(US - 2018)
Directed by Eli Roth. Written by Joe Carnahan. Cast: Bruce Willis, Vincent D'Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue, Dean Norris, Kimberly Elise, Beau Knapp, Camila Morrone, Len Cariou, Mike Epps, Wendy Crewson, Stephen McHattie, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Jack Kesy, Ian Matthews, Stephanie Janusauskas, Luis Oliva, Moe Jeudy Lamour. (R, 107 mins)
Shot in 2016 and with its release date bumped once already after the Las Vegas mass shooting last October, the long-gestating remake of the 1974 classic DEATH WISH is finally in theaters, and once again timed in close proximity to another tragedy with the horrific school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, FL. Given the frequency of mass shootings in America, it's likely that any DEATH WISH release date would coincide with one and unintenionally leave a bad aftertaste. But honestly, that's giving it too much credit. DEATH WISH '18 is empty-calorie junk-food entertainment that stacks the deck against its vigilante hero and throws red meat at the audience. It's designed to get a response, and judging from the crowd applause at key moments--like one guy getting his sciatic nerve sliced open and doused in brake fluid before a jacked-up car falls and smashes his head like a watermelon at a Gallagher show--it's mission accomplished in "Good Guy with a Gun" fantasy wish-fulfillment. This had a rocky journey from the start: in various stages of development since 2006, with Sylvester Stallone, Liam Neeson, Benicio del Toro, Frank Grillo, Russell Crowe, Will Smith, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt either attached or approached to star, Joe Carnahan (NARC, SMOKIN' ACES, THE GREY) wrote the script and was set to direct until he departed in 2013 over the usual "creative differences." That led to the BIG BAD WOLVES team of Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado coming aboard to direct, with Bruce Willis signed on to star. They split when Willis and the producers wouldn't let them rewrite Carnahan's script, but when Eli Roth (HOSTEL) ended up getting the directing gig, the script wound up being completely overhauled by an uncredited Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the writing team behind ED WOOD and THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT. The end result still has Carnahan receiving sole writing credit, even though he left the project three years before production even commenced.
DEATH WISH II and Willis gets his version of that when powerful drug lord "The Ice Cream Man" (Moe Jeudy Lamour) asks "Who the fuck are you?" with the inevitable reply "Your last customer," and...BANG!
"Sacrifice." It has its moments, but at the end of the day, chalk this up as another remake that's an acceptable time-killer but didn't really need to be.