Eli Roth, the man behind “Cabin Fever,” “Hostel” and “The Green Inferno,” brings audiences a remake no one was asking for. “Death Wish” is a remake of the 1974 Charles Bronson film of the same name. Both films are based on the novel by Brian Garfield. The film follows Dr. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) as a surgeon out for revenge after his home is burglarized and his family attacked. The film is like a mashup of elements from “Kick Ass” to “Unbreakable.” This isn’t a bad melding of films necessarily, but the script is lackluster with predictable turns and poor dialogue.
Bruce Willis leads the cast and is the focal point of the film. However, Bruce Willis as a surgeon is about as believable as it sounds. Willis does a decent job, but his overall performance is flat. He seems to be unaware of some of his co-star’s names, replacing the names of his wife and daughter with “baby” extremely often. He delivers the line with the same exact emotion every single time.
Elisabeth Shue and Camila Morrone play the wife and daughter of Paul Kersey. Their screen time is limited, but they fill their purpose adequately. Vincent D’Onofrio, Dean Norris and Kimberly Elise fill in the remaining supporting roles. D’Onofrio is arguably the most interesting character in the movie, but that really isn’t saying much. Norris plays a detective very much like his role in the series “Breaking Bad.” He is decent alongside Elise, but the two of them could easily fit into any secondary detective role in any other crime drama.
“Death Wish” has come along when gun violence is a hot topic in the media and politics. The film does show both sides of the argument. Willis’ character visits a gun store early on and is astonished at how easy it is to obtain an assault rifle. The flip side is also shown, when those legally purchased weapons are used to defend the home. No matter which side of the argument you fall on, the film highlights the prevalence of gun violence in the city of Chicago and the need to find a solution.
There are some standout scenes in “Death Wish.” One particular scene has Roth’s signature touch lightly applied. It makes that specific moment both uncomfortable and exhilarating. The best scene in the movie comes after Willis takes on a vigilante role in the city and meets with the appropriately named Ice Cream Man. This scene is short, unexpected and is the film's highlight. So while the movie is not the greatest, these few scenes bring a bit of much needed excitement and comedy.
There are lots of issues with the film, but it can be enjoyable at times. The lackluster script, predictable story and bland characters can sometimes surprise you in brief bursts of excitement, but the overall quality of the film is mediocre. I can’t recommend seeing “Death Wish” in theaters, but the usher at the theater in Cincinnati gave the film a shining seal of approval.