Eli Roth’s Death Wish remake, in addition to being completely fucking pointless, is a dangerous celebration of gun culture. It’s NRA agitprop. It’s a racist, nihilistic, middle-aged white-man wish-fulfillment fantasy. It is also a terrible fucking movie, an irresponsible piece of shit, a gangrenous exploding pustule on the hairy-ass of GOP gun-nut ideology wrapped in dick sweat and the American flag.
The film’s cold open frames the movie’s message: A police officer brings in his partner, who is shot by a bad guy. Dr. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is unable to save the police officer’s life, but after the cop dies, Kersey tends to the wounds of the shooter. “Are you going to save the life of the guy who just killed my partner?” the cop asks indignantly. “If I can,” Kersey says, walking away.
The message is clear: Kersey is a giant fucking pussy who doesn’t understand justice. That message is reiterated minutes later when Kersey backs down from a fight with a belligerent parent at a soccer game. He’s weak. He’s a pushover. He lives by the rules; he does everything right, and that’s the fucking problem. He hasn’t learned to stand up for himself. He doesn’t know how to protect his family. A better, stronger manlier man would’ve punched that guy out and pulled his intestines through his throat.
Over the next half hour, we get to know Kersey’s wife Lucy (Elisabeth Shue) and daughter, Jordan (Camila Morrone), real well. We know what will eventually happen to them, but Eli Roth takes pains to ensure that they are seen as the perfect wife, the perfect daughter. They’re adorable. Lucy has just finished her Ph.D., and Jordan is on her way to college. They’re the goddamn family you see in picture frame stock photos: White, wealthy, and beautiful. But then one night, while the women are baking Paul Kersey a birthday cake (just to drive home how perfect they are), three burglars break into their house. One of them tries to rape the teenage daughter (naturally) and everything goes to hell: Lucy is shot and killed, and Jordan is shot and left in a coma.
But instead of taking the law into his own hands, Kersey — this giant fucking pushover — goes to the police, but the police are useless. Kersey can’t sleep. He feels powerless. So he procures a gun, and that gun gives him his balls back. That gun makes him a man. It makes his dick hard.
So he takes that gun, and he puts on a hoodie, and he starts walking through the city looking to dole out some justice, never mind the fact that a black guy wearing the same hoodie skulking through Chicago would probably get shot on sight by the police. Not Paul Kersey, though. When he uses that gun to kill some carjackers, he’s not described as a thug. He’s described as “I don’t know, just some white guy,” a hero who eventually is nicknamed The Grim Reaper, but in a positive way. He’s a YouTube sensation, a talk radio hero, a man who is finally doing something about the crime problem in Chicago.
His pursuit of vigilante justice, however, eventually brings him to the guys who murdered his wife. He tortures them, like a real man would. He drops a car on one of the bad guy’s faces, and hair magically erupts from his chest. He goes to the gun shop, and he buys an AR-15 from a hot blonde with a nice smile and big tits, and he uses that gun to blow away a motherfucker and his dick grows three sizes. And when the detective (Dean Norris) figures out who the Grim Reaper is, does he arrest him and throw him in jail. Aww, hell no. He gives him a Sean Connery wink, a look that says, “You’re the man now, dog,” and then he grabs a slice of pizza because gluten-free diets are for pussies. And then we all get out from our movie-theater seats and run to the nearest gun shop and buy the biggest gun we can find because we don’t want to end up with a dead wife like Paul Kersey. We all need an AR-15 that pops out of a drawer so we can kill bad guys and fuck our pretty little, cake-baking wives and ogle at our daughter’s teammates on the soccer field.
Useless piece of shit movie.
There’s also an interesting piece of casting here that offers an illuminating peek into the film’s racism. Beau Knapp plays the lead bad guy in Death Wish, but he also played the lead bad guy in Netflix’s Seven Seconds. Similar circumstances are at play here. In Seven Seconds, he runs a black kid over, and in Death Wish, he guns down a white woman. In Seven Seconds, the black family relies on the police to put this guy away, but the police don’t give a shit about a black kid. In Death Wish, the white guy goes to the police, and detective actually says to Kersey when Kersey sees the wall of still-open case files in his office, “Oh, that’s just a bunch of gangbangers, asshole on asshole crime, but your case is different.”
How is it different? Because the victim is fucking white and middle-class and pretty. And the irony here is that Kersey could have relied on the justice system. It would have eventually worked for him, while the black family in Seven Seconds put their faith in a justice system that did not give a rat’s ass about them. But if they had picked up a gun and sought justice for their son’s death, you can bet your fucking ass that the detectives wouldn’t have given them a wink and eaten a goddamn slice of pizza. They’d have put a fucking bullet in their brains and then asked questions later.
In other words, vigilante justice is cool and manly when it’s a white guy who buys a gun from a hot blonde. But if it’s a black guy? That’s just asshole on asshole crime.
This movie, and Eli Roth and Bruce Willis can all take their giant dicks and go fuck themselves with them.