The original Death Wish, starring Charles Bronson, was an undeniable exploitation classic. The 1974 film was a vicious response to the rising crime levels in urban cities during that decade. Although it has not aged well considering the modern day social climate, it’s still a trashy joy that can be viewed as such. Especially as the series became more cartoonish, peaking with the gonzo 1985 masterpiece that is Death Wish 3. Watch this incredible murder montage, but know that it might be a tad NSFW filled with some over-the-top dying.
However, doing a remake of the story in 2017 sounds like something that requires a nuanced and complex approach. The story of a vigilante going around town and shooting bad guys in present day just doesn’t ring as “fun” anymore. But, there is a Death Wish remake on the way from director Eli Roth (Hostel) and starring Bruce Willis as the lead. The first trailer has hit the web and, well, take a look for yourself:
A Whole Lotta Wrong
*sigh* Okay, there is a lot to parse with this thing. For the time being, let’s set aside all of the potential political discourse this stirs up. As a movie, Death Wish looks incredibly bland. The story doesn’t look like it’s doing anything subversive or fresh with the avenging vigilante concept. The filmmaking isn’t dynamic and makes the entire endeavor come across as flat. The worst thing is how anti-fun this trailer is. The jokes aren’t even good groaners and the tone seems completely wrong. Considering we’ve seen more interesting twists on this formula with stuff like John Wick, this just doesn’t seem like a movie a lot of people would enjoy.
But, when you add the social commentary on top of this trailer… yeesh. The can of worms with this one is more like an aircraft carrier of worms. There is an argument to be made that pressing buttons is exactly what an exploitation film should be doing. That’s not wrong but this doesn’t seem like a sly bit of commentary. It feels like it’s co-opting a whole lot of current events elements for some gleeful violence and rubbing our faces in it.
I mean, a white guy in a hoodie murdering people in Chicago and being considered a hero? That feels tone-deaf today. Maybe it would be more tolerable if the trailer didn’t treat the whole endeavor as if it’s supposed to be a blast. Brian Garfield’s original novel was actually about the dangers of vigilantism and how it makes you as despicable as the those you hunt down. The Conjuring director James Wan actually adapted Garfield’s second book, Death Sentence, back in 2007, and it was a much better examination of the moral issues at the heart of the story.
It’s never fair to completely judge a movie by its trailer, so we’ll have to wait until Death Wish hits theaters in November before we can give it a definite appraisal. But the messaging… wow.