When his family (Elisabeth Shue, Camila Morrone) is brutally assaulted by a trio of burglars, Chicago surgeon Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) turns into a vigilante and starts hunting them down for justice.
Once upon a time, Sylvester Stallone was set to star and direct the remake of the late Charles Bronson’s 1974 classic vigilante drama Death Wish.
Now, can you imagine Stallone playing an ordinary man ended up becoming a vigilante following the tragedy that struck upon his wife and daughter? Thankfully, that didn’t happen after Stallone backed out due to creative differences.
Then came Joe Carnahan, stepping in to take over the project with Liam Neeson set to star as Paul Kersey. No doubt that Liam Neeson was the right man to play such a role. But too bad the potential Joe Carnahan-and-Liam Neeson collaboration failed to materialise after the studio favoured another actor instead.
That actor in question — of all the people — is… Bruce Willis. The Die Hard actor playing the role of Paul Kersey? When the first trailer was revealed last year, it’s hard to believe watching him playing an ordinary man (this time, he’s a surgeon instead of an architect in the 1974 original) who forced to take justice into his own hands. It’s even difficult to buy the fact that Bruce Willis has to learn how to use a gun for the first time in this movie! Blame it on his alter-ego in the past. Bruce Willis is forever associated with his street-smart and indestructible cop role as John McClane in the Die Hard franchise. In fact, most of us have grown accustomed to his type of action role (see also The Last Boy Scout and Striking Distance). While it’s good to see him playing the kind of role where he doesn’t know how to use a gun for a change, it’s just too bad he fails to convince me whatsoever. He looks catatonic and dare I say, lazy in this movie. That being said, his role as the new Paul Kersey is woefully miscast. It gets worse when he starts shooting people and at one point, he even said improbable lines like “Your last customer” or “No, Jack is” like he’s reprising his wisecracking John McClane role.
Now, for the movie itself. You see, Eli Roth knows well about brutality and violence. He’s an ace for such graphic depictions. Besides, we are talking about the same director who spent most of his career directing graphically-violent horror pictures like Cabin Fever and Hostel. Viewing this purely as an exploitative action movie, the violent shootout scenes are visceral enough to satisfy genre fans.
But Eli Roth’s well-executed violent scenes hardly mean much, especially when Joe Carnahan’s screenplay functions more like a revenge fantasy than a downbeat drama like the 1974 original. It’s even hard to swallow where the remake expects us to accept this as a fun yet grounded vigilante movie. Given the recent Florida school shooting and last year’s Las Vegas mass shooting, releasing a trigger-happy movie like Death Wish is obviously ill-advised and repulsive.