Plot: Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is a skilled surgeon with an affluent lifestyle, as well as a beautiful wife and bright daughter. His daughter is about to head to college, which worries him a little, as time seems to be going by in a flash. At a restaurant one night, Paul talks about an upcoming night out and the valet overhears, prompting him to note the family’s address in the car’s GPS and of course, he now knows they won’t be at home that night. This leads to a break-on on that same night, but plans have changed and before the crooks can leave the scenes, Paul’s wife and daughter return home, right into the hands of the criminals. His wife is killed and his daughter is now in a coma, so he is devastated and finds no comfort in justice, as the police seem helpless to bring in the men responsible. Kersey spends his time at his little girl’s bedside, but the rage inside him builds and he wants to see justice served. But what can one man do against a city plagued by violent crime?
Entertainment Value: As someone who loves the exploitation driven Death Wish franchise, a remake seemed like an odd choice, but I do love vigilante justice, so I was open minded. As it turns out, Eli Roth has crafted a solid, fun vigilante flick that aims to deliver action, dark humor, and a little exploitation, but he reels in his usual over the top violent tendencies. In other words, this isn’t a balls out, no holds barred parade of insane violence, but it does have some fun moments. The first half or so of the movie runs a little slow and doesn’t offer much development, other than Kersey’s frustrations with the police and his brother’s role in his life. Once Kersey gets his first taste of street justice however, Death Wish picks up and turns into a competent, fun thriller with some nice bursts of violence. Death Wish also offers up some dark humor, as if to remind us this isn’t a social message, but escapist exploitation. Willis was a strange choice for the lead and he seems disinterested, but his cold persona pays tribute to Bronson and also explains his smooth acceptance of violence. So not a “rich liberal pacifist slowly turns to violence,” but it works for what it is. The cast also includes Dean Norris, Elisabeth Shue, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Camila Morrone. In the end, Death Wish is a fun movie and a nice throwback to the Cannon days, but I do wish Eli Roth had went for broke here and given us more of a wild, outlandish exploitation flick.
No nakedness. The movie hints at potential rape, with a thug using his handgun to push apart a teen girl’s legs, but Death Wish doesn’t follow down the rape well like some of the other Death Wish installments. This one has some violence however, but Eli Roth dials back on the bloodshed and doesn’t go full gun porn or exploitation, saving it for measured bursts of crimson. A bright spot is when Kersey uses a scalpel to open up a large incision on one of the thug’s then pours motor oil into the wound. The cut is vivid and looks fantastic, as do most of the other wounds in Death Wish. Most of the action driven violence is CGI, but competent at least, though some nice practical effects are sprinkled in as well. Some other highlights include a brutal neck/head impact after a fall, a splatter of innards after some torture, boiling water to the face, and some wince inducing self surgery on a gun shot wound. While not the balls deep violence parade I hoped, Death Wish still offers some solid moments. The dialogue is fine and while the tone is darkly comic at times, it doesn’t veer much into one liners or the like. A few pop in, but most of the dialogue is serious and not that memorable. You gotta love the perky to a toxic level gun saleswoman, however. As for craziness, the movie flirts with the old exploitation style violence, but reels things in most of the time. So not that wild or over the top, though seeing Paul Kersey turned into a meme was a fun touch.
Overall Insanity: 1/10