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Even Charles Bronson, with his famously expressive face, would struggle to convey the range of my emotions at the news that Bruce Willis has chosen this moment to star in a remake of Michael Winner’s gamey 1974 thriller Death Wish – with loads of rip-roaring NRA second amendment thrills about how great guns and gun stores are, and how the readily available merchandise is very important in saving the day for the good guys.
Death Wish was about the regular-guy vigilante who goes around blowing holes in bad guys because a couple of punks killed his wife and raped his teenage daughter and the wussy police can do nothing. This new version, with an exquisite adjustment to 21st-century sensibilities, changes it so the teenage daughter doesn’t get raped. Now Paul Kersey (Willis) is an ER surgeon, not an architect, and we also lose the conspiracy stuff about the authorities suppressing the news that his brave work is bringing down the crime rate. But it’s pretty much the same deal, and short of bringing back a CGI image of a handsome young Charlton Heston over the closing credits, hollering about his cold, dead hands, it couldn’t be more of an NRA promotional event.
But … I have to admit director Eli Roth does at one moment bring a sort of unwholesome energy to the proceedings. He has an insolent montage of Kersey operating on shot-up bodies in split screen, alongside his nighttime practising with a handgun – with AC/DC’s Back in Black on the soundtrack.
But it’s crass and Willis’s performance is uncompromisingly smug and awful and it brings home the placid self-satisfaction of the original Death Wish – the conceited Dr Jekyll to Taxi Driver’s anguished Mr Hyde. (Before this, Winner was a name at which cinephiles once thoughtfully nodded. My copy of The American Cinema by the legendary auteurist critic Andrew Sarris, falls open at the entry for Winner, where it says that his 1967 film I’ll Never Forget What’s’isname has “intimations of Bergman”.)
Why stop now, though? Why not get Willis to remake all of Winner’s great work – and then get him to take on Winner’s job as Sunday Times restaurant critic, in which role the great man would famously get service by waving his napkin in the air and hissing: “Middle! Middle!” – because the oddity of the word always stopped waiters in their tracks. I’m sure Bruce Willis can do this. It can’t be any more embarrassing than his gun-totin’ surgeon.
Source: The Guardian
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