The Curator of Schlock #233 by Jeff Shuster

Death Wish

They remade Death Wish. The movie ain’t bad.

I know it’s Friday the 13th, but I swore a solemn oath to only cover movies from this decade, and since Paramount has put any and all Friday the 13th movies on moratorium, I have nothing for you. And I’m not going to review some random movie with 13 in the title. That was a near disaster last time, but don’t worry, your Curator of Schlock aims to please. Tonight’s feature is 2018’s Death Wish from director Eli Roth.

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This whole endeavor of me curating schlock started because I rambled on about Death Wish 3 too many times in the ear of Mr. John King. Death Wish 3 remains one of the greatest cinematic experiences one could ever hope to witness. Sadly, after Death Wish 5, the world had seemed to see the last of Paul Kersey until word came down the Hollywood pipeline that a remake of the original Death Wish was imminent. Some were outraged. How dare you remake a classic?

I hate to break it to you, but Hollywood’s been remaking films for ages. The Maltese Falcon with Humphrey Bogart was the third version of that film.

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Remakes can become classics in their own right. Look at David Cronenberg’s The Fly. I even have high hopes for the upcoming remake of Suspiria after watching that trailer.

We have Eli Roth directing this remake. His movies tend to make me uncomfortable. Anyone out there see Knock Knock? I don’t care how much you hate Keanu Reaves. You will feel sorry for him by the end of that picture. So we have the most brutal director of our modern age directing the remake of one of the most brutal films of the 1970s. Sure, Death Wish was no Straw Dogs, but it was dark enough to leave an indelible impression on me. With the 2018 Death Wish, we get a dad movie. A brutal dad movie, but a dad movie nonetheless.

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What’s a dad movie? They’re movies Hollywood makes for your dad, that stoic, silent, and resilient example of American fortitude that we could never hope to live up to. This makes the unrelenting violence Gerard Butler, Liam Neeson, and Denzel Washington unleash on America’s enemies excusable. In the movie Taken, Liam Neeson electrocutes an Albanian sex trafficker to death. In Man On Fire, Denzel Washington cuts each and every finger off of a Mexican gang member’s hands before blowing his ass up. Now that I think about it. The original Death Wish may have been the progenitor of the modern dad movie. They’re quite brutal.

In the Death Wish remake, we get Bruce Willis as Paul Kersey, a mild mannered emergency room doctor and family man. I think it might have been interesting if they had cast Jeff Goldblum or Laurence Fishburne in the lead role this time around, seeing as how they played punks who terrorized Paul Kersey in the original Death Wish movies. Still, Willis gives a good performance. Like Charles Bronson in the original film, Willis does not come off as a badass action star, but a regular middle-aged Joe pushed to his limit. Kersey’s family gets attacked during a botched home robbery resulting in the death of his wife and his daughter ending up in a comatose state. When a scummy criminal dies in the ER, Kersey hides the man’s gun, brings it home with him, and Mr. Vigilante is born.

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His first act of vigilantism is saving a couple from being carjacked on the mean streets of Chicago. Both the local media and the police take an interest in this hooded vigilante. Being a doctor, gives Kersey access to shooting victims like a little boy who tells him about the neighborhood ice cream man who punishes anyone who doesn’t work for him.

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Oh, and this ice cream man doesn’t sell ice cream, but hardcore narcotics. When Kersey approaches the ice cream man, he informs him that he is his last customer before emptying some hot lead into the ice cream man’s chest.

Eventually, Kersey finds clues leading him to the men who attacked his family. Kersey uses his surgical skills to torture one of them for information before crushing his head with…I really shouldn’t spoil it. All in all, this is probably the best Death Wish we’ll get until Death Kiss comes out. Now, if only we can get a remake of Death Wish 3.


Jeffrey Shuster 1

Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

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