The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic:
on DEATH WISH (2018, 107 minutes, R)
The Quick of It -
When I walked into the theater, I thought it would be nearly empty. When the lights dimmed and the screen lit up, I thought this action film would be centered on its violent moments (not that this is a bad thing). I thought there would be little real substance to this film, a film I had a cursory interest in seeing.
Goes to show…
After the mass influx of remakes, skepticism sets in quickly. The original DEATH WISH (1974) with Charles Bronson is iconic to the ‘vengeance genre’. Why take on such a prolific project that will be scrutinized by everyone? You see, those old-fart critics will remember and idolize the past. Also, the current social climate with the school shootings at the forefront of everyone’s mind does nothing to help sell tickets. Now you understand why my thinking was so slanted at the time.
My first mistake was not accounting for the bold and driven director, Eli Roth. His background is extensive in the film industry, mostly outside of directing. You can see his love for filmmaking goes into creating a dynamic project rather than making a paycheck. Yes, I found DEATH WISH to have a number of levels that could have been easily discounted being an action film at its core. Also, cinematographer Rogier Stoffers and anyone behind the set locations crushed it. The streets of Chicago could not look any more alive, adding to each set shot and transitional clip something tangible. This is a full package visually.
Then, the one thing I didn’t discount is my fanboy addiction to Bruce Willis. He will always be one of my favorite actors, regardless the role. Bruce made this his film. He plays Paul Kersey, a doctor who must find some comfort after his wife was killed and daughter put into a coma from a forceful break-in. The storyline starts with building that connection between the family, building towards that moment requiring empathy from the observers. His wife played by Elizabeth Shue (from LEAVING LAS VEGAS, ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING, and THE SAINT) and daughter played by up-and-coming Camila Morrone did not falter. The result is a film that touches on more than the violent nerve. You couldn’t help but follow the struggle of Dr. Kersey, finding his therapeutic devices liberating in the extremist of senses.
It’s unfortunate that this film is released at a poorly timed moment. I do hope it gets some respect. If nothing else, I also got to see Vincent D’Onofrio still finding work. Yeah, another fanboy addiction.