Death Wish (2018)

  • Time: 108 min
  • Genre: Action | Crime | Drama
  • Director: Eli Roth
  • Cast: Bruce Willis, Elizabeth Shue, Vincent D’Onofrio


Dr. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is a surgeon who only sees the aftermath of his city’s violence as it’s rushed into his ER -until his wife (Elisabeth Shue) and college-age daughter (Camila Morrone) are viciously attacked in their suburban home. With the police overloaded with crimes, Paul, burning for revenge, hunts for his family’s assailants to deliver justice. As the anonymous slayings of criminals grabs the media’s attention, the city wonders if this deadly avenger is a guardian angel…or a grim reaper. Fury and fate collide in the intense action-thriller Death Wish.


  • 2018’s Death Wish is my latest write-up. It’s not a horror film per se despite director Eli Roth at the helm. Yeah Roth occasionally dabbles in torture and stomach-churning gore with “Wish”. Still, he crafts an exercise in style that shows sheer, off-genre maturity.

    The action sequences in Death Wish are virtual perfection from a storyboard standpoint and the script by Joe Carnahan, well it’s diverting and purely machismo. If you live in Chicago like I do (Chi-Town is “Wish’s” urban setting), then this flick will give you a perturbed feeling as you exit the theater. With all the school shootings and club shootings that have happened in the U.S. recently, Death Wish may have garnered bad timing with its release. Nevertheless, I’m gonna recommend it because it pretty much eclipses the quality of the original Death Wish vehicle from 1974.

    “Wish’s” lead is none other than Bruce Willis. After phoning in performances via direct-to-video sludge like The Prince, Precious Cargo, and Acts of Violence, Bruce finally gets to shine here and does so. It feels like forever since he’s been on screen at the local multiplex. Roth brings John McClane back from the dead and there can’t be anything wrong with that.

    Anyway, the story of Death Wish involves Dr. Paul Kersey (Willis). Kersey has a loving wife and a daughter set to attend college. One night while Paul is performing surgery at his resident hospital, some robbers invade his home, kill said wife, and put said daughter in a coma. Because the cops don’t dig deep enough into the investigation, Kersey becomes a vigilante and takes the law into his own hands. He vows to catch the scumbags that took his life from him and maybe help others from Chicago’s vile criminals bent on ruining society.

    In the original Death Wish, the late Charles Bronson played Paul Kersey. He was stone-faced, had a decent screen presence, and blew bad guys away on a dime. Bruce Willis with hoodie and itchy trigger finger in tote, steadily outdoes Bronson in the acting department. He shows added emotion and manages to flesh out his character more. Whereas Bronson came off as a second-tier Steve McQueen in ’74’s “Wish”, Willis does his best work in years. As the king of grimacing while firing an automatic weapon, Bruce is back with a chrome dome noggin and a level of superior badassery.

    In conclusion, the one thing the original Death Wish has over the new Death Wish is the jungle-style musical score by Herbie Hancock. Otherwise, this is Eli Roth successfully rebooting the Death Wish franchise with updating, social media outlets and splashy, B-movie residue. Sure his villains lack character development and Roth’s overall premise is far-fetched. Nonetheless, Eli portrays the “Windy City” as hell on earth and that supplements his nastily violent vision. They say nothing in life is certain except “death” and taxes. Well you can add solid Death Wish remakes to that list. Rating: 3 stars.

    Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

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  • If the original 1974 Death Wish didn’t pretend to be anything more than a Charles Bronson macho fantasy exploitation flick, its 2018 remake doesn’t even make the effort in pretend to be a by-the-numbers revenge drama. It possesses neither the guilty thrills of Liam Neeson’s Taken films, the first instalment of which was arguably already an updating of Death Wish, nor the balls to be a subversive commentary on gun violence and vigilante justice. No, what it is is a flimsy vehicle for an ageing action star whose performance can be likened to a slower-moving, less dimensional Jason Voorhees.

    The issue is not necessarily that Bruce Willis isn’t cracking wise or kicking ass as Chicago surgeon Paul Kersey. If anything, positing Kersey as a mild-mannered guy who avoids confrontation with aggressive soccer dads and who allows himself to be taken advantage of by his leech of a brother (Vincent D’Onofrio) can only lend intriguing shading to his later, more questionable actions. Willis has proven himself to be an actor capable of depth in films such as Pulp Fiction, The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, but he certainly keeps that ability well hidden here. He scarcely conveys the bare minimum of grief after his wife (Elisabeth Shue) is killed and his teenage daughter (Camila Morrone) is left in a coma following a home invasion. Nor does any flicker of emotion register on his face when the investigating detectives (Dean Norris and Kimberly Elise) mention that the incident is just the latest in a string of robberies gone bad.

    The turning point, such as it is, for the temperate doctor arrives during a moment with his father-in-law, who tells him that it’s no use relying on the police when they only come after a crime has already been committed. If a man really wants to protect what’s his, then he has to take matters into his own hands. In case the message isn’t abundantly obvious, his father-in-law delivers it whilst going after poachers with a shotgun. Thus, Kersey becomes the city’s Guardian Angel, or Grim Reaper, depending on which side of the debate one is on. The white guy in the hoodie becomes a social media sensation and real-life radio personalities Sway and Mancow almost serve as a Greek chorus as they discuss the pros and cons this homegrown avenger.

    Perhaps the film would have been more bearable or not so instantly forgettable if it were less lacklustre. Willis’ catatonia seems to have extended to Eli Roth, whose direction is ho-hum at best. Predictably, he throws in some gore and torture, but even these scenes feel like B-roll from his Saw movies.

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