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'Death Wish' Movie Review: It's Not Your Usual Guilty Pleasure

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Death Wish Bruce Willis

There's no doubt people like watching Bruce Willis in action, but something about his vigilante ways in DEATH WISH seem just plain wrong.

The original DEATH WISH (1974) and its sequels starring Charles Bronson were grim in nature. The killing of his wife and rape of his daughter are horrific.  Bronson's Paul Kersey is a man of a few words, and the violence is extreme even for the 70s when exploitation films were at its peak. While considered a classic, the DEATH WISH trilogy are not great movies and even back then the critics complained about the message the film sends.  Well the same can be said of Eli Roth's reboot of the movie. 

In the 2018 film, Paul Kersey is now a doctor living in the suburbs of Chicago in a lavish home with his wife and daughter. A family outing is interrupted when Paul is called away for emergency surgery. His wife and daughter are attacked by robbers at home. After his wife is murdered and his daughter survives, the police are unable to find the perpetrators, so surprise, he takes matters into his own hands.

DEATH WISH 2.0 comes at a time when gun control is pushing a lot of hot buttons, and the story takes place in Chicago of all places where gun deaths are at the highest in this country. The film also ignores the issue of race and the implications his actions mean for a violent-ridden city. Paul wears a hoodie when he goes on his killing spree which just seems insensitive given that a hoodie has come to symbolize the death of Trayvon Martin. A black man in a hoodie is a threat while a white man in a hoodie is a hero. The wardrobe choice is a poor one, for sure.

You just don't get the same satisfaction watching Bruce Willis kill criminals as you do watching John McClane take out the terrorists in the DIE HARD movies. You're not as invested with the protagonist, and feel less empathetic as the story drags on. He's gaining confidence and feeling empowered because he's a gun-toting vigilante. That's not a good motivation.

As with most Eli Roth films, the dialogue inspires a few eye roles as well. He likes violence for the sake of violence. Some of it seems unnecessary and overdone. The story trudges along going through the usual, find the perpetrators one by one, extract information about the rest of the gang and then kill them. And then rinse and repeat. 

Unlike Bronson, Willis has plenty to say and we get a lot of exposition about taking matters into your own hands. We've come to accept that a protagonist can be the judge, jury and executioner in movies and on television, but here it doesn't feel right.

In the rebooted DEATH WISH, Paul kills other characters not involved in his wife's death and robbery. He kills a car jacker and a drug dealer who happen to be committing crimes against others. He feels justified in taking the lives of those committing crimes but is that a message we want out there?  I would say no especially given the times we find ourselves in America. 

While we've come to accept violence in movies, DEATH WISH doesn't satisfy that guilty pleasure.




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