It’s not that I don’t like Bruce Willis films. I do. I also enjoy a shoot-em-up action flick as much as the next guy. Still, a remake* of Death Wish just didn’t seem like something that had to be done. Perhaps it was the feeling that the original story was so specific to the 1970s (the novel came out in 1972 and the film in 1974). Perhaps it was just the feeling that Bronson’s version said everything that needed to be said on a subject that wasn’t all that deep to begin with.
Then the progressive, anti-gun political class lost their shit.
There’s no better way to get me watch something than to tell me I shouldn’t watch it. It took most of a year, but, having made it my mission to watch the Death Wish update for 2018, my mission is complete.
Director Eli Roth says he did not make it to be a pro-Gun movie. He blames a rush to judgement from viewers based on no more than the first trailer. His intent, he says, was simply to present a story without drawing conclusions for his audience. Furthermore, the questions he wanted debated were about crime (he cites an apparent lack of progress** between 1974 and today), family, and how far a man should go to protect his own. The focus on guns came about, in part, due to the film’s timing relative to the shooting, two years ago, at an outdoor Las Vegas concert and then the Florida school shooting four months later.
The Left did not buy his protestations, but perhaps I do. Roth’s pre-Death Wish background is in horror and he does not seem to have much of a political agenda. While his portrayal of guns in Death Wish is, perhaps, better than most, he makes a number of Hollywood gun mistakes. Perhaps most obvious to me is [spoiler alert here] that, in the climatic scene when Willis’ Kersey uses his “legal” guns to defend his home, he produces a fully-automatic machine-pistol built on a AR-15 action. It’s a product that would be nearly impossible to possess if you are not military/law-enforcement and kinda silly to have if you are (why cobble together an AR pistol when you can legally have a short-barrelled rife?). The legality of his weapons is a key plot point and this kind of barfs all over the logic. In another key plot point, Kersey’s lack of skill and experience as a shooter causes a tell-tale injury on his shooting hand, but this is a distortion of what can and does happen to many a novice semi-automatic pistol owner. Fact is, you’d really have to have some bizarro grip to tear up your hand like he does while shooting one-handed (as he clearly does in the scene).
That said, it is still a notch above most film industry takes on guns. That hand injury results from Kersey learning all he knows about guns and shooting by watching YouTube. It’s an all-too-accurate commentary on a particular subset of today’s gun culture (or even culture/YouTube in general) and may originate from someone who knows what he’s talking about. I was also amused by the fact that Kersey replaced his Glock 17 with a Springfield XD, but that may be a little to subtle a point to be intentional. Beyond that, firearm portrayal is reasonable and competent.
If this movie were watched without the context of Bronson’s Death Wish and the specific 2017/2018 political kerfuffle, I surely would have viewed it very differently. Kudos to Roth for setting off the PC crowd, though. Sometimes that’s all it takes to please me.
*This one doesn’t quite fall into the remake category I discussed earlier. I’ll grudgingly admit to being alive when Bronson’s Death Wish series of films came out, but (my parents, at least, felt) I was a little young to watch them. It wasn’t until fairly recently that I actually rented and watch the original.
**While Roth may be right about appearances, he is not right on the facts. Violent crime has trended significantly downward from the early 1970s through today.