Action Crime

Film Review: 'Death Wish' Delivers Vigilante Violence and a Surprising Amount of Comedy

March 2, 2018Sherry Li

A fun and relatively straightforward homage to the vigilante action movies of the '80s, director Eli Roth's Death Wish finally makes it to theaters this weekend. This, after the drama of a seemingly tumultuous development that saw several different directors attached to the project, causing concern over whether the film would live up to the original, or whether it would even work in general.

Still, screenwriter Joe Carnahan's simple storyline — in which Dr. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) slips on a hoodie and becomes a gun-toting vigilante who decides to take matters into his own hands — isn't exactly an unfamiliar tale in Hollywood. Paul begins the movie as relatively mild-mannered, but after the police fail to make any progress in finding the men who broke into his home, murdered his wife (Elizabeth Shue) and severely injured his daughter (Camila Morrone), he begins his own investigation.

The film, which also stars Vincent D'Onofrio as Paul's brother, Frank, and Dean Norris and Kimberly Elise as the detectives on the case, is overall enjoyable. There are some intense moments, particularly at the beginning, building up to a suspenseful break-in scene. However, as the movie progresses and Paul finds himself using vigilante justice to deal with his grief, the tone shifts to one much more humorous. There are plenty of fun scenes that take the film away from a straightforward revenge thriller to more of a comedic revenge movie, which may feel off-putting for some, and is somewhat inconsistent with the first act.

In spite of this, the jokes hit their mark more often than not, and even though there are moments that suffer from a bit too much cheese, the film proves entertaining and largely likeable. Death Wish is not perfect by any means, but it does a good job at being a fun and enthralling movie for its entirety. There are some gruesome scenes and the action isn't bad, but it's far from unforgettable. The story also features the use of social media, viral videos and memes, which adds to the film's flavor.

Willis does a fine job in the lead role, but this isn't his best performance. Still, there are moments where he manages to really break through with the character, who is presented as rather stoic throughout, making for some intense and violent scenes. That said, although much of the movie relies on gun violence and there isn't much in the way of hand-to-hand combat, there probably won't be enough gore to satisfy viewers hoping for a huge bloodbath. The final fight, however, is incredibly enjoyable and exhilarating.

In the end, Death Wish sticks to the genre template and follows it well. The result is an amusing action film that may not necessarily exceed audience expectations, but for hardcore fans of vigilante action movies, it ticks all the boxes and then some.

Death Wish releases March 2nd, 2018 from Entertainment One. The film has an MPAA rating of R for strong bloody violence, and language throughout. Its runtime is 1 hr. 47 min.

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