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Overall Rating
4.09

Awesome: 18.18%
Worth A Look72.73%
Average: 9.09%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 5 user ratings


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Death Wish (2018)
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Better than it had to be."
4 stars

Thirty years ago, Bruce Willis had to prove to the world that the Motown-crooning jokester from Moonlighting could anchor an action movie — 'Die Hard,' of course. These days, Willis has the opposite problem: he now has to prove he can do things other than action, and his career in the last decade or so has been depressingly long on worthless straight-to-video shoot-‘em-ups.

Which brings us to Death Wish, a surprisingly fine and effective reboot of material first published by novelist Brian Garfield in 1972 and filmed, with Charles Bronson, by director Michael Winner in 1974. Playing Paul Kersey, now a Chicago surgeon whose wife (Elisabeth Shue) is killed and daughter (Camila Morrone) rendered comatose by home-invading burglars¹, Willis indeed proves that Willis the actor — intermittently on view in movies like Looper and Moonrise Kingdom — is still with us.

This Death Wish was directed by Eli Roth, whose Hostel movies and The Green Inferno have given him a rep as a gorehound bro he doesn’t really deserve. I always think there’s more going on under the hood of his exploitation-throwback movies than many critics give him credit for, and in this film he works conscientiously; during a montage of Kersey learning how to use the gun he’s stumbled upon, we also see gory clips of what bullets do to flesh and what must be done to close the wounds. The Death Wish series headlined by Bronson got nastier and eventually more outlandish, to the point where its excesses are beloved by fans of bad grindhouse (“They killed The Giggler, man!” yells a punk in Death Wish 3). Roth takes the material back to basics, giving us a vigilante who at first can’t even fire a gun without hurting himself.

Just because Roth takes a responsible, pro-family stance here, and stages some of the violence to bring out the clumsy desperation of non-supermen trying to shoot each other in close quarters, doesn’t mean he doesn’t deliver some cathartic bloodshed. Some of the killings are abrupt, others are worthy of vintage Fangoria, and one punk goes out with his face twisted in a comic-horrible rictus of agony. The blood splatters out like crimson branches, pools under spasmodic bodies; brains leap out of a skull that’s just been flattened by a car. In general, Roth successfully walks the hair-thin line between drama that takes respectful measure of the effects of violence and good old all-American exploitation.

Radio jocks all over the city take sides on Kersey the “Grim Reaper” and invite their listeners to do likewise. Dateless neckbeards in basements post YouTube tutorials on how to clean guns or wipe out data on a laptop. Kersey himself, in one of the script’s wittier throwaways, becomes an internet meme. (Joe Carnahan is solely credited with the screenplay, which had an uncredited once-over by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski.) The punks, as always, are carefully ethnically mixed, and there are actors of color in doctor and cop roles — though I presume we’re not yet ready for a black Paul Kersey. (In the ‘70s, we were, and blaxploitation flicks obliged us.) Eli Roth may not be making a rabid reactionary potboiler, but he’s also not making a movie that’s going to challenge mainstream expectations, or grapple with the complex, heartbreaking causes of urban violence.

Willis lets himself smile and shed tears, as if grateful for the company of real actors. His Kersey is smart but vulnerable, haunted by the memory of his brutal father, chagrined by his ne’er-do-well brother (Vincent D’Onofrio) who keeps turning up asking for loans. D’Onofrio may be the best thing in the movie, making the brother self-justifying but decent, alluding to some crime (probably minor) he has on his record. Death Wish stays slick but gets a little tired and predictable as it heads for the finish line. Still, Roth maintains a sharp control, giving us, near the climax, a quiet slow camera track towards Kersey’s house that in its undemonstrative ominousness recalls (and ranks with) vintage John Carpenter. Someday Roth will apply his horror-movie instincts to material that can make them sing, and he will make a classic. As it is, Death Wish is far better-wrought than it could have been, or deserved to be.

¹Many will be relieved that, unlike in the original Death Wish and its vicious first sequel, there are no rapes we have to watch or even hear about.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=31750&reviewer=416
originally posted: 06/12/18 08:53:55
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User Comments

7/08/18 Loopy Bruce solid in a competant thriller 4 stars
6/21/18 Lou much better than the negative reviews would suggest 3 stars
6/16/18 Tony Brubaker A marvellously entertaining movie, one of the years best. 5 stars
3/08/18 Action movie fan Not bad for a remake el Roth pours on much blood but maintains the story 4 stars
3/04/18 The Lovelorn Ewok Marvelous and better than the Bronson original. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  02-Mar-2018 (R)
  DVD: 05-Jun-2018

UK
  N/A

Australia
  02-Mar-2018
  DVD: 05-Jun-2018


Directed by
  Eli Roth

Written by
  Joe Carnahan

Cast
  Bruce Willis
  Vincent D'Onofrio
  Elisabeth Shue
  Dean Norris
  Jack Kesy
  Kirby Bliss Blanton



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