Movie Review: “Death Wish”
Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is a respected surgeon. He has a loving wife and daughter who both mean the world to him. However, one evening when he is at work, a couple of burglars break into his house. They expected to find the house empty, an easy job, but things go haywire when the burglars find Paul Kersey’s wife and daughter in the house. During the chaos, Paul Kersey’s wife is killed and his daughter is severely injured. She will survive, but she is in a coma and it is unclear if or when she will wake up.
Paul Kersey is devastated, and he is angry. He wants to see the men responsible brought to justice, but it seems that the police do not have any leads regarding who did this. Paul Kersey cannot sit idly by as his wife’s murder (and his daughters near fatal injury) ends up as just another open case that the police cannot solve. He decides to take matters into his own hands, so he gets a gun with the intent of getting some vigilante justice. The only problem is that he has no idea where to start.
The Pros & Cons
Bruce Willis (+4pts)
The Training (-3pts)
Detective Raines (-3pts)
Pro: Bruce Willis (+4pts)
To be clear, Bruce Willis did not exactly deliver a riveting performance. However, unsurprisingly, he played the badass character really well. How many times has he played a character just like this? He has done it a lot, but he plays these types of characters effectively, and this role was no exception.
I would have liked to see this character have more emotion or have more heart, but that is not what you get when you get Bruce Willis. With Bruce Willis, you get an action hero and an actor that plays badass characters effectively. Despite his characters almost non-existent training (which I will get into later), you believe that the character is capable of doing what he is doing because Bruce Willis is believable in the role. Plus, it does not hurt that it is just entertaining to see him play characters like this.
Con: Predictable (-5pts)
There was absolutely nothing special or unexpected that happened in this movie. If you have seen this trailer, than you will know exactly how this movie will play out. This is not because the trailer gives everything away, but rather, the filmmakers did absolutely everything you would expect them to, given the premise. I could give examples, but I want to to avoid spoilers. We have seen this story before, and we have seen many similar stories as well. The filmmakers of this movie did not seem to want to do anything different, and delivered a very predictable movie as a result.
Pro: Vengeance (+6pts)
We have seen a number of similar stories before, from the original Death Wish to the Netflix series about The Punisher, as well as countless other similar action stories. The major thing that all of these have in common is vengeance. Sure, the plots themselves have some similarities as well, but these are stories that are about vengeance at their core. The filmmakers of this movie were able to capture that sense of vengeance.
Paul Kersey is angry, and he has every right to be. He is angry with those responsible with what happened, and he is angry with the law for being unable to bring those responsible justice. This is a movie about vigilante justice, and vengeance, and it was definitely satisfying. It was satisfying to see Paul Kersey taking the law into his own hands because, on some level, we can all relate to feeling helpless about something. This makes it so satisfying to see Paul Kersey exacting his vengeance. Does he catch those responsible for what happened? You will need to see the movie to find out, but what I will tell you is that he crosses paths with a number of criminals (unrelated to the crime against his family) who had been on the streets for way too long, and this was satisfying to watch.
Con: The Training (-3pts)
Okay, so Paul Kersey is a respected surgeon. Before the events of this movie, he had no experience with guns or fighting crime (not that many people have experience with that last one). They try to cover this through a quick training sequence, in which Paul Kersey tries some things. He is no prodigy, but the filmmakers definitely breezed him through his training to a very unrealistic degree. I get that the movie is only so long, but the filmmakers should have shown more time passing within the training sequence. This would tell the audience that he has been working at it for a longer period of time without taking up much screen time, which would make the whole premise feel more plausible. Fortunately, it was easy to get past this issue within a few scenes.
Pro: Frank (+2pts)
I liked the relationship between Frank and Paul, and I liked the actor playing the role of Frank. Frank was a relatively minor character in this story, but he was Paul’s brother, so he served as Paul’s only real human connection during what he was doing after the attack on his house. Vincent D‘Onofrio is a talented actor that gave this character the depth that made him much more interesting than the character could have been, had another actor taken the part. He was at times the comedic relief of the movie, and was at other times the loving brother that Paul needed. This was a simple, yet effective character that did not get much screen time, but was compelling during the screen time that he got, due to the actor in the role. As a result, this character left an impression.
Con: Detective Raines (-3pts)
I do not understand why this character got so much focus and so much screen time, compared to other characters. The police in this story do not accomplish anything, that is why Paul Kersey has to take matters into his own hands in the first place. Even by the end of the movie, the police have not done anything. They are just there, pulling focus away from the main character and the main antagonist.
Dean Norris is a good actor. I thought he was great in Breaking Bad, so was temporarily excited to see him pop up in this movie, because this could have been a similarly compelling character as Hank from Breaking Bad. I say “temporarily”, because as the story progressed, it became more and more obvious that the filmmakers were not going to do anything with the character. The character had potential to be more than he was, but if the filmmakers were unwilling to use the character better, I do not understand why they gave the character so much focus. At the end of the day, this character was a waste of screen time, and was a waste of a talented actor.
Grade: C+ (76pts)
With Death Wish, we have seen this story (or stories like it) done a number of times before. We have also seen Bruce Willis in action roles like this one a number of times before, but the premise is as simple as it is effective, so I was ready to see this story play out. Bruce Willis played the badass well, and the vengeance was satisfying to watch, but I had a few issues with the movie. The premise was simple and effective, but we have seen many stories just like this one, so the filmmakers needed to try to bring something different to the table. Instead, they delivered a movie that plays out exactly as you would expect it to, beat by beat, after having only read the premise.
The filmmakers also glossed over Paul’s training sequence which made the whole movie feel too easy for Paul. Despite the movie’s issues, I was able to somewhat enjoy the movie for what it was. It was a lazily made action movie, with a simple, yet effective premise, and was filled with satisfying vengeance. Was the movie great? No, I would not even say it was exactly “good”, but I was able to enjoy it for what it was, an average action flick.