Rebooting the role made famous by Charles Bronson in 1974, Bruce Willis has taken up the role of Paul Kersey, now a surgeon instead of an architect, whose family is torn apart by an act of violence that spurs Paul to act against those that would harm others. Paul Kersey a starts out with the perfect family life; his wife Lucy (Elizabeth Shue) and college-bound daughter Jordan (Camila Morrone). The other characters in Paul’s life are his brother Frank (Vincent D’onofrio) and the detectives working on his home invasion case Det. Raines (Dean Norris) and Det. Jackson (Kimberly Elise).
How does it stack up?
The basic plot of the story is generally the same as the 1974 movie. Lucy and Jordan are home while Paul is at work and they fall victim to home invaders who wind up killing Lucy and leaving Jordan in a coma. Even though there is a scene of the women being assaulted it's rather tame compared to the 1974 version. For a director who did Hostel (I & II) and recently Knock, Knock, I think Eli Roth dropped the ball on this scene. After this, we go into Paul’s grief over the loss of his wife, his daughter in a coma, and the police telling him there’s not much they can do. As Pauls grief and depression turn to anger, his rage sends him into action to do what the police won’t do.
What they did fix from the original was Willis’ Kersey was driven to find the people that destroyed his family. While there were 1 or two random thug scenes he quickly got down to the business of hunting the culprits, whereas Bronson's’ Kersey seemed to just put himself into situations where criminals would seek him out and he’d kill them in retaliation. The new story overall is actually pretty good and Roths’ version of Death Wish is definitely more focused than the original.
With all the good that there was there are also some issues with this movie. I’ll hit the minor stuff first and say there were some pacing issues with the movie, there were a lot of places where scenes could have been snipped to tighten it up a bit. There’s also one or two scenes where there are lulls in the story things that can be removed or severely cut down and it really wouldn’t affect the story in the slightest. However, as I said these are minor issues in the movie it’s something most movies have and usually isn’t a big deal unless the writing is atrocious and then they stick out like a sore thumb.
The bad part of this movie is Bruce Willis. I could have sworn he was auditioning for a role on the walking dead because he zombie-walked all through this movie. I mean I love me some Bruce Willis he’s made two of the greatest Christmas movies ever (Die Hard I & II), has been an action hero in the movies for decades and when the action goes down in this film he’s on point with that. Sadly, when it comes to his acting role in the movie, it seems like he doesn’t even want to be there. Personally, I would have loved to have seen Jake Gyllenhaal in this role, if anyone can show you torment and anguish over the death of a loved one it's him. Don’t believe me? Go watch Southpaw and tell me you didn’t feel his pain. Add a gun or two and we could have had a damn near perfect movie with this Death Wish reboot.
Is it worth it?
Going in I was a bit biased with the original movie being better, however, after watching both movies this week I have to admit the remake is better as far as story. Although he went a bit tame on the opening assault scene, Eli Roth makes up for it later on, when the action starts and things get pretty gory really quick, and honestly, it’s what I expect from one of his films. While it’s not Oscar worthy material this is an OK popcorn flick with enough shock value and decent writing to satisfy most moviegoers.