The “Death Wish” remake started development in 2006, and Sylvester Stallone was initially considered to direct and star in the film. (Photo courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
The original 1974 film “Death Wish” starring Charles Bronson was a movie that could have been remade. It was a lackluster and dull movie that lacked excitement and a charismatic lead, but it ultimately had a good premise for an action movie. Instead of taking the same premise and reworking it, the 2018 “Death Wish” film takes the same premise and executes it in almost the exact same way.
After a burglary gone wrong that results in the death of his wife (Elisabeth Shue) and the hospitalization of his daughter (Camila Morrone), surgeon Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) takes the law into his own hands when he feels the police are not getting the job done.
When it comes to remakes of older movies, there are two types. The first type of remake is the one where an older movie actually influences someone, and they want to make their own telling of it, such as John Carpenter’s “The Thing” or David Cronenberg’s “The Fly.” The other type of remake is the one where an older property with some amount of name recognition is revived in the hopes of making money, such as “The Mummy” or “Beauty and the Beast” from 2017. “Death Wish” is the second type of remake, and a useless one at that.
While most remakes tend to not live up to the originals, they usually at least try to be different. “Death Wish,” on the other hand, does not. Other than Paul Kersey’s character being a surgeon as opposed to an architect, almost every idea and story beat is the same. There are a few attempts at changing aspects of the story or adding new ideas to the franchise, but these either do not work or do not make a difference. For example, there are debates about whether or not what Kersey is doing is good or bad, but these debates happen multiple times and are always the same talking points, so the debates are just repeated ideas. On top of that, there is only one time where the debate becomes different due to the mentioning of a copy-cat vigilante, but that piece of information never gets dwelled on by a single character.
In terms of remakes, it is the exact same thing as the original, and in terms of action movies, it is unexciting. There is zero tension because it never feels like Bruce Willis is in any danger due to either coincidences helping him out or because he does not have any expression on his face that would suggest any kind of worry on his part. To add something to these dull action scenes, blood splatter is added in, but it all looks fake. It is also hard to have fun with the action scenes when in-between the audience is treated to a scene or a conversation about Kersey’s comatose and hospitalized daughter.
As stated above, Willis never shows any sort of worry during his action scenes, but that bad acting job does not stop there. It is very clear in every scene that he could not care less about being in the movie. His expression is blank, his line delivery is emotionless and any pre-existing charisma is non-existent. Willis is not the only bad performer in this movie, though. Both Shue and Morrone are bad in the small bits of the movie they are in, though Morrone is able to convey proper emotions. The only two decent performances are from Vincent D’Onofrio as Paul’s brother and Dean Norris as a police detective.
Alongside the parade of bad performances is a parade of bad and or poorly written characters. None of the characters have any depth to them, nor do they have any traits or quirks to separate them from each other. For example, the Kersey family cannot just be a typical family going about their lives until a horrible circumstance happens to them. Instead, nothing but good things are happening to all of them and their lives are paradise, making it so instead of creating characters for the family members, the filmmakers can just manipulate the audience into caring about them. Another example is Dean Norris’ character, whose differentiating character trait only exists for an unfunny joke at the end of the movie that does not even make sense. Seriously, why would someone have pizza delivered to a crime scene?
“Death Wish” is essentially the same boring and lackluster action movie that it is remaking, which results in it being a boring action movie and a terrible remake.
Final grade: C-