Death Wish Movie Review
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Okay, look. Not all of us are Oscar watchers. I know what movies are nominated, and I even accidentally watched a few. Heavy drama isn’t my thing, and I think Hollywood heard my pleas. Death Wish (2018), is still based on the novel by Brian Garfield, and is still your basic story of citizen vigilantism in a modern city gone bonkers with murders with Dallas Korben himself, Bruce Willis.
Dr. Paul Kernsey (Bruce Willis) is a skilled trauma surgeon largely disaffected by the bodies he stitches up on a nightly basis. The job is his drive and whether they’re perpetrators or cops, his hands are what saves them, not his morality. His home life is very good, however, with a smart beautiful wife (Elizabeth Shue), an athletic daughter (Camila Morrone) about to enter college, and a brother (Vincent D’Onofrio) getting his life back on track. It’s an insulated existence, but in a city like Chicago, where the murder rate is high and the police are over-worked, insulated families become targets for violent crime.
Of course it happens, otherwise, Death Wish would be a pretty banal movie. Paul’s home and family are violated and he’s left a broken man. After an appropriate amount of grieving, Paul hatches a plan that he believes will bring him the justice he craves. Becoming a one-man hooded knight, the media dubs him the Grim Reaper as he takes out bad guys terrorizing the innocent victims on the street and brought to his trauma ward. Slowly he gets closer to his goal of finding the perpetrators, which also draws the attention of two homicide detectives (Dean Norris and Kimberly Elise). These are not stupid cops, but they are outmanned and outgunned in a violent city.
So yeah, this is still a departure from the original novel, as Kersey isn’t a murder-lusting lunatic racking up the bodies for the sake of a fulfilling a grudge. Paul is on a mission to save what’s left of his family and his peace of mind. The usual coincidences and lucky happenstances lead to him finding the people responsible, and while some may balk at how convenient it all feels, remember – it’s a Bruce Willis movie. No one is expecting perfect dovetails. The path to the men responsible for Paul’s moniker is murky but serviceable.
Joe Carnahan mixes sly dark humor with high drama, and neither the dialogue nor the action feels forced. There is clever commentary inserted via radio and satellite programs discussing the merits and challenges of having a one-man executioner roaming the streets of Chicago, all the more problematic because he’s White. While you want to cheer for Paul and his mission, you’re not allowed the comfort of letting him be right. Lesser screenwriters would have left that out, letting the violence play out for the sake of violence, but this is 2018, and we’re a little too woke for that. The interaction between Willis and Shue is companionable, Willis and D’Onfrio are brotherly, and Willis and Norris and Elise show due professional courtesy, even if it’s strained. Eli Roth, while not my favorite director, has nailed the pacing and suspense and he keeps this well-trod storyline relatively fresh and modern. There are plenty of gory demises (of course) and some may cause you to howl with glee because, at the end of the day, it’s still Eli Roth, and gory demises are what he does.
Death Wish (2018) is Rated R for people getting shot (a lot), people bleeding a lot (a lot), swears (a lot), violence against women, a guy landing badly, a guy getting landed on badly, and Bruce Willis being his usual badass.