Cult classic 'Death Wish' gets a 21st-century reboot

Action film highlights societal issues in the age of social media

08 March 2018 - 12:29
Bruce Willis in the 2018 remake of action film Death Wish.
Bruce Willis in the 2018 remake of action film Death Wish.
Image: Supplied

Remember the 1974 cult classic film Death Wish starring Charles Bronson? Well, the controversial flick, which is said to have inspired many copycat killers, has been remade by director Eli Roth (Hostel, Hostel: Part II, The Green Inferno) and stars Bruce Willis and Elisabeth Shue.

If you’ve never watched the original or the series it spawned, perhaps it’s best to start with the reimagined thriller that sees Dr Paul Kersey (Willis) burning for revenge after his wife (Elisabeth Shue, best known for her roles in Leaving Las Vegas, Back to the Future and Cocktail) and teenage daughter (Camila Morrone) are brutally attacked in their suburban home. As the anonymous killings of criminals grab the media’s attention, the city wonders if the avenger is a guardian angel or the Grim Reaper.

We witness a father, Kersey, driven by a seemingly complacent police force, who takes the law into his own hands. He essentially becomes a divided person – a man who saves lives and a man who takes them; a husband and father trying to take care of his family; a shadowy figure fighting crime; a surgeon saving patients’ lives; and a man hungry for justice and revenge. Kersey’s duality allows viewers to confront their own views on justice and decide to what lengths, as parents and partners, they would go to get it.

“Before I had kids, [being a father] wasn’t a part of these action films I do,” says Willis. “Now it’s a major component. This film really makes you think about how far you will go to protect your family. After his own family is brutalised, Paul Kersey has zero tolerance for any bad guy to harm another innocent person. And we show the audience the underlying reasons why he does what he does.”

Producer Roger Birnbaum says the filmmakers dug deep to crack the story to see how they could tell it in a way that is relatable to audiences today.

Birnbaum, who put the new version of Death Wish together along with associate producer Stephen J Eads and executive producer Ilona Herzberg, says: “We knew we couldn’t tell the same story as in the early 1970s. So much is different in our country right now. Paul Kersey is pushed to violence by his frustrations about the lack of resources that the police department have.”

By bringing the complex psychology of Brian Garfield’s book up to the moment and injecting new thrills and a stark, unflinching look at the American psyche in 2018, Eli Roth and Death Wish bring audiences to the height of unforgettable suspense.

Says Roth: “People have fantasies about cleaning up the streets, taking care of crime and being a crime fighter. That’s one of the reasons superhero movies are so popular. It’s that idea that ordinary people have the power to stop crime and fight evil.”

Death Wish also stars Vincent D’Onofrio (The Magnificent Seven, TV’s Daredevil and Law & Order: Criminal Intent), Dean Norris (Breaking Bad), and Elizabeth Elise (The Great Debaters).

It’s a thrilling, action-packed portrayal that challenges our assumptions and pushes our buttons.

This article was paid for by Empire Entertainment.