“Death Wish”

Susan Granger’s review of “Death Wish” (M.G.M.)


There’s little to recommend director Eli Roth’s reboot of Michael Winner’s 1974 vigilante thriller in which a mild-mannered architect, played by Charles Bronson, utilizes his military training to become a vengeful killer after thugs invade his home, kill his wife and assault his daughter.

Moving the location from New York to Chicago, we’re introduced to Dr. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis), who lives in posh suburbia. That’s where his wife Lucy (Elisabeth Shue) is murdered and his college-age daughter Jordan (Camilla Morrone) is left comatose in a bungled burglary.

Which is ostensibly why this trauma surgeon becomes a vigilante, donning a discarded Trayvon Martin-style hoodie and toting a Glock that he takes from a gang-banger in the ER. Armed and angry, he’s determined to hunt down the three masked culprits and, thereby, avenge his family.

So when Paul sees a nasty carjacking in process, he shoots the thieves in cold-blood. When a bystander captures the entire encounter on a phone video, sociopathic Paul becomes a celebrity, famous on social media as the “Grim Reaper.”

What about the police? According to two detectives (Dean Norris, Kimberly Elise), there are just too many homicides – 48 in just one weekend.

Working with screenwriter Joe Carnahan (”The Grey,” “Narc”), violence-relishing director Eli Roth (“Hostel,” “Cabin Fever”) veers from the original concept, based on Brian Garfield’s 1972 anti-vigilantism novel, updating it to the amoral transformation of a man who saves lives to someone who takes them, justifying righteous violence and pandering to the N.R.A.

Alternately smirking and scowling, Bruce Willis milks this exploitative, antihero revenge fantasy until it’s dry, while Len Cariou appears briefly as his rifle-toting father-in-law Ben and Vincent D’Onofrio quietly scores as Frank, his troubled, younger brother.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Death Wish” is a tepid, ill-timed, trigger-happy 3. Bury it.