Reel Reviews | Death Wish

by Gelinda Allen

Bruce Willis returns to the big screen in a remake of the 1974 film, Death Wish.

Willis performed well in his portrayal of a man who has had his family dismantled by an act of unexpected violence in his home. As Dr. Paul Kersey, the story takes us on his journey of returning to a normal life and moving past his pain and loss. Can he find peace and forgive those who have done him wrong or will he move forward down the path of vengeance?

The story unfolds in Chicago, a city plagued by constant death. In one weekend 48 people were reported shot across the city. With this information in hand, and after a visit with his father-in-law, seeds are planted in Dr. Kersey’s mind which make his path clear. He chooses to not just bear arms but put them to use in his new found task to take out the robbers that stripped him of his happy life.

The first step to transforming into a crime fighter: watch YouTube. It is from these videos that Dr. Kersey learns how to shoot and handle a gun along with other tactics to help him in his crime-fighting pursuits. A favorite line from a Jolly Roger’s video, “I don’t shoot to kill. I shoot to stay alive.” Fueled by the videos and armed with his newfound knowledge, Dr. Kersey sets out on the crime-ridden streets of Chicago to test his skills.

His initial call to action involved interrupting a carjacking. Without hesitation, he takes on the role of a deadly vigilante. After his encounter, he leads the audience to believe that there is an internal struggle between that part of him that vowed to save lives and the act that he just committed. The moment is fleeting however after we see his reaction to a video of the carjacking incident. He expresses initial shock which swiftly changes to glee as the good doctor’s lips surprisingly spread into a smile.

A true to nature action-drama, the film offered up a fine spectacle of flying bullets with a smidgen of smashing and bashing to maintain the gore factor to the audience’s delight. With the high level of violence, it was a surprise to find the film riddled with humorous moments complimented by the perfect soundtrack. Use of social media, memes and current radio personalities like Sway kept the story current and in line with the political conversation on gun use and citizens taking action on their own behalf.

With the current climate of mass gun shootings plaguing America and the world, there is no good timing for films involving excessive gun use. In this installment, Dr. Kersey visits the Jolly Roger’s Gun Emporium and learns from the cheerful Bethany just how easy it is to apply for and obtain a gun. His continued questioning about the process shows a level of surprise in how easy the process is for anyone to get a gun. He later opts for the illegal route to seek his vengeance but near completion of the deed, he opts for a registered piece for legal reasons.

This is not a dream piece of work for the NRA. Why? For one it visits, as aforementioned, the ease of purchasing a firearm. And second, innocents are killed in the initial robbery and later in the crossfire. Yes, it upholds the rights of the Second Amendment to bear arms but not the ease of obtaining arms and using them. Also, Dr. Kersey does not just use a firearm to fulfill his goal of killing the bad guys. He becomes a creative vigilante towards the middle of the film.

Death Wish delivers well on what it advertises: action and violence. However, it would have been great to see more of a conflict between Dr. Kersey’s daytime profession of saving lives vs. his nighttime hobby of killing bad guys. Exploring this issue would have added more complexity to the character and overall storyline.

Grade: C