Realistic action captures audience

By Allison Beatty

Instead of just a by the numbers gun-flick filled with shootouts and drawn out fight sequences, 2018’s “Death Wish” is an interesting story following believable human characters and realistic action.

It’s everything you aren’t expecting in a film starring acclaimed action star Willis.

Which is good or bad depending on your opinion of Willis.

The movie follows Dr. Paul Kersey, played by Willis, a wealthy Chicago surgeon having to deal with the death of his wife and the hospitalization of his daughter after a break-in at their home.

When the robbers aren’t caught, Kersey decides to avenge his family himself by taking the law into his own hands.

This is difficult with no leads, no firearm training, and no one else to turn to but the readily available gun tutorials on YouTube.

Hands down the best feature of this movie is Willis’ performance as Kersey.

It’s the exact opposite of his more famous roles in films like “Die Hard” and “Sin City.” Kersey is soft-spoken almost pacifistic man, who wasn’t even willing to curse in one of the movie’s earlier scenes.

Seeing such a passive man change to a vengeful murderer in the span of maybe a few weeks is interesting and a brilliant what if scenario to place any viewer in.

The best scene is his speech about how he did everything right, he was a law abiding citizen who worked hard for his family only to have them ripped away and the justice system has pretty much failed him. It’s something everyone can sympathize with, even if they don’t agree with Kersey’s actions.

What would you do if your family was killed and the law wasn’t doing anything?

What would you do if the right way wasn’t working?

What do you do when the people who killed your wife are still on the street facing absolutely no consequences?

Kersey ends up taking to the streets at night and stopping crimes he comes across by chance.

He does this by mercilessly shooting people and disguises himself with a hoodie. Maybe because he’s a white man in a hoodie walking around the bad part of Chicago, no one finds him suspicious.

He gets caught in the act of breaking up a car jacking, the footage ends up on YouTube, and the entire city of Chicago starts calling him the Grim Reaper, a vigilante out of blood.

This is where the film both shines, and falls flat.

They do a good job of raising the question of whether or not Kersey is truly justified in his actions, but don’t actually ever give any answers.

There are these great moments throughout the movie where radio and talk show hosts bring up the good and bad aspects of vigilante justice.

intense interrogation— Dr. Paul Kersey extracts information using unconventional methods in a violent and dramatic scene on “Death Wish”. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

On the one hand these are criminals who continuously slip through the cracks of the legal system, most of them repeat offenders of very violent crimes.

On the other, if one man does it, who’s to say another won’t? And another?

How long until there are copycats who may or may not follow the originals already skewed moral code?

While the movie asks these questions and leaves the viewer with some good food for thought, it doesn’t really bring anything new.

It’s not very clear whether or not viewers are supposed to think Kersey is ultimately justified in his quest for vengeance or not.

Some might like an open to interpretation ending, I don’t think this script was quite good enough to give it a pass.

And that’s not even going into The torture scene is what earns  this film its R rating.

Kersey tortures a man for information on the men who broke into his house and then crushes him with a car.

The gory aftermath is shown in all its glory.

Some might find this a bit far for a doctor, someone who’s dedicated their life in the pursuit of saving lives, and they’d be right. It seems out of character, even for someone deep in grief and frustrated with the lack of progress by the police department.

Compared to the 1974 original “Death Wish” starring Charles Bronson, this remake does sport a few changes.

Kersey was an architect in the original, who had been trained with firearms and even served as a combat medic during the Korean war.

Whereas in the 2018 version he has no experience and mainly learned how to handle guns on the internet. It was also originally set in New York, not Chicago.

One of the bigger changes is that Kersey’s daughter originally was sexually assaulted by the robbers and fell into a catatonic state from her mental trauma, while in the remake she was shot in the head and falls into a coma.

The audience reaction was mainly positive, except for the theatre-wide cringe at that torture scene I mentioned. They laughed at the few jokes the movie had to offer and seemed invested in the story.

Despite a 15% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and only a 6.8/10 on IMDb, the actual audience rating is 87%. Which seems accurate. Critics don’t like it, but the audience enjoyed it well enough.

“Death Wish” is an enjoyable ride, even if it misses the deeper meaning it strived for and falls short of any lasting impact.

Good to see once or twice, but not anything new or fantastic.

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