruce Willis surprised me on how well he acted in Death Wish. This isn’t me trying to sound condescending towards the actor. My assumption was that he was going to go all John McClane on everyone “Welcome to the party pal” but instead has truly crafted his character from a quiet and torn man into a focused killing machine. But what impressed me was his transition wasn’t forced or rushed.
His transition was well balanced and in the beginning of the movie we where allowed to witness Willis act in a natural way. His sorrow and witnessing his mourning was the correct way to handle this broken character and allow us to understand and sympathise with Paul.
Dean Norris as Detective Kevin Raines and Kimberly Elise as Detective Leonore Jackson are worth mentioning as a couple of Detectives who are inundated with unsolved crimes that are mounting up and the interactions with Kersey and Raines shows that although they will do their best to find the gang who attacked his family there were no guarantees. This scene is the one that sparked the transformation in Dr. Paul Kersey and made him realise to take the law into his own hands and along the way stopping random crimes and unintentionally grabbing media attention.
Death Wish (2018) was up against a lot of bad publicity during it’s promotion. The SJW’s were out in force against the overuse of weapons in this movie and it’s tone at a time in the US were the debate of owning firearms within the public domain was a sensitive subject due to the recent unfortunate tragic mass shootings throughout the country. Coupled with this I used the word “promotion”, there was hardly any of this and I think the latter had a lot to do with this and the decision from the studio I can only guess was to go into this as low key as possible. Also, Eli Roth is more notably known for the Horror Genre and I think the perception was that the Director was stepping out of his comfort zone to tackle this project and perhaps unfairly judged before it’s release.
Kersey’s introduction into the darker world reminded me of Marvel’s Luke Cage introduction to his neighbourhood and the attention he was grabbing, even down to the hooded zipper as his disguise. I felt the director managed to balance action and drama well and more importantly asks the question, what would you do in Kersey’s position? Overall I felt this remake surpassed my expectations and I honestly went into this film just to be entertained (which I was). Death Wish reminded me of how old school action films used to be made and I think Willis should be commended for his portrayal of a realistic character and Roth for nailing the tone of the film. Recommend.