A trailer was released a few days ago for a remake of the classic Charles Bronson film “Death wish”, this time starring Bruce Willis and directed by Eli Roth. Sadly for fans of the original, it doesn’t look promising.
One of the things that worked for the original film was that Charles Bronson’s character was an “everyman”, an architect and a father. It not only made it all the more impactful when he becomes a vigilante, but the tension during his first few outings is only there because of the fact that he’s just a regular guy. Bruce Willis hasn’t been an “everyman” or even mildly relatable since the first Die Hard. Not to mention that his career over the past few years has been a long line of flops or movies that end up going straight to DVD.
Joe Carnahan is still credited as the writer but was originally was meant to direct as well. Carnahan eventually left the project because he disagreed with the casting of Bruce Willis as the lead, something I completely understand. Apparently, he wanted Liam Neeson for the lead though, which is still not necessarily an ideal choice in my opinion. As a fan, I would’ve loved to see what Carnahan did with this project, but such is life. This led to Eli Roth being hired as the director and in all honesty, Eli Roth isn’t even the worst choice for a Death Wish remake. He is pretty decent at making films that have a slow burn at the start, but by the end are absolutely bonkers and full of visceral violence. Hostel and Hostel 2 come to mind, but more recently his film Aftershock was a great example of this. That’s not what we’re getting here though.
The original Death Wish was a new thing for mainstream Hollywood cinema, as Vigilantism on film was a relatively new subject, outside of the western. The violence was brutal and intentionally made the audience feel uneasy. The film was built in a way so that we see a normal man go to rock bottom and build himself up to a man who takes the law into his own hands. Nowadays, filmmaking seems to be less about pacing and building to a crescendo, and more about bang for your buck.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love a good action movie. Some of the most fun I’ve had watching movies was from insane, over the top action films like Crank or Running scared. This just seems “too cool for school” for a film that should be about one man’s war on the criminal presence in his city. He literally walks through Central park in the middle of the night looking for trouble just so he can try for even just a minute, not to feel so powerless anymore. It’s a goddamn great film that deals with vigilantism in a realistic way and to see it turn into a modern Hollywood generic action movie with an A.C./D.C. song in the trailer, kinda makes me sick.
Will I still watch it? Probably, as I love seeing bad people getting their comeuppance (Something I attribute to a childhood filled with Tales From The Crypt and The Punisher). But based on the trailer, it just looks a bit too safe and fun for my liking. It’s as if the Hollywood bigwigs think that if they treat it seriously, people are going to go out and start taking the law into their own hands. This problem they have with serious vigilante movies is creating a genre filled to the brim with mediocre, one-liner filled, utterly forgettable films.
Oh and for bonus points, the original Death Wish was Jeff Goldblum’s debut role. He played Freak #1 and has one of the most insane lines of the entire movie.
Luckily, when a remake is made, it doesn’t undo or erase the original. We can always go back and watch the one we love, even if the new version isn’t made for the old fans. If nothing more, I hope this just gets more modern film fans to watch the original Death Wish. Speaking of which, here are a few of my personal favorite revenge/vigilante films in no particular order. You may have seen some of them, but check out the ones you haven’t, especially if you like this genre and appreciate when it’s done right.