“Death Wish” was a silly movie in its time and it’s a ridiculous concept now. The mere fact that Eli Roth and Joe Carnahan are behind this only serves the film’s premise that it’s an immature, sophomoric male fantasy about solving all of life’s problems with a gun. Bruce Willis’s character Paul Kersey is able to breeze in and out of night clubs and crowded ghettos with only a black hood and shoots down people like it’s a hobby. “Death Wish” then tries to make it very sexual, as Paul begins as this somewhat impotent, pacifistic gentleman whose manhood slowly advances as he embraces the gun.
At one point his therapist notices a “change” in him, and Paul laughingly explains how he’s taken up a hobby. The therapist insists he continue it, and Paul explains he will, following it up with a chuckle. “Death Wish” sometimes teeters on dark comedy and satire with a look at how easy it is for Paul to buy a gun, when he decides to start seeking vengeance. He’s approached by a busty blond salesman who explains with a dismissive bray that having to go through a process is just a formality, and it’ll be a cinch. Meanwhile, Roth commits to ridiculous and moronic montages of Paul practically having sex with his gun. All the while as he dissects his gun, there’s footage of Paul stitching up a gun shot patient.
All of it is, of course, set to “Back in Black” from AC/DC. What this particular montage means is anyone’s guess. Is working with guns like performing surgery? Is Paul gaining a new sense of vigorance now that he’s packing heat? I don’t get it. Paul is a successful surgeon whose daughter is on the way out to college. After twenty minutes of clunky foreshadowing and exposition, Paul’s wife and daughter are attacked by robbers who want to take everything Paul owns. When Paul’s daughter resists, the pair of women are shot. Angry at the police’s inability to identify a culprit or work with evidence they have, he picks up a gun and begins scouring the city for criminals, all of whom he hopes will lead him to the people that ruined his life.
In Eli Roth’s infinite inability to construct a coherent film (he botches the original film’s twisted final note), “Death Wish” comes at all corners as exploitation, dark comedy, satire, humdrum crime thrills, and signifies pretty much everyone are phoning it in. The two most guilty of that chare are Dean Norris, who can play grizzled cop in his sleep, and Bruce Willis, who always looks one step away from fading in to a long yawn every single time he’s on screen. Working on different wave lengths, there’s Vincent D’Onofrio, a black sheep younger brother who works very hard to keep Paul from getting himself killed on his crusade. “Death Wish” is a goofy, and painfully dumb meditation on how when life gives you lemons, shoot it with gun. It’s downright stupid, and has no point for existing.