Hollywood's fascination with remaking decades-old movies with even the slightest bit of popularity is not going to end any time soon. From Ben-Hur to The Magnificent Seven, studios are having a heyday going down memory lane to relive some of their best moments rather than making new ones. Now the 1974 Charles Bronson vehicle Death Wish is the latest aged classic to be tapped for a modernized update.
Originally based on the book of the same name, Death Wish featured Bronson as architect-turned-vigilante Paul Kersey, who unleashes a violent brand of justice on criminals after the brutal assault and rape of his family. The first movie proved to be a massive success, and it would spawn four more Death Wish movies.
An Old Wish For A New Generation
When it was first released in 1974, Death Wish received criticism for supposedly glorifying vigilantism and for its excessive depictions of violence. Which makes it all the more fitting that Eli Roth was chosen to direct the Death Wish remake.
Eli Roth may only have five films to his name, but he made an impression through means of his tongue-in-cheek gorefest homages to the exploitation movies of the '70s. His works were a big hit in cult circles, and they even garnered the approval of modern day exploitation cinema maestros Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez.
Eli Roth will be working on a script from screenwriting team Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski: the writers behind the critically acclaimed dramatization of the O.J. Simpsion murder trial, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story from FX. Their credits also include the biopics Ed Wood and The People vs Larry Flynt: a pair of movies that did a good job of bringing larger than life stories down to earth. With this grounded style of writing, expect the new Death Wish to have more layers of depth than one may expect from a remake.
Given Death Wish's gritty and pulpy story, the creative team set to bring the remake looks like a good fit for the revival. Death Wish will not be Eli Roth's first thriller that has nothing to do with the splatter horror he's known for, either. Knock, Knock, his most recent film, was also his first foray into the genre. Even if it was not as well received as he may have hoped for, Knock, Knock showed that there's more to Eli Roth than a crimson shower of guts. With the help of the writers behind something as mind-bending as 1408, Death Wish could give Eli Roth's craft a different push.
Death Wish is considered to be Charles Bronson's star-making role. Now that his most iconic movie is getting a remake, only an actor with an equal level of talent can step into the shoes of Paul Kersey. Enter Bruce Willis: the action star who brought John McClane - one of the greatest action heroes to ever grace the big screen - to life in the Die Hard movies.
Bruce Willis was the first big name to be confirmed to be a part of the Death Wish remake cast. In the original Death Wish, Paul Kersey was a family man just looking for some peace before tragedy struck, and Bruce Willis can be expected to play a similar part. With Paul Kersey's story, Bruce Willis may finally get a lead role that will revive his passion in acting, which has been missing in most of his movies after Looper.
Joining Bruce Willis are Vincent D’Onofrio (recently seen as Wilson Fisk in Netflix's Daredevil) and Dean Norris (best known as DEA agent Hank Schraeder in Breaking Bad), as Paul's brother and Detective Rains, respectively. Seeing these two capable actors join Bruce Willis gives the Death Wish remake some much needed star power, not to mention a complete trio of actors who look like they could be distant siblings.
Vengeance Is Forever
Temporarily ignoring the debate about Hollywood's current remake craze, Death Wish is a product of its time. The story of Paul Kersey was a response to the '70s crime wave and that alone is enough for some to dismiss Death Wish' relevance in today's society. Add in author Brian Garfield's own criticism of the film adaptation, which he felt glorified vigilantism despite his book doing otherwise, and Death Wish looks like something only a select few might enjoy.
The Death Wish film adaptation did a good job of depicting how harrowing it was for Kersey's family to be brutalized for no good reason, and then the movie followed it up by giving him (and the audience by extension) a cathartic solution to the ordeal. If Death Wish was as exploitative as some claim, it would not have given Paul Kersey any means to avenge his family and instead, focus on him watching his family suffer in full detail. Some people ignore the fact that the first Death Wish is the most somber and morose of the franchise, which will be the basis of the remake. The sequels, on the other hand, got more outlandish with each passing installment.
Case in point, death by explosive football.
It may not be for everyone, but Death Wish is the kind of movie that is both divisive and still necessary. As mentioned earlier, the original Death Wish was a reaction to the current events of its time, and the remake could do the same for today's audience. There are people out there waiting for an onscreen vigilante to break some scumbag's face, and Death Wish could be the answer to that niche audiences' prayers.