In a remake that no one wanted (nor needs right now, especially), Bruce Willis takes on the infamous Charles Bronson role as a heavily armed white dude seeking vigilante justice for the brutal attack on his family. Adding fuel to the fire, the setting has been switched from New York to gun-plagued Chicago, but overall, the film turns out to be a dud, with only a Greek chorus of radio shock jocks articulating a political dimension that never materialises.
Paul (Willis, converting himself into a boring, stony avenger) is a meek suburbanite, content to withstand the verbal abuses of another dad at his daughter’s soccer game. Why not? He’s got an adoring wife (Elisabeth Shue), a lucrative career as a seen-it-all surgeon and one of those huge open kitchens. But when that home is invaded and – spoiler: this is ‘Death Wish’ – his loved ones are brutally attacked, Paul snaps, loading up on weapons, donning a face-obscuring hoodie and easing into dangerous neighborhoods as the so-called ‘Grim Reaper’.
Gorehound director Eli Roth (Hostel) gets just one scene to make a head go splat but mostly stays out of the way of the movie’s dull, unpaid advertising for the National Rifle Association. A smarter update might have made a meal out of exploring the flip side to ‘Unbreakable’ – also starring a Willis driven by secret urges – but there’s a generic, rushed quality to the pacing. Screenwriter Joe Carnahan, an action specialist, has little to add to Brian Garfield’s original 1972 novel, itself more complex than any of Hollywood’s attempts. Even uglier for being so bland, today’s ‘Death Wish’ can’t even drum up a righteous rage.