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'Death Wish' review: A crime fighter fantasy

Movie Reviews

‘Death Wish’ review: A crime fighter fantasy

Makes good on the ultra-violence.

Bruce Willis stars in Death Wish, a reboot of the 1974 original vigilante shoot em up which dropped on Blu-Ray last week. Directed by horror maestro Eli Roth, the film follows the exploit of a man who loses his wife after some burglars break into his home. The big difference between this and the original is that the main character is a doctor, not an architect, but this actually solves a few story problems as the story progresses (he can kill and heal himself!).

Without a doubt, this film is well cast. Bruce Willis plays Paul Kersey, who is a good man and a good doctor. He has the perfect wife in Lucy played by Elisabeth Shue. Their daughter Jordan, played by Camila Morrone, is an excellent unknown who is genuine and kind. The early scenes are fantastic in showing this loving family as believable so that when tragedy does strike you’ll feel for Bruce Willis. Really all the motivation for an average Joe to turn renegade is laid out well in the film. Even the training scenes, where Paul learns how to shoot a gun, are done in a realistic way so things stay believable.

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'Death Wish' review: A crime fighter fantasy

(l to r.) Camila Morrone as Jordan Kersey, Elisabeth Shue as Lucy Kersey, and Bruce Willis as Paul Kersey star in DEATH WISH, a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures film.

That believability extends to the graphic violence. It’s easy to see Roth’s experience making horror films helped make this film. We’re talking crushed heads spewing brains, blood spraying galore and bullets turning people’s chests into raw meat. If you enjoy ultra-violence this film will not disappoint.

This film has been criticized for being political due to its message about guns can indeed solve the world’s problems. If a good guy has a gun the bad guys will get their reckoning. I’m not sure this film necessarily makes that statement in part because we see copycat’s attempting to do what the hero does in this film and fail. It’s also a film that requires its own action-movie rules to work.

'Death Wish' review: A crime fighter fantasy

Bruce Willis stars as Paul Kersey in DEATH WISH, a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures film.

Speaking of which, if you liked Bruce Willis shooting guns in Fifth Element or Last Man Standing you’ll dig this one. There are a few scenes where he gets to do some gunplay or just act like a total badass. Is this some kind of male fantasy of picking up a gun and being a badass? Probably, but the film never makes a statement beyond this being a good revenge flick. The gory violence and gunplay is proof enough.

The film is by no means perfect and can run on long at times. For the most part I was surprised by how true it felt to reality with very few plot holes, but it wraps up way too easily. There’s certainly a climactic end, but it comes quickly and wraps up in a way that is unbelievable. Other elements don’t quite fit or don’t seem to be necessary. One example is Frank, played by Vincent D’Onofrio, who adds very little to the story beyond being a red herring. He doesn’t add much beyond misleading the audience. It also seems to miss an opportunity to tell a story about the unique nature of a doctor becoming a killer. More could have been done to show how someone who swore to help others could so easily turn and kill the bad guys. Aside from a brief scene we don’t get much in the way of how killing could affect a person. Maybe he’s just a killing machine in the making? I don’t buy it. One could argue it’s not trying to be a psychological thriller, but it’s certainly a missed opportunity.

The Blu-Ray combo pack comes with the extra features listed below:
– Commentary with Eli Roth & Roger Birnbaum
– Deleted Scenes with optional commentary with Eli Roth & Roger Birnbaum
– Mancow Morning Show Extended Scenes
– Sway in the Morning Extended Scene
– Vengeance and Vision: Directing Death Wish
– Grindhouse Trailer

The deleted scenes end up being mostly extended scenes already in the movie and don’t add much. The commentary by director Roth and Birnbaum adds nice detail on why the film was made for modern audiences and your typical factoids about shooting. The Grindhouse trailer, which played briefly on TV, is excellent and is so good it makes you wish they shot the entire movie as a Grindhouse picture.

This is a good revenge flick, especially if you like your action heavy on the violence. The acting is exceptional throughout and the plot believable enough to enjoy. It won’t win any Oscars, but it’s well worth a rental at the very least.

'Death Wish' review: A crime fighter fantasy
Death Wish
Is it good?
A good movie if you like your violence bloody, but it has its faults.
Delivers on the ultra violence especially if you like Bruce Willis shooting off guns
Well acted with believable scenes and very few plot holes
Wraps up too easily and quickly
Vincent D'Onofrio isn't very necessary to the story
7.5
Good
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