Eli Roth, who is well-known for his violent movies, has directed a so-so remake of “Death Wish,” a 1974 movie that starred Charles Bronson.
Times were different in 1974, of course. The Bronson film is the more brutal of the two. After all, only a few years before, most American films adhered to a strict censorship code. The “R” rating hadn’t been around that long.
The lead character’s name once again is Paul Kersey, this time played by Bruce Willis. In the first movie, the character who becomes a vigilante is an architect. In the second, he’s a surgeon.
The setting is Chicago, and its foundation is the frightening escalation of violence in the city during the past few years. Kersey and his wife Lucy (Elisabeth Shue), along with their daughter Jordan (Camila Morrone) live happily as they prepare for Jordan to leave for college.
The way the criminals make their way into the Kersey home is believable and clever. It’s horrifying to see the frightened mother trying to protect her daughter by offering the robbers whatever is in the house. But when one of the felons is unmasked, that means he can be identified, and tragedy ensues.
Jordan ends up in a coma. Kersey continues to attempt to work with law enforcement on the case (“Breaking Bad” fans, and I’m one of them, will be happy to see Dean Norris in what essentially is his role from the TV series as a detective.)
But Kersey gets tired of waiting around, and finally, wearing a hooded jacket and armed with a gun, goes into the streets armed and dispatches criminals in the midst of a carjacking. His actions are captured on video, which goes viral and becomes the topic of talk-show hosts.
All the while, Kersey, anonymous as the Grim Reaper, seeks the men who tore apart his family. He’s not afraid to go into any environment at any time, as long as it brings him closer to delivering his own brand of justice.
I like seeing Willis back in action, and Vincent D'Onofrio is enjoyable as his ne’er-do-well brother. Roth creates an interesting dichotomy between the Kersey who saves lives in the operating room by removing bullets and the Grim Reaper who takes lives with his own gun.
Some of the situations are ridiculous, and others are downright laughable. This isn’t nearly as effective or smart as the original film.
But it is a serviceable action movie that is bound to provide some topics for conversation after the show.