The Trouble With Eli Roth’s DEATH WISH

March 21, 2018

Written by Capt McNeely

Georgia Division ZADF Twitter: @ZADF_ORG


Gun’s are cool, shooting bad guys is badass, and 6-chamber street justice is the name of the game in Eli Roth’s deeply problematic Death Wish. Initially delayed after the tragic Las Vegas shooting last October, Death Wish had the great misfortune of being released only a few weeks after the tragic shooting at Stonemason Douglas High school in Florida.  It seems there’s too much gun violence in America to respectfully release a film celebrating gun violence. Well, that’s assuming it’s possible to respectfully release a film celebrating gun violence at all.

   The Charles Bronson led original, released back in 1974, hasn’t aged particularity well, but can at least be said to be a product of the times. What’s Eli Roth’s excuse, releasing a film in 2018 that is so unabashedly pro-murder, pro-vigilante, and generally misguided and ugly. Extended scenes of fictional violence has never been something that’s bothered me, nor likely bothered to many horror fans; have of our favorite genre consists of ghouls, ghosts, and masked men with long blades chopping up innocents with boldfaced glee.
What strikes me as vastly inappropriate however, is the straight faced certainty Death Wish portrays it’s gun-happy murderous protagonist as in the right. Paul Kersey guns down everyone from car jackers to pawn shop smugglers without mercy, often with a rock song in the background. In the world of Death Wish guns are badass, a tool used to dispatch evil doers as AC/DC serenades your spree with tunes like Back In Black and Highway Too Hell.
Gun toting vigilantes have been a part of fiction as long as fictions existed, but they generally aren’t portrayed the good guys. You might cheer when The Punisher guns down a room of Irish Mobsters in Daredevil or Detective Hartigan (ironically also played by Bruce Willis) blows off a pedophile’s dick in Sin City, but neither are portrayed as righteous heros like Death Wish’s Paul Kersey. For a man who just lost his wife, Kersey is remarkably stoic as he blows out one bad guy brain after another.
Whatever side of the gun debate you’re on, Death Wish shows off a remarkable amount of bad taste. There’s a difference between purchasing a firearm to protect you’re home and roaming the streets playing judge, jury, and executioner on all those who you please. That’s a distinction Death Wish fails to make, and it’s central idea that the world would be fixed if only a handful of good citizens would put a bullet in bad citizens asses is not only wrong, it’s harmful.
Even beyond it’s troubled premise, this remake of Death Wish is just not a very good film. Shot competently but without style, the story chugs screechingly along like a train missing half it’s track. It’s a solid hour before Willis ever fires a shot, and longer still before he fires one into a criminal. With such a high octane premise, you would think at the very least Death Wish wouldn’t be boring. You’d be very much mistaken. Add in a number of goofy Final Destination style kills, including one particularly timely bowling bowl, that conflict with whats supposed to be a gritty, somber tone, and you’ve got a real stinker, mishmash of a movie.
For being one of the so-called masters of horror, it’s been a real long time since Eli Roth’s released a good movie. Hell, it’s been awhile since he’s released one that’s halfway watchable.

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