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Movie Review: “Death Wish”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 3/2/2018

Theatrical Release: 3/2/2018

Synopsis

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, burglars break into his house. They expected to find the house empty, but things go haywire when the burglars find Paul Kersey’s wife and daughter in the house. During the chaos, Paul' 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 is devastated, and he is angry. He wants to see the men responsible brought to justice, but it seems the police do not have any leads regarding who committed this earth-shattering crime. Paul cannot sit idly by as his wife’s murder 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 in his search for who is responsible for what happened.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Bruce Willis (+4pts)

Predictable (-5pts)

Vengeance (+6pts)

The Training (-3pts)

Frank (+2pts)

Detective Raines (-3pts)

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Pro: Bruce Willis (+4pts)

Bruce Willis did not exactly deliver a riveting performance, but unsurprisingly, he played this badass character really well. He has played many characters just like this one, but he plays these types of roles really effectively, and this movie was no exception. I would have liked to see this character have more emotion or more heart, but that is not what you are signing up for when seeing a Bruce Willis led action movie. Instead you are signing up for a badass action hero, and that was exactly what we got with this movie. Despite his characters almost non-existent training—which I will get into later—I bought that the character was capable of doing what he was doing because Bruce Willis was believable in the role. It also did not hurt that it is simply entertaining to see him play characters like this, regardless of his characters' believability.

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Con: Predictable (-5pts)

There was absolutely nothing special or unexpected that happened in this movie. If you have seen this trailer, then you will know exactly how this movie will play out. That is not because the trailer gave everything away, but rather, the filmmakers did absolutely everything you would expect them to, given the movie's premise. I could give examples, but I want to to avoid spoilers here, even though I am saying the movie was incredibly predictable. My point is that we have seen this story before, and we have seen many times. The filmmakers of this movie did not seem to want to do anything different, and they delivered a very predictable movie as a result of that.

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Pro: Vengeance (+6pts)

We have seen a number of similar stories before, from the original Death Wish to the Netflix's The Punisher and countless others. The major thing that all of these movies have in common is vengeance. Sure, there are differences between them, but these stories are really all about vengeance, and the filmmakers of this movie were able to capture that sense of vengeance and injustice effectively. Paul Kersey was angry, and he had every right to be, which made him a really easy character to root for.

Paul was angry with those responsible for what happened, and he was angry with the law for being unable to bring those responsible to justice. This was a movie about vigilante justice, and it was definitely satisfying. It was satisfying to see Paul Kersey taking the law into his own hands, because it was easy to connect with his character's sense of helplessness. Did he catch those responsible for what happened? You will need to see the movie to find out, but he definitely crossed paths with a number of criminals who had been on the streets for way too long, and it was really satisfying to see him deal with them.

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Con: The Training (-3pts)

Okay, so Paul Kersey was a respected surgeon. Before the events of this movie, he had no experience with guns or fighting crime whatsoever, but the filmmakers needed him using guns and fighting crime. They tried to fix this issue through a quick training sequence, in which Paul Kersey tried some things. He was no prodigy, and the filmmakers sort of breezed him through his training to a very unrealistic degree. I get that the movie could only be so long, but the filmmakers should have shown more that more time had passed during the training sequence. This would have told the audience that he had 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, as this movie was really all about showcasing some Bruce Willis action, and that stuff was pretty entertaining while it was happening.

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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 his time serving vigilante justice. Vincent D‘Onofrio is a talented actor who gave this character the kind of 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 he was at other times the loving brother that Paul needed. This was a simple yet effective character who did not get much screen time, but he was compelling during the screen time that he got.

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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 did not accomplish anything, which was why Paul Kersey had to take matters into his own hands in the first place. Even by the end of the movie, the police had not done anything. They were 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 I was excited to see him pop up in this movie. 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 the potential to be more, but the filmmakers did not develop the character at all, and if they were unwilling to use the character better, I do not understand why they gave the character as much focus as they did.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: C+ (76pts)

With Death Wish, we have seen this story done a number of times before. We have also seen Bruce Willis in action roles like this one a number of times before, but this premise is as simple as it is effective, and I was ready to see this story play out with Bruce Willis in the leading role. Bruce Willis played the badass well, and the vengeance was satisfying to watch, but I had a few issues with the movie. Instead of bringing anything new to this premise, the filmmakers delivered a movie that played out exactly as you would expect it to.

The filmmakers also glossed over Paul’s training sequence, which made the whole movie feel too easy for him. 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 it was filled with plenty of 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 movie.

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