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Death Wish (2018) Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Death Wish

Director: Eli Roth
Writers: Joe Carnahan (screenplay by), Brian Garfield (from the novel by)
Stars: Bruce Willis, Vincent D’Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue 

A Blu Ray Review 

There’s a segment in the new Death Wish that may be the most creatively ironic sequence director Eli Roth has ever assembled.

Dr. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is increasingly frustrated at the police’s lack of progress in catching the thugs who killed his wife and critically injured his daughter during a home invasion. After deciding to take the law into his own hands, there’s a brilliant montage in which Roth uses split-screen to show Kersey resuming his duties as an ER surgeon in a Chicago hospital, while teaching himself to fire and maintain an automatic handgun at home. As he’s removing a bullet from a gunshot wound, he’s loading rounds into a magazine, saving lives while simultaneously learning how to take them.

The original Death Wish was a both a cultural touchstone and a defining moment in Charles Bronson’s long career, but not such a sacred cow that remaking it is out of the question (one could argue Hollywood’s essentially been doing that for years, anyway). Granted, considering our current cultural climate, the timing couldn’t be worse, but it seems fitting that re-imagining original’s incendiary premise would be placed in the hands of someone with the audacity of Eli Roth.

Considering his torture porn reputation, Roth actually shows a surprising amount of restraint. Death Wish is still brutal-as-hell, but never descends into depravity. In fact, Roth actually pulls most of his punches during the initial home invasion sequence, a key scene that remains extremely difficult to watch in the original. Whether or not this is a positive point depends on your level of fondness for Roth’s usual brand of brutality.

Elsewhere, this is not your daddy’s Death Wish, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The original film may be iconic, but did tend to glorify vigilantism (and author Brian Garfield absolutely hated what they did with his novel). Kersey never hunted down the punks who took his family away; he simply snapped and started walking the streets to lure muggers before shooting them. But in the new film, Kersey actively seeks out specific criminal targets…car-jackers, drug dealers and, through circumstances that are both clever and inane, the very thugs who killed his wife. Like the original, he becomes a media sensation, which this version amusingly presents through talk-radio programs, YouTube and internet memes…a sign of the times.

None of this makes Death Wish better than the original. It’s bigger, louder, gorier and more skilfully crafted, but far less memorable. Despite some clever modern touches – such as the aforementioned montage – this version is mostly content to be a straightforward action film with little substance beneath the surface. Though it’s the best film he’s appeared since Looper, Bruce Willis doesn’t really reach beyond his comfort zone to bring anything new to the Kersey character.

But admittedly, I’ve always enjoyed watching Willis kick-ass. Death Wish may not be another cultural milestone, but it is a lot of vicious, violent fun. And if nothing else, the film is a hell of a lot better than the godawful sequels Bronson finished his career with. Keep your expectations in-check, enjoy the mayhem and apologise to yourself later.

Death Wish (2018) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Death Wish

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.

CHIPS (2017) Movie Review by John Walsh

CHIPS

Director: Dax Shepard
Writers: Rick Rosner (based on the television series created by), Dax Shepard
Stars: Michael Peña, Dax Shepard, Vincent D’Onofrio

Dax Shepard’s completely unnecessary remake of the 70s, buddy cop show, ChiPs is a rather underwhelming affair. Admittedly though, I’ve never actually watched the original series, being born in 1989, it was way before my time and I’ve honestly never seen the point of these sort of remakes. The Nice Guys (a film I really enjoyed incidentally) proved last year that there is still some love to be had for the buddy cop genre which in general has grown somewhat stale and it was predominantly for this reason that I gave ChiPs a chance.

Right, so I’m going to get my first major gripe with this film out in the open right away. I’ll not beat about the bush. The story is atrociously bad and simplistic. It’s a light hearted, action/comedy film, I get that, and I wasn’t expect any grandiosity in that department, but still, come on man. I’ll give Shepard some plaudits, as he must have been a busy boy during the production of this, acting as director, writer and one of the leading two protagonists in the film. His characters autistic like awkwardness was actually one of the few things I enjoyed. The flak for the story and some of the corny jokes that fell flat are on him though and he can’t be escaping the criticism as such.

The story is basically centred around an investigation into police corruption within the Californian Highway Patrol. It becomes clear that corruption is rife after an armed robbery leads to the death of an officer and this throws an undercover FBI agent into the fray. Officer Frank ‘Ponch’ Poncherello (Michael Peña) is said FBI agent and he’s partnered with former motorcross champion John Baker (Dan Shepherd), a man riddled with health problems from his previous career and a complete novice (and liability) at the job. The two form a gradual bromance as they try to work together and bring down the corrupt Ray Kurtz (Vincent D’Onofrio), the criminally underused main villain of the film.

Our leading two are polar opposites, not an uncommon situation in mismatched buddy films, and both have their personal problems, which in a way, helps to bring them together. Ponch is reckless, incredibly cocky, something of a sex addict with a predisposition for sexting and inappropriately face timing his bosses; whilst Baker is a lanky mass of awkwardness, more analytical in his methods (but still a liability) and has a flagging marriage to his cheating, air headed wife that has left him sleeping in the guest house and in complete denial. The vast majority of the film focuses on Ponch and Baker with little to zero time being spent on developing Kurtz or even explaining the reasoning behind his rogue groups actions.

The story, as mentioned earlier, is chronic. Ponch is supposed to be an undercover FBI agent and yet thinks it’s cool to run around with a non-issue uniform and a modified Ducati bike with Baker. This creates no suspicion apparently in any of the others minds, there’s a brief comment from Ava Perez (Rosa Salazar) and then the film just goes with it. The jokes too are a little lame. The Pistorius one in particular was in bad taste, whilst the running gags about homophobia and ‘eating ass’ were about as funny as getting a kick to the groin. But look, I’m not going to lie and say it was completely unfunny and I didn’t laugh at any point. I did, especially at some of Bakers misfortunes and antics.

Performance wise, Michael Peña must have came close to phoning it in here. He’s a better actor than this and the handful of very decent films he’s had supporting roles in prior to this will attest to that. He did all right, his performance wasn’t offensive and that’s about all I can say. Shepherd, as I mentioned previously, was one of my few positives in this film. I thought he did very well in a project he was clearly positive about considering he wrote and directed it too. He brought some laughs. D’Onofrio was just so underused in this film. What were they thinking? His character came off in the end as shallow, underdeveloped and just not a serious threat when the shit hit the fan in the final act showdown. The humorous manner of his death summed this up.

At this stage, I’m actually running out of things to talk about. There was an attempt a twist involving one of Ponch’s love interests in the film that was the definition of telegraphed. One major positive that I’ll all but end on is the camera work. I loved the helmet cams used in some of the actions sequences. Very cool looking and it worked nicely. Overall though, I can’t be recommending a film for a bloody helmet cam and this film really doesn’t offer anything else of real substance to make it a viable recommendation for anybody. Unless you’re really into the highway patrol and love motorbikes, in which case, dive in.

Rating: 2/5

Kill the Irishman (2011) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

KILL THE IRISHMEN.png

Director: Jonathan Hensleigh
Writers: Jonathan Hensleigh (screenplay), Jeremy Walters (screenplay)
Stars: Ray Stevenson, Christopher Walken, Vincent D’Onofrio

Kill the Irishman is based on the life of Irish American gangster Danny Greene who is a gangster from Cleveland whose story explains the hardships that certain people and in Danny’s case The Irishman go through to make ends meet. Although not all of them are legal ways, but sometimes these seem to be the only way out for some of them. Greene doesn’t show fear, he keeps himself believing his intent is to be a modern day Robin Hood for the community.

The movie opens with Danny in the mid 1970’s driving his car when all of a sudden the car radio is sparking. Greene’s reaction and getting out the car quickly whilst it’s in motion and managing to escape before the car explodes shows the audience very quickly that he is a marked man by the authorities? The Mafia?

Danny Greene was asked by a news reporter How  he survive all of these assassination attempts? With Greene replying “ I’m a Irish Catholic with the grace of God.”

I thought Ray Stevenson did a credible job as Green. Playing him in a tough but smart and experienced way. He worked well with the supporting cast around him and I felt every scene he had the chemistry with his closest allies and showed the tension in the presence of his enemies.

Vincent D’Onforio is great as the conflicted John Nardi who introduces Green into the underworld of the city and reveals how the “Union” works. Nardi appears to work hard at his “trade” and shows a respect for Greene that perhaps Nardi’s bosses don’t understand or even want to understand as they appear to regard Danny Greene as an outsider and not to be trusted.

Surprisingly Val Kilmer’s role as a police officer who grew up with Greene is very subdued and there appears to be a love / hate relationship between both characters that Kilmer carries off with the right tone and balance. Kilmer although does appear in some key scenes is perhaps a little underused, but in saying that Hensleigh probably deserves credit not shoehorning Kilmer in just for the sake of it and the same can be said about Christopher Walken who is barely visible as Shonder Burns.

Walken’s screen time is even less than Kilmer’s and the cynical side of me perhaps feels both actors where used to promote the movie (both of them where used in promotional posters etc)

There is also a small role for former footballer turned actor Vinnie “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” Jones as one of Greene’s Irish compadres. To be fair Jones hasn’t a lot to do in the movie and perhaps should have been practising his Irish accent a little more in between takes.

I felt Jonathan Hensleigh who directed and co wrote the screenplay was aiming to show the characters progression from a very lofty gentle speaking intelligent man to a vicious lout with a temper within the duration of the film and to be honest I think he managed it well without the character changing his personality instantaneous.

As for the cinematography I felt “Kill the Irishman” is slightly let down with low production value as a lot of the special effects shots looked…..well they looked like special effects shots you would download from the App Store. The film also uses inter sliced and incorporated actual footage from newscasts covering Greene’s life as a local legend giving it that authentic documentary feel to it.

If you enjoy rooting for the bad guy then you will enjoy this from start to finish.
Greene’s no holds barred approach and attitude kept his character interesting when the story seemed to dip and perhaps becoming a little predictable.

The supporting cast of strong veterans like Val Kilmer and Vincent D’Onofrio help you understand the character of Greene and why some people love him whilst others hate him. “Kill the Irishman” is enjoyable enough for a one time viewing and if you haven’t watched this yet (yes it’s 6 years old now) I would give it a go.