'Death Wish' Remake Now On Amazon Prime: Here's A Review

Few films in recent memory have grappled more with their theme than Eli Roth's “Death Wish." The 2018 remake probes its premise to decide if the arguments presented can withstand thoughtful descent. It seems here to wrestle and not to win.

Hollywood's relationship with vigilantism is well-known enough that the particulars do not yearn for further discourse here. Whether it is Frank Castle raining down revenge on his family's killers as The Punisher on two Netflix series. Or the myriad of movies in a similar vein, the motif is around every corner.

While the protagonists in many action movies are fighting to save lives during their exploits, the protagonist in “Death Wish” is working to avenge them. Or is he?

When Dr. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is confronted with violence that leaves his wife murdered and his daughter lying in a coma, he has a sudden conundrum in front of him. The authorities are struggling to catch the criminals responsible and leaving them alive means they remain a threat. The villains can still hurt what remains of Kersey's family, but not if he takes them down first.

Is it proactive self-defense on his and other families' behalf? That is the unspoken premise “Death Wish” is fighting so hard to rationalize. As Willis' Kersey struggles with his decision, he also wades deeper into it, turning his attention to criminals outside of what thrust him into his vigilantism, in the first place. It is a move that muddies the waters.

Unlike portrayals that see this sort of character fall out of fashion with their ability to love, Kersey remains unchanged in that regard. At the same time, he is dishing out increasingly violent ends for those who showed his loved ones no mercy.

Speaking of the home invaders -- instead of all of them being presented as unadulterated villains, some are shown wanting to steal with no intent to harm. Why the script believed these characters needed that depth when there have been merciless home invaders, whose real-life crimes have made headlines, remains unclear.

“Death Wish” drives home a lot about revenge and its proximity to justice. To its credit, it does manage to avoid preaching for the most part. Thanks to its attempt at a balanced narrative, it makes its direct approach to things work. However, when it comes to emotional impact, "Death Wish" comes nowhere close to the haunting resonance of 2015's "The Lost Choices."

Given the popularity of the revenge genre, comparisons are hard not to make. Antonio Banderas' retribution thriller “Acts of Vengeance” has been one of the biggest English-language standouts to recently be released. That film chooses to be philosophically contemplative in a way, “Death Wish” refuses to be.

Despite its subject matter, director Eli Roth avoids overdoing it on the gore. It is a reprieve welcomed by those who do not wish to see it. Letting the viewers' imagination envision what occurs in the Kersey household, and then leaving nothing to it when the criminals face off with Kersey, does raise questions.

Why one instead of the other and not both? It is a curiosity that's meaning is open to speculation and interpretation.

While “Death Wish” will be consumed by some as merely another revenge flick, there is a more thought-provoking edge to this one, than many recent films have dared to deliver on. It is an uncomfortable dark alley and not one every movie should go down, but in the case of this remake -- it works.

Rating: 6.5/10

As of February 23, 2019, "Death Wish" is now streaming on Amazon Prime, per the streamer.

[Featured Image by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Annapurna Pictures]