VIOLENT ACTION COMMON TO “DEATH WISH”
A Film Review by Tim Riley
DEATH WISH (Rated R) Ostensibly a remake of the Charles Bronson revenge thriller of 1974, the similarly titled “Death Wish” is a modern parable of vigilante justice to avenge a brutal homicide on the mean streets of an urban wasteland, this time most appropriately in Chicago.
As far as big cities go, Chicago is not as bad as Baltimore or New Orleans for the murder rate but it’s not for lack of trying. Crime stories about the Windy City abound on a daily basis.
Bruce Willis’ Dr. Paul Kersey, a surgeon at a Chicago hospital, is a loving husband and father. He and his wife Lucy (Elizabeth Shue) are about to celebrate an anniversary while daughter Jordan (Camila Morrone) is getting ready to start college.
While the doctor is on duty one fateful night, Lucy and Jordan are at home and soon attacked by three brutal, vicious intruders, leaving the wife shot dead and the daughter clinging to life while in a coma.
After giving two detectives (Dean Norris and Kimberly Elise) time to solve the crime, Kersey decides to take matters into his own hands, especially when his attempt to be a Good Samaritan to rescue a stranger on a dark street leads to his beat-down by street thugs.
The mild-mannered doctor starts taking target practice and gets involved in some street justice like a guardian angel. Local radio talk show hosts debate whether Kersey, so far unidentified and disguised by a hoodie, is a hero or the Grim Reaper.
Stalking the streets to search for leads, Kersey encounters and kills random scum of the earth that he is only too happy to spare the criminal justice system the trouble of putting on trial. What’s more he seems pretty good at the detective work.
Meanwhile, Kersey’s brother Frank (Vincent D’Onofrio) becomes increasingly concerned about his sibling’s odd behavior, but then he understands the agony of losing a loved one and that the system has failed.
Central casting has done a good job of finding a slew of bad guys, all of them with tattoos and bad attitudes, to populate the film as potential targets for Kersey’s ire. Arguably, they all stock characters who could also have been in a Liam Neeson revenge fantasy film.
A lot of critics have become almost apoplectic in trashing “Death Wish,” a film which is more likely than not going to resonate with a lot of folks who don’t mind seeing the good guy take down a bunch of dirtbags. It’s all a matter of one’s perspective about scum and villainy.