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Death Wish

There’s nothing worse than seeing an actor barely giving a performance. If you’re a fan of a performer, you’d expect them to at least try giving something resembling a fully fleshed-out character. Sadly ‘Death Wish’ sees Bruce Willis give a one-note performance. A remake of the infamous Charles Bronson film series, ‘Death Wish’ twists its concept for a new era. The original franchise spawned five movies, although it’s doubtful this new ‘Death Wish’ will last the distance. That could be a merciful relief as watching until the end was an unwelcome death sentence.

Trauma surgeon Dr Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) does all he can to save lives. When his wife Lucy (Elisabeth Shue) and daughter are savagely attacked, his world crumbles. Seeking vengeance on those who destroyed his family, Paul goes on the warpath. Taking up arms and blasting away evil-doers, his actions are noticed by police Detective Raines (Dean Norris). The public also notices Kersey’s swathe of destruction, either cheering him on or being repulsed by his vigilantism. As he cleans the streets of human filth, Kersey seems trapped in a never-ending cycle of bitter violence.

‘Death Wish’ is streets ahead of its forebears in terms of story-telling quality. Rather than offering scenes of endless bloody killings, of which it has several, it has something to say about how they affect not only the perpetrators but also the witnesses. How to break free of this vicious circle and why people are so fascinated by such incidents are effectively shown. Director Eli Roth is no stranger to controversy, often pushing the envelope in taste and delivering brutal messages. He shows flair in the action sequences and handles the small character moments well.

The biggest failing of ‘Death Wish’ is in its performances. Bruce Willis is simply appalling, literally sleep-walking through the role. He gives a lifeless rendition of a man meant to be driven by murderous rage. Little of his character’s anger is conveyed, with Willis giving as much emotion as someone who has spilt milk. Most of his co-stars are completely wasted except for Norris who gives the only genuinely good performance. The stunts and action are staged with vigour and provide the energy missing from its lead star.

‘Death Wish’ had potential to generate attention. Occasionally it does due to its overall tale and atmosphere. Given how terrible most of his recent films have been, the only death wish on evidence is Bruce Willis’ determination to kill his career. Watching him scowl and grunt his way through the movie is about as bad as it gets with another ‘Death Wish’ instalment thankfully unlikely.

Rating out of 10: 3

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