My movie reviewing options this week were pretty thin. It was either Death Wish or Red Sparrow, and I've about had my fill of Jennifer Lawrence at this point, so I decided that even though the latest from Bruce Willis looked bad, I'd give it a shot and hope that it was at least enjoyable and schlocky.

Death Wish is neither of those things. It's cruel, and mean, and it is both of those things because it's entirely sincere. It's going to be hard, but I'm going to try to get through this review without sounding like Tipper Gore.

So, this film is a remake of the 1974 Death Wish starring Charles Bronson, a movie about a man who goes on a killing spree after his wife is murdered and his daughter was raped. The 2018 Death Wish is the same basic plot, although thankfully they decided not to include the gratuitous sexual assault scene from the original.

Death Wish stars Bruce Willis as Paul Kersey, a master trauma surgeon in crime ridden Chicago. He lives in fantastic upper-middle class suburbia with his picturesque wife and daughter, who couldn't be more stereotypical. The wife is blonde and gentle, but just about to finish her PhD after 15 years, and the daughter plays soccer and just got accepted into NYU.

It's always weird getting introduced to characters like those, because you know that they're just going to get murdered and/or violated in the first few minutes of the film anyway.

MGM via YouTube
MGM via YouTube

Inevitably they do; burglars break into their McMansion while Paul is working at the hospital (on his birthday!), and begin robbing the place. When the women fight back, they put a bullet in the mother and cause serious injury to the daughter, which puts her in a coma.

What happens next is extremely paint by numbers; Paul tries to return to normalcy, but begins growing frustrated with the incompetency of the Chicago Police Department when they fail to catch the men responsible. He ends up picking up a gun, and going out to exact his own justice.

This is where Death Wish fails, and fails big time. I'll try to avoid spoilers, but Bruce Willis kills approximately 7 or so people in this film. Now, out of all of those deaths, at least three of them are people who he outright murdered. One, a car jacker, he shoots in the head execution style; the other, a drug dealer, he walks up to and shoots while he's sitting in a lawn chair; and the final (and worst) involved medical-style torture and eventually crushing a man with a car while he was defenseless.

Now, all of this would be..well, not okay, but at least understandable from a movie-making standpoint, if the film didn't portray Bruce Willis as a good guy. You could make a really fantastic film about a guy who takes the law into his own hands, and does it so brutally and improperly that he turns into a criminal and villain himself. But Death Wish doesn't do that; it goes out of its way to show that the public LOVES what Paul is doing, and that his mental state actually improves the more he kills people. And after all of this, (spoiler alert) he gets away with no consequences.

It also irked me that what initially set Paul off was that law enforcement wasn't bringing his wife's murderers to justice, but when he has the option several times to hand criminals over to the police on a silver platter, he instead just puts a bullet in them. How can a movie take a previously normal M.D, give him such an illogical lust for blood, and expect the audience to root for him?

MGM via YouTube
MGM via YouTube

This kind of unabashed celebration of murder made it hard for me to enjoy any of this film at all, but there was some stuff I enjoyed. Since Death Wish is directed by horror's own Eli Roth (Hostel, The Green Inferno), I expected it to be pretty gory, and it didn't disappoint in that regard. I really have to hand it to the special effects team, because they did a really good job here. And the idea of a horror director working on an R-rated action film is intriguing, but I'm just disappointed it had to be Eli Roth.

I was going to say that I'd like to see someone like James Wan (Saw, Insidious) do this film, but then I saw that Wan did a Death Wish rippoff in 2007 called Death Sentence starring Kevin Bacon. maybe that film sucks or maybe it doesn't, I don't know. But I'd like to see it.

What I don't want to see ever again, however, is Eli Roth's Death Wish. The original film with Charles Bronson honestly has many of these same faults, and was rightly criticized for them at the time. But at least in 1974, Death Wish was innovative and the first mainstream film of its kind.

In 2018 however, it's derivative and abhorrent, and in my opinion should be avoided at all costs.

See the trailer below.

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