Death Wish (2018)


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I am curious to see what they do with this one.

The first Death Wish back in 1974 was a really good movie. (The literal Nazi that Bronson's Paul Kersey works with aside.) It is a slow descent into madness of a man who saw his family attacked. When  re-watched the 1974 version a few years ago what struck me is that all of his kills were technically self defense. He would go out of his way to attract muggers, and then kill them when they attack him so the kill is technically self-defense. Yeah, spoilers, but that movie is 44 years old.

The sequels were... problematic.

I'll be honest, I don't have high hopes for the 2018 remake. I hated that the 2018 trailer shows Paul Kersey found one of the men who attacked his wife. A huge plot point of the 1974 film is that Kersey never finds the men who murdered his wife and raped his daughter. (Who falls mute for years, by the way.) There doesn't seem to be any of the inner struggle and character development of the original. And Eli Roth's name pretty much erases any hopes I had.


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On the podcast I co-host QUESTIONS: We Don't Have Answers, we discussed the new trailer and how gleefully race baiting it was. The old films are...racist as well, but this one looks like it just doesn't know any better when it should. The trailer shows Willis walking up to a black guy's house and shooting him in broad daylight on his own property, and it's presented like a Crowning Moment of Awesome. The movie can go fuck itself.

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  • 4 months later...

I rented it. I am most of the way through. It literally turns into a freaking Saw movie at one point.

If it was "generic vigilante movie" I would judge it less harshly. But because it is a remake, you have to compare it to the original and it just doesn't measure up to the 1974 film. There's just too much suspension of disbelief, and way too much happenstance that leads to Paul Kersey finding the men who attacked his family. (Which he should not have done.)

The lip service to the debate about vigilantes being good or bad is insultingly shallow. Look, I understand you don't have time to explore the social themes more deeply, and Eli Roth frankly doesn't have the brainpower or maturity to do that anyway. But if you're not going to seriously examine it, then leave it out of the movie.

If it was a standalone film, it would be OK, maybe even good. As a remake, it fails badly.

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I thought it was ok, but nothing special. He wasn't some trained ninja taking revenge. He got lucky most of the time and didn't know how to properly use a gun, so this was no Taken. Honestly the one thing I couldn't get past was Bruce Willis playing like the top surgeon in the city. I couldn't suspend my disbelief enough to buy that shit. 

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I'm gonna get political here. Sorry.

I've been here 14 years and I generally try to not get political. That's not why I come here. But a political analysis is necessary to compare the remake to the original, because the broader context is important. I'll put spoiler tags around it if you don't want to read it.



The original was topical in that fears of violent crime nationwide were high in the 1970's and 1980's. The remake is topical to Chicago, but the total amount of violent crime nationwide is significantly down from the early 1990's. When you consider we have a bigger population now than then, the crime rate is even lower. So despite the fearmongering from the political class, we're safer now than we have been in generations.

Therefore, while the 1974 movie and the inferior sequels had a cultural resonance with fears of rising violent crime, that doesn't exist today nearly to the extent it did back then.

I actually think it would be a good twist if a vigilante in one of these movies, instead of executing murderers, accidentally executed an innocent person due to a case of mistaken identity. Or he executes someone guilty of a non-violent petty crime. This is why we have civil rights and due process instead of just murdering people we think are bad. Even with due process, horrific errors can be and have been made and innocent people are railroaded, but at least there's a chance of exoneration in front of a court of law. That doesn't exist with a vigilante.



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