Schlockmeister extraordinaire Eli Roth (writer/director of ‘Cabin Fever’, the first two ‘Hostel’ movies) knows how to antagonize and torture moviegoers and critics alike, not so much a provocateur as he is an instigator. Nonetheless, the arrival of a new project with his stamp on it signals the possibility for teasing the limits of taste, which some audiences find titillating. Teaming up with screenwriter Joe Carnahan (‘The Grey’), who was originally set to direct with Liam Neeson attached, and sleepwalking star Bruce Willis, Eli Roth set out to create a contemporary version of the gritty, 1974 street ‘classic’ Charles Bronson vehicle, ‘Death Wish’, itself based on a novel. What they end up with is a movie that may have just been limited to throwaway revenge-porn if it wasn’t so at odds with the current zeitgeist that it becomes an offensive movie-going experience.
The film is a bland revenge thriller which preys upon the fear of home invasion and lack of lethal protection via fire arms. While certainly there is always the possibility of criminals using electronic information to figure out where someone lives, the staging of an affluent family besieged by common criminals looking to rob their home is a blatant attempt to take advantage of paranoia for financial gain. In today’s climate, this really doesn’t sit well, particularly when the film is set in Chicago, a city plagued by gun violence in areas that only show up in ‘Death Wish’ as backdrops for Willis’s surgeon Paul Kersey to wreak his havoc within. Roth excels in setting up unique and creative kill scenes, but they would be better served in a schlocky slasher movie, not in something that should be evoking audience pathos after familial loss. There is a very real case to make a film that explores many of these various concerns and use them to comment on a society at odds with itself. Roth’s absurdly staged, AC/DC fueled, laughably acted and written remake is no such treatise . . .
Directed By: Eli Roth
Written By: Joe Carnahan
Running Time: 107 min.
* (out of 4 stars) -OR- D