Die Hard on ZzzQuil.
We would be very irresponsible if we did not take the current temperature of the room in relation to gun violence in America and say tensions are running high in light of the recent Parkland, Florida high school shooting. One of the most common arguments against gun control from NRA propagandists and gun lovers alike is these shootings are preventable by enabling “law-abiding” citizens to carry concealed weapons on them, this way they can fight fire with fire. One of the visions these delusional psychopaths have is to emulate Bruce Willis’s John McClane from the Die Hard film series and save the day in such situations. If that seems a bit out of touch, maybe Willis’s latest action vehicle, Death Wish, will suffice their deranged fantasies.
Death Wish sees emergency room surgeon Dr. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) living a successful, peaceful life with his wife Lucy (Elisabeth Shue) and daughter Jordan (Camila Morrone) in the crime ridden city of Chicago. One night while Dr. Kersey is at work, Lucy and Jordan fall victim to a house robbery, leaving Lucy dead and Jordan badly injured. Dissatisfied with the lack of progress in the police’s investigation on the matter, Dr. Kersey takes it upon himself by becoming a vigilante crime fighter to find the men who committed the crime while also taking on the most dangerous criminals the city of Chicago has to offer.
There’s no doubt Death Wish suffers from spectacularly terrible timing, as its release comes a mere 16 days after the Parkland, Florida high school shooting tragedy. A film about a vigilante seeking justice may please the gun worshiping crowd and fulfill their bloodthirsty fantasies of protecting those they love or going after “gangbangers” with an arsenal that rivals that of a member of the military, but to everyone else the film comes across as blatantly tone-deaf. Even witnessing Willis’s character evolution from being a “Mr. Nice Guy” into a tough guardian comes across as a Batman origin story mixed with Fox News ideologies, a laughable and silly transformation at best. It doesn’t help the film will draw comparisons to the original 1974 version starring Charles Bronson, whereas that film had gripping conviction, this re-make resonates as offensive and rote, a surprising result coming from director and current master of gore Eli Roth.
The film’s titular star doesn’t exactly bring much life to the film, as Bruce Willis, who has recently become the king of direct-to-video action trash, sleep walks his way through the film. Willis has done films like Death Wish to death throughout his career, but even Willis at his laziest is still somewhat charming. The rest of the cast fills in somewhat nicely, with veteran actors Vincent D’Onofrio as Willis’s brother and Dean Norris as a detective on the case standing out the most.
While Eli Roth’s direction doesn’t rise above anything other than ordinary, he is able to get a couple of thrilling action sequences out of the film. Seeing Willis back in the foray as an action star delivering killer blows, while tone deaf at this time, is still fun to watch. Willis is an action icon, and even him sleep walking through a role like this one while still managing to deliver some hard-hitting action is somewhat of a welcome return, especially in a theatrically released setting.
Death Wish doesn’t add anything new to the revenge/ vigilante action sub-genre and is the current epitome of a gun-toting lunatic’s dream scenario. Its impeccably bad timing does not do itself any favors, but it delivers just enough action and Bruce Willis for the least demanding of action enthusiasts to warrant a look. It may be Die Hard on Zzzquil, but at least we get Bruce Willis back on the silver screen before he cashes another check on a direct-to-DVD release he merely rolls out of bed for.
Rating: 2 out of 4 Stars. Rent it.
Death Wish stars Bruce Willis, Vincent D’onofrio, Elisabeth Shue, Dean Norris, Kimberly Elise, Mike Epps, Camila Morrone, and Beau Knapp. It is in theaters March 2nd.