Director Eli Roth
Genre Action | Crime | Drama
Cast Bruce Willis, Vincent D'Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue, Camila Morrone
Release Date March 2nd, 2018
From director Eli Roth, the man who brought us Cabin Fever, Hostel 1 & 2, and The Green Inferno, Death Wish is a crime drama about a man who’s family is violently attacked, and after time passes and the perpetrators haven’t been brought to justice, he decides to take matters into his own hands. The film is a remake of the 1974 crime drama starring Charles Bronson, which turned into a franchise with the 5th and final film releasing in 1994. The cast for the remake includes Bruce Willis, Vincent D’Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue, Camila Morrone, Dean Norris, and Kimberly Elise.
If you can keep an open mind and put the politics aside, Death Wish is a violently satisfying revenge thriller that will send viewers home happy. Admittedly releasing during a sensitive time considering the subject matter, this is a solid crime drama that serves up some stone cold vigilante justice. As much as I wish all film critics would review each movie fairly regardless of genre and timing of the release, unfortunately that just isn’t how it works. After seeing the harsh early reviews, I assumed Death Wish was yet another direct to Redbox movie that somehow made its way into theaters, so I decided to proceed with caution. I did however, make it a point to see it right away regardless, and I was genuinely pleased that I did. In many ways Death Wish reminds me of the sorta superhero movie Kick-Ass, except you replace the superhero with a bald white guy in a hoodie. But seriously, they have a few similarities. Both films present the dilemma of vigilante justice, and although they feature real violence and of course death, they somehow maintain a sense of a lighter mood throughout the film, and that is difficult to do. Death Wish isn't glorifying violence, if anything it puts the issue on the forefront and actually tries to break it down from a variety of angles utilizing Sway's SiriusXM radio show as a media outlet to connect with the general public. Death Wish is actually very effective at building tension and suspense, and it had me on the edge of my seat on a number of occasions. Luckily, the cringe-worthy ultraviolent moments are less prevalent so viewers that have a hard time with that should be able to get through the film relatively easily.
Gun control is a hot topic right now and for damn good reason, but as with most debates everything tends to get too political and nothing really changes. But I ask you this question, is it okay for film critics to bash a movie simply because it released during a sensitive time? I mean at the end of the day it is just that, a movie. Now as someone who was looking forward to Death Wish, I read my share of early critic feedback and most of the criticisms I encountered had little to do with the quality of the movie. I read references to the ongoing issue of police violence against African Americans in many inner-cities with a critic stating, “First we complain that the police are too violent, now we are saying they aren’t violent enough?" First of all, the movie isn't saying that at all, not even close. It is frustrating in the social-media age we live in when considering how much control film critics can have on whether viewers see a movie or not, even though many of them may very well be pushing an agenda. My suggestion to you as the viewer is simple, instead of simply looking at the ratings actually take some time to see what some of the critics are saying about the movie. You will be surprised by how ridiculous and unfair some of the "reviews" really are. One critic in particular was disgusted that the movie steered the audience towards rooting for the protagonist (Willis) which blows my mind (insert eye roll). It is worth pointing out that the recent revenge thriller The Foreigner starring Jackie Chan was very well-received by critics. Is that because this film starred an Asian American getting revenge as opposed to a run of the mill "white guy"? Just a thought. Also, an interesting side note, veteran movie critic Roger Ebert rated both movies very poorly and actually rated Death Wish slightly higher - I guess it's safe to say he isn't much for revenge flicks. After further review, Ebert did rate one of my favorite revenge thrillers Law Abiding Citizen pretty high so I don't know what to think, I guess he is just a complex guy.
I’m not quite sure how to explain how it felt when Bruce Willis’ character took out a well-deserving bad guy and the entire theater cheered and clapped- you know what scratch that, it felt pretty damn good. It caught me off guard to say the least, but it reminded me that each and every person who bought a ticket came to the theater to see the same thing I did, a good guy wiping out a bunch of really, really bad guys. Not once did I feel morally conflicted with feelings of “should I really be rooting for a civilian taking the law into his own hands?”. I mean let’s be real, this movie takes place in Chicago, and if people are naïve enough to think that the Chicago Police Department has things under control in that city, you are sorely mistaken. And this isn’t a blame game bashing the police department by any stretch, and the movie isn’t saying that either, it is just the reality that violence is on the rise in many of our major cities, and audiences find enjoyment in watching some of these offenders come face to face with their reckoning. So what’s wrong with that?
Death Wish puts together a solid cast who are able to compliment each other very well. Leading man Bruce Willis has been in what seems like a million movies at this point. I did some research and in actuality Willis has 118 acting credits according to his IMDb filmography, and his first real movie was the hit 1988 action thriller Die Hard which developed into a very successful long-running franchise. Still, very impressive. At this point in his career Willis sometimes takes on projects that are lucky to get a Blu-ray release and usually end up direct to streaming or On-Demand, but he is still very much a legitimate actor capable of a fantastic performance. Is that what you get from him in Death Wish? Not necessarily, because the movie makes a point of not pushing the dramatic angle too much, making some of the acting come across as a little corny, but honestly it still works. I enjoyed Willis as the man to take over where Charles Bronson left off and I would be more than fine with a sequel or two. The supporting cast is solid starting with Elisabeth Shue and Camilla Malone (who is absolutely gorgeous) as the wife and daughter of Bruce Willis' character. The recognizable king of supporting roles Vincent D’Onofrio delivers yet another effective performance, and fans of Breaking Bad will be pleased with the detective role played by Dean Norris aka Hank Schrader.
Death Wish hits every note necessary for a successful revenge thriller that can be a bit over the top at times, and above all it is very entertaining from start to finish. If you don’t' take some time to actually read the critic reviews prior to making a trip to the theater and instead just look at the rating this film will more than likely become an afterthought, but I am here to tell you that is an absolute injustice. Is Death Wish a film promoting gun violence during a time where you can't scroll your social media timeline for more than 30 seconds without reading something to do with the gun control debate? It may seem that way when you watch the trailers, but that really isn't the case. I mean Death Wish isn't glorifying picking up a weapon and blasting some random guy walking down the street for no reason - it is very much the contrary. This is the story of a good man willing to do anything to protect his family, and in the process he decides to right a few other wrongs. I really enjoyed Death Wish and was pleased I made the decision to check it out in theaters, and you should too. Recommended.