Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Death Wish Is An Ineptly Made As It's Lead Performance Is Dreadful

I can think of numerous ways you could remake Death Wish as an entertaining movie in 2018, but the actual Death Wish remake we got from director Eli Roth earlier this month is the complete opposite of the best way to approach remaking this 1974 action film. The premise for this new take on Death Wish is set in modern-day Chicago with Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) as a doctor who lives a happy life with his family consisting of wife Lucy (Elisabeth Shue) and a daughter, Jordan (Camila Morrone), who is about to head off to college. Paul's chef character flaw in the eyes of the movie is him being a sissy, as demonstrated by him not only refusing to beat up a foul-mouthed attendant at his daughter's soccer game but also letting his wife stand up for him in this argument. What a loser! 

Their happy existence is disrupted when their home is broken into by robbers who end up killing Lucy and sending Jordan into a coma. Distraught over this tragic loss, Paul is frustrated that the local police force, namely detective Kevin Raines (Dean Norris), is making far too little progress on catching the people responsible for murdering his wife. Now, a guy who's never fired a gun before is going out to dish out his own brand of violent justice by way of killing carjackers and seeking out the evildoers who have shattered his family. If he's going to pull this task off, Paul Kersey is going to have to grit his teeth and get himself a.....Live Free or Die Hard. Wait, no, I feel like that's wrong...

Death Wish is just insufferable as a movie, I can't put it any simpler than that. First off, and perhaps most importantly, it's a total dud of an action movie. Director Eli Roth seems to have no clue how to stage shoot-outs in an exciting manner so anytime Paul Kersey is going to town on gun-toting foes it's all presented in a visually clumsy manner. To boot, there's very little creativity shown in the assorted shoot-outs, especially a climax set at Paul's house that has Paul "surprising" his adversaries in dreadfully predictable ways that feel like whoever was responsible  for writing this dreck (the script is solely credit to Joe Carnahan, though Carnahan has been adamant that little to none of his work on this film is in the final cut of the project) wasn't even trying.

With no fun action to keep one's mind occupied, the icky politics of the film do become too weighty to ignore. As the first paragraph of this review indicates, Death Wish carries an arcane view that the only way for a man to truly be a man is to pick up a gun and shoot anything that moves while the sole reason for women to even exist in the Death Wish universe is so they can be objects that can motivate men to be more manly. Meanwhile, Death Wish seems to choose to make the primary bad guys of the piece Caucasian males as a way to avoid coming off as racially insensitive, but it still ends up coming off as gross in this department thanks to moments like Paul driving by three non-white men simply hanging out on a street corner that's treated like a moment out of a horror movie. 

Even more egregious than that is a clunky script (again, who knows who is even responsible for it since Carnahan is the only one credited for it) that has so many distracting dead ends to it. Mike Epps shows up for two lines in the first act and then vanishes completely, was he supposed to play an important character at one point in time? Vincent D'Onofrio, playing Paul's brother, has a subplot involving his characters financial woes that ends up going nowhere while Dean Norris gets to have a recurring joke about his detective character trying to eat gluten-free food that feels completely out of place. Death Wish is so astonishingly incompetent that it executes the simple premise of a guy wanting revenge in a way that renders it needlessly convoluted and cluttered.

But worse than all of that is Bruce Willis, who delivers a staggeringly listless performance here. Remember in 2012 when it looked like Bruce Willis was turning over a new leaf as an actor with interesting performances in unorthodox fare like Moonrise Kingdom and Looper? That feels like a lifetime ago when one watches him here as he carries the same facial expression and vocal tone for the entire movie no matter what situation his character is caught in. It's one of the lazier lead performances I've seen in a major American motion picture in a while, but one whose dismal quality is fitting for such an abominable movie like Death Wish. Those seeking diverting action or basic competent cinema need to avoid this dreadful film like an NRA spokesperson avoids adressing reality.

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