MGM Pictures presents a modernized take on seventies classic Death Wish. Initially staring Charles Bronson as architect Paul Kersey, a man who becomes a vigilante after his wife is murdered and his daughter sexually assaulted during a home invasion. The remake sees Bruce Willis taking on the role of Kersey with an updated profession of a surgeon who only sees the aftermath of his city’s violence as it’s rushed into his ER.
Kersey is forced to take on the violence when his wife Lucy (Elisabeth Shue) and college-age daughter Jordan (Camila Morrone) are viciously attacked in their suburban home just as they were in the original. With the police overloaded with crimes, Paul, burning for revenge, hunts for his family’s assailants to deliver justice. As the anonymous slayings of criminals grab the media’s attention, the city wonders if this deadly avenger is a guardian angel…or a grim reaper.
Willis who has seen the majority of his recent films go directly to the home market, is back in proper form as Kersey. While he never reaches the highlights of his best work, Willis shows why he became one of the biggest action stars in his heyday. Beau Knapp takes on the role of Knox, the film’s primary antagonist, with ease I enjoyed the filmmaker’s decision not to reveal the antagonist until the third act of the film. I also enjoyed that they used an unknown for the role.
The rest of the supporting cast including Dean Norris, Kimberly Elise, and Vincent D’Onofrio also provide solid work. Norris & Elise portray cops trying to help Wills track down his family’s assailants while D’Onofrio portrays Willis’s younger brother.
Known mainly for his for his work in the horror genre, Eli Roth takes a stab at directing an action flick and succeeds. Roth takes his time to build up the action, and when it arrives, it’s more than worth the wait. One particular action sequence while brief has earned its way into one of my favorite movie moments of the year.
The script by Joe Carnahan is also impressive, as Carnahan is no stranger to the action genre or crime dramas. Carnahan takes time to invest in Willis’s take on Kersey, and while vigilantism, is a crime, I found myself understanding Willis’s character, as most men will do anything to protect their family
As much as I enjoyed Death Wish, there were a few things I didn’t like. From the promotional materials, one would think that Mike Epps would have a more prominent role. However, he’s reduced to a three-minute cameo. I was also hoping for at least one fisticuffs match between Willis and one of the bad guys.
Death Wish is arriving at a time when, gun control has the country divided, and one can’t help but wonder how the masses will receive the film. The same-titled novel which both versions of Death Wish are adapted denounced vigilantism, whereas the movies embraced the notion. There are brief moments where it seems that the film might go against Kersey, but there’s no real character in Death Wish that serves as a voice of reason for Kersey.
FINAL GRADE: B