Before we get going on the review it should be noted that I am a huge fan of the original 1974 Death Wish starring Charles Bronson. After talking to a couple leaving the theater I was in and my buddy Ray Boyer from the Flick or Flop podcast, it seems that seeing Eli Roth's movie without seeing the original makes it a 'fun' movie. Unfortunately, I HAVE seen the original and seeing the new one was a nightmare for me.
Since there is so little I liked about this one I will get that out of the way. Vincent D'Onofrio and Dean Norris do an amazing job as the brother and investigating detective, respectively. Perhaps it seems that way because they are surrounded by such trash but I don't think it is. D'Onofrio consistently nails home run performances no matter the film and this is no exception. Okay, that's it for the good.
There's been a lot of theories that it is this movie that will bring Bruce Willis back into the good graces of the audience once again and after seeing it I can tell you, that is not true. Maybe if we had a toned downed, Sixth Sense type Bruce Willis that would be the case but we don't get that at all here. What we get is John McClain in a doctor's coat who acts a little meek-ish but is still built like a brick shithouse with a shaved head.
Charles Bronson was an action star for many years but in the role of Paul Kersey played a very convincing father and husband. His first kill leaves him shook to the core and after shooting the would be mugger in the gut, Bronson's Kersey runs away and vomits in a state of shock. Willis's Kersey shoots a carjacker (who is driving the stolen car straight at him with the intent to harm/scare) in the throat causing him to wreck into a light pole. The accomplice (who before getting in the car fired at Willis) exits the wrecked vehicle, they then get into a shootout wherein Willis's Kersey wounds the man then walks over and shoots him in the head. After that murder he walks over the car and watches the driver gasp for air before finally succumbing to his wounds. Remember, Bruce Willis plays a doctor. Just saying.
Bronson is torn by his decision to take the law into his own hands whereas Willis cannot get enough of it. The only thing that would be less believable than Bruce Willis as a doctor is Bruce Willis being able to show any range as an actor. Not that he is incapable of it, just that something in him has broken. Like Pacino after Sent of a Woman, Bruce Willis no longer has the ability to play anything other than a badass after the fifth Die Hard. Made worse over, due to the fact that he is now in his 60's and has still yet to transition to the older strong man like Clint Eastwood or Tommy Lee Jones.
Back to the movie, shall we. Eli Roth reels it back but there is still plenty of blood and guts for you, if that's what you are looking for. The kills in the movie have no real excitement or style, save for the auto-shop scene that hearkens back to the days of Roth's earlier films. The story is lackadaisical at the offset and doesn't really get moving well into the second act. Even after the murder and attempted murder it moves listlessly before Willis gets the motivation to become a vigilante. Oddly enough it isn't the killing of his wife or head-shot his daughter receives but a beating by muggers in the street that is the final straw for him to get going.
From that point it moves pretty quickly as he hunts down the men who ruined his life and spends one day "outsmarting" the cops. It's really rather boring to be honest. You don't really care about him or his family. The ham-fisted character building is as subtle as a one act play written by a ninth grader. It's just all together lazy and boring.
A few nitpicky parts here:
-Bruce Willis is a surgeon in a hospital who leaves mid-operation when paged and goes to perform other surgeries. He never preps between rooms.
-He rushes in to a room where a cop has been shot but the guy flat-lines, like right away. While comforting the officer's partner a nurse comes up and says, "The shooter is in the O.R. now". I've never worked in a hospital but I don't think that's how a nurse describes a patient to a doctor... When he's walking away the cop yells to Willis, "So you're gonna save that killers life?" and in an ADR'd line, a good thirty feet away, in a crowded and busy hospital, Bruce Willis responds "If I can" in a volume that would only register as a slight whisper.
-And most egregious; his daughter who has been in a coma for a month due to a gun shot to the head, wakes up with perfect hair and Bruce Willis says that she will get to go home in a week. They did surgery to remove a bullet from, what I can only imagine, is her brain, and she has her wits about her enough to be able to go home in a week. She does tell her uncle D'Onofrio that therapy has been going good. Whatever the hell that mean.
As a fan of the original, I suggest that you don't see this. Maybe if it's streaming somewhere down the line, but even then it's not worth it. Watch the 1974 Death Wish. It's amazingly well written, directed and beautifully acted. Bronson's performance is so layered and nuanced, it's shocking that he was not nominated for his role as Paul Kersey. In fact, watch Death Wish 5 and you'll be better off than watching this garbage.
I knew it was going to be bad, I just didn't know it would be this bad.
If you have not already heard it, you can listen to what our pitch for a Death Wish remake would be on Prequel.Sequel.Reboot.Remake. available here or wherever you get your podcasts.