Like many Hollywood films, Death Wish is not new or groundbreaking, but it is a lot of fun. The film is a reimagining of the 1974 Death Wish, which in turn was based on the novel by Brian Garfield. While the original film was only loosely based on the novel, the reimagining takes additional liberties to tell a unique and varied story compared to both the film and the novel. The original film spawned a five-movie franchise, and in our Death Wish review, we’ll cover what went right with the new movie and how Bruce Willis is finally back!
Death Wish centers around Chicago surgeon, Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis). While Kersey is out one night, his wife, Lucy (Elizabeth Shue), and daughter, Jordan (Camila Morrone) are left home alone. During this time his home is invaded by several robbers. Lucy dies from the encounter and Jordan is left in a coma. While Kersey initially lets the police handle the case, he eventually takes matters into his own hands.
While Death Wish is highly entertaining, the one minor concern with this film is that it drags a bit during the first act while it’s establishing the characters. Director Eli Roth takes his time in an effort to establish a loving family, but this could’ve been done in half the time to increase the pace of the first act. Still, this is a minor complaint in what is an otherwise enjoyable film.
Unlike other similar films, Kersey isn’t an amazing shot when he first becomes a vigilante. Not only does he take the time to learn how to shoot, feeling some pain in the process, but this isn’t done in a fast-paced montage. We see Kersey slowly lose his patience with the police, and learn about guns and shooting just like most other people would in modern times, via YouTube.
If you renamed this film to become part of the Die Hard franchise, no one would bat an eye. Willis is back in prime form with a stoic look on his face as he violently takes the law into his own hands. Willis fans will definitely see flashes of Die Hard and even Unbreakable in his performance here.
Vincent D’Onofrio also holds his own as Kersey’s brother, Frank. While he’s a secondary character in the film, he makes an impact in almost every scene he’s featured in. D’Onofrio isn’t quite as scene-stealing in Death Wish as he was playing Wilson Fisk in the Daredevil series, but he still brings a presence and voice of reason to the film that would otherwise be lacking.
Rounding out a bulk of the cast are Dean Norris and Kimberly Elise playing detectives Kevin Raines and Leonore Jackson respectively. Neither actor brings much to the table, as Norris feels like a hardened version of his Big Bang Theory or Fist Fight characters, and Elise plays her part like a fairly typical movie detective. There are no breakout performances between the two, but at least their involvement in the film is fairly limited.
While Death Wish offers a good dose action with some key moments of humor, it doesn’t shy away from the gore. Almost every death is accompanied by a gruesome depiction of murder to really send home the fact that death is not pretty. While many people have probably seen worse on TV and film, the gore is about on par with what you might expect to see from a Quentin Tarantino movie, so be ready.
As long as you can stand a bit of gore, Death Wish is an entertaining and action-packed revenge film that makes you miss the old days when a new Bruce Willis movie was something to really get excited about. Willis may have slowed down in recent years, especially after those last couple of Die Hard films, but Death Wish feels like it brings him right back to the peak of his career. With any luck, this will be the start of another Death Wish franchise.
About Death Wish
Synopsis: A family man becomes a vigilante killing machine when his family is violently attacked by robbers.
Director: Eli Roth
Writers: Joe Carnahan (screenplay), Brian Garfield (novel)
Stars: Bruce Willis, Vincent D’Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue
Runtime: 1 Hour, 47 Minutes