The reboot of “Death Wish,” the cult classic Charles Bronson starrer about a man who resorts to vigilante justice after his wife is murdered and his daughter is left in a coma during a home invasion, is something none of us asked for. Gun violence continues to dominate our country’s headlines almost daily, and this revenge story just feels wrong on so many levels.
This version lacks much of the distressing grittiness of the controversial original film on which its based, but you just can’t shake that cloud of nauseatingly bad timing that hangs over the project. I live in Las Vegas and was extremely grateful the studio yanked this film from its original release date after the October 1 shooting at Mandalay Bay. Why wasn’t the film’s release delayed again? Because there’s never going to be a good time for a film like this as the U.S. continues to be ravaged with shootings.
There are thankfully a few changes to the brutal 1974 version, from Paul’s profession (he’s a surgeon instead of an architect), and Paul’s daughter is a high school senior (and not raped), but the film still has a disturbing pro-vigilante stance that just feels wrong in today’s climate. I’d argue the film is decidedly pro-gun, and it feeds into the chilling conservative idea that the only thing a person needs to protect themselves and their family is a firearm (or even better, multiple firearms). Don’t wait for the police, several characters rant, you need a firearm to keep yourself safe. The movie takes the good guy with a gun fantasy to the extreme, and everything about it just feels wrong.
Politically motivated content and terrible timing aside, this is a solid and entertaining genre movie. Bruce Willis gives a believable performance and Vincent D’Onofrio as his brother Frank is oddly sympathetic. Eli Roth is a competent director with his own flair and at times this film looks and feels like a stylized indie horror movie. It’s incredibly well done, suspenseful when it needs to be, action packed in others, and emotionally satisfying throughout. There’s strong bloody violence and the back and forth between Paul’s guardian angel side versus his grim reaper side is compelling. But he’s living out his own delusions of becoming a vigilante superhero of sorts, fighting crime when the police can’t or won’t do it themselves.
The story is captivating and the resolution satisfying. But is it irresponsible? Yes and no.