DEATH WISH (2018)
3.5 STARS (out of 5)
A bold remake of the 1974 classic film which originally starred Charles Bronson and led to a successful series of 4 films.
In this update, Bruce Willis stars as Dr. Paul Kersey, an E/R trauma surgeon in modern-day Chicago, where treating gunshot wounds is as common as ordering pepperoni on a deep-dish pizza. As the opening credits roll, a talk radio montage reveals the community’s exasperation with all of the violence.
Lucy (Elisabeth Shue) is Kersey’s upper middle class wife who is finally completing her PhD after 15 years of being a mom and home-maker. Camila Morrone plays Jordan, the Kerseys’ daughter, a high school senior bound for NYU in the Fall. Vincent D’Onofrio is Kersey’s ne’er do well brother Frank, for whom Paul cares unreservedly.
One evening while at work, Lucy and Jordan are brutally savaged by home invaders. Wife Lucy does not survive the event and their daughter Jordan is now in a coma.
After Lucy’s funeral, Kersey’s father-in-law introduces the concept of guns for self-protection. A notion previously uncomfortable to Paul.
Days and weeks pass and the good doctor becomes unsatisfied with the slow pace his wife’s murder investigation.
One evening, while treating a bullet-riddled criminal patient, Paul finds, and confiscates, the patient’s handgun–a Glock–which he brings home. Paul teaches himself to use the Glock and decides to roam the city at night with the purpose of finding trouble. On that first night, he interrupts a random act of violence.
This situation, a car-jacking, requires rapid reaction and Paul’s instincts take over. He thwarts the heist and both criminals are killed. One of them expires from his initial wounds. But the other requires additional kill shots…which Paul obliges.
Unbeknownst to Paul, the episode is captured on a cell phone video and he becomes an instant social media sensation dubbed “The Grim Reaper”. The only thing protecting Paul’s identity is that his face was obscured by the hood of his sweat jacket. Later on, while reviewing the video of his exploits Paul seems quite self-satisfied, almost amused.
The remainder of the film has Paul gunning down other bad guys while always remaining one step ahead of the police and throwing Chicago social media into a deeper frenzy over the meaning, purpose and justification of being a vigilante killer.
Eli Roth (God Bless him) offers a nod to conservatism when he has a fellow NYU-bound girlfriend of the comatose Jordan reading Milton Friedman aloud for Jordan at her hospital bedside. Which is to signal that capitalism, crime-fighting and cowboying-up are all back en vogue. Touche!