Film Review: Death Wish

09:11 March 06, 2018
By: David Vicari

The original 1974 Death Wish, about an architect, played by Charles Bronson, who becomes a vigilante. It's considered a classic, but I have never been a fan of this Michael Winner directed feature. Early in the film, there is an absolutely repugnant rape scene, an act that is disturbingly frequent in Winner's films. Besides being fairly dull in its execution of the revenge storyline, the film deviates wildly from the Brian Garfield novel on which it is based, completely ignoring Garfield's strong implication that vigilantism is not a solution to crime but another real problem

The remake, starring Bruce Willis, is directed by Eli Roth, (Cabin Fever, Hostel, The Green Inferno), whose films I haven't liked, and scripted by Joe Carnahan (Narc, Smokin' Aces), whose films I also haven't liked.  So, I am still in shock that I thoroughly enjoyed this remake of Death Wish.

Dr. Paul Kersey (Willis) turns vigilante after his wife (Elisabeth Shue) is killed and his daughter left in critical condition after a botched burglary (Thankfully, the rape has been excised from this version). He wants to find the guys that did it and turn them into worm food.

Willis hasn't been this good in a while. He doesn't play an unkillable hero, but a broken-hearted man obsessed with vengeance. And the film is extremely well directed by Roth as he creates much tension and suspense. The screenplay is smart in changing Kersey from an architect to a doctor – he knows where to wound his victims and also how to fix himself up after scrapes with bad guys.

Sure, this movie wants to have its cake and eat it too. There are scenes of radio personalities debating the pros and cons of vigilantism (more than the original film does) but in the end, Roth and Carnahan are making an action movie. Granted, the movie does seem to edge toward a pro-gun slant, a position I vehemently disagree with, but as a revenge fantasy, it works. 

*** out of four

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