The Charles Branson vigilante drama, Death Wish (1974), made in the era of Nixon’s politics and scandals had become an instant hit.
Will the remake do justice to the movie that made the hero of the 1974 movie, Charles Bronson, a household name and made revenge-fantasy films such a popular genre?
Remake versus original
The old movie and new have the same plot, with a few minor happier twists. Dr. Paul Kersey (played by Bruce Willis) is a respected trauma surgeon who transforms into a justice-seeking vigilante who goes by the name 'Grim Reaper' at night. Why does he do what he does? When a group of gangsters rob his house leaving his wife dead and his daughter in a coma, he decides the best way to get back to them is to take ‘justice into his own hands’ by buying an illegal weapon to avenge other people who have also been wronged by random acts of violence.
An NRA ad campaign
So where does the film stand? Eli Roth (the director) specializes in making violent revenge fantasy movies and it has worked well for him in the past for films like Hostel and Knock Knock. This means that his uncredited directing stint in Inglorious Bastards and Bruce Willis’s prowess in action roles should add up to critical and box-office acclaim, right?
Think again. Bruce Willis’s dialogue delivery is stunted, the dialogues in the film are so over-used, you could have written the script yourself. The rest of the cast seems to follow Willis’ lack of interest in the film, there’s no effort made by any of the cast members to even try and act in the film.
Also, the very pro-gun stance that Death Wish takes is ill-timed because of the recent tragedy in the United States, where high school students were gunned down by a classmate in Florida, and it sparked a debate on gun rights.
Here's an example of the pro-gun stance: after attending his wife’s funeral, Willis’s father-in-law tells him, “A man has to protect what’s his.” and shoots his rifle at a few poachers who have infiltrated his farm. In another point of the movie, Kersey goes in to buy a gun from a fancy weapons store after a pro-gun ad flashes on-screen.
The film works better as an ad campaign for the NRA in the USA rather than a revenge fantasy film starring the action hero Bruce Willis. It seems to justify why it is necessary to keep guns lying in the household. The cringe-worthy bit where AC/DC’s Back in Black blasts in the background as Willis’s character trains himself on how to use a gun can define the whole film - it's trying to say good guys need guns, and that’s okay.