Bruce Willis brings apathy and indifference to Eli Roth’s newest film, Death Wish (2018). Roth brings some of his notable graphic violence, but those moments are smashed between bad dialogue scenes and storytelling, which proves Roth doubts that his audience can keep up with the simplistic action plot. There were a few laughs at various moments in the film, and much more at the some of the actions and words displayed in the movie. Needless to say, this movie has nothing new to say and delivers very little of anything anybody wants.
Death Wish is another needless reboot.
Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is a trauma surgeon in Chicago who’s living the dream: big house, beautiful wife (Elisabeth Shue), and a great daughter (Camila Morrone) who just got into college in New York. That is until his birthday (which is close to thirty minutes into the movie) when he’s called into work and his wife is killed and his daughter is put into a coma by burglars. Paul doesn’t know what to do with himself, as he finds waiting for justice to just not be satisfying. After waiting around and seeing the crime in the city continue to rise, Paul takes to the streets to serve up some vigilante justice.
There are many obvious complaints that could be pointed out about this film, namely the mixed message about gun violence and gun laws in a film being released during a period when gun legislation is at an all-time high. Said mixed message is not presented as an intelligent “let’s look at both sides and allow the audience to make a decision for themselves,” scenario, but instead as one that is clearly mocking the current system for getting a gun while encouraging the idea that neither the police nor God will protect a man’s family. It’s worth noting that both of those sentiments are initially spouted out by Paul’s father-in-law from Texas. Movies and TV shows like this are always prime for controversy, and in the current climate, feel out of place.
That said, it is possible for a film to separate fantasy from reality and craft a product that does the things Death Wish does, but done in an entertaining fashion. Unfortunately, the most entertaining part of this film was allowing oneself to react to the badness of the film. There were a few moments of dialogue, both the writing and delivery, that felt like it came out of The Room. The bad comes in many forms, whether it is Willis spatting his lines out with a clear distaste for every moment he’s working on this movie, or Vincent D’Onofrio being all the more empathic in an effort to overcompensate. Shue’s cries for help during the robbery scene feel almost meta as if pleading to be let out of her contract. Of course, had that happened it would have been written in a scene over breakfast, lunch, or dinner where the characters would have explained in painful diatribes about their past experiences to make sure the audience was keeping up.
That brings up the most insulting elements of this movie. When Paul figures out his first lead in the “who killed my wife” mystery, Roth flashes back to two moments that were not needed at all. Unless, Roth isn’t questioning the intelligence of the audience, but rather their stamina in staying awake through the first twenty minutes of set-up that felt pretty unnecessary since the characters weren’t developed in a meaningful way.
Roth does manage to craft a few good moments in the film despite all the negatives mentioned above. His ability to craft brutality and gore manages to find its way into a few scenes where Paul gets to exercise his new found love of inflicting pain. However, those scenes are sparse and have been done better in other films and the most recent example is the Punisher series on Netflix.
There was hope in me when I walked into Death Wish that maybe this could be another Hudson Hawk…a Bruce Willis movie that the general public hated, but I found some joy in despite the obvious flaws. Instead, Bruce formed his fingers into a gun and pointed it right at my heart. Death Wish earns the Avoid like the Plague rating.