Under the Radar

Vigilante Therapy in 'Death Wish'

Bruce Willis stars as Dr. Paul Kersey in "Death Wish." (MGM)

How should Dr. Paul Kersey process his grief after a home invasion crew kills his wife and leaves his daughter in a coma? According to director Eli Roth's remake of "Death Wish" (out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD), the good doctor (played by Bruce Willis) should learn to handle a weapon and become a one-man wrecking crew against Chicago crime.

1974's original "Death Wish" starred Charles Bronson and its violent, vigilante justice shocked a moviegoing public who'd been getting a steady diet of social justice and criminal rehabilitation messages from Hollywood. It got savaged by movie critics but was also a huge hit that spawned three sequels.

There was a grimy, grindhouse quality to the original that seemed like a perfect fit for Roth, who directed the first two "Hostel" movies and starred as Sgt. Donny "The Bear Jew" Donowitz in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds." Willis has been making straight-to-video cheapies for most of the last decade and "Death Wish" was his return to starring in a movie that got plenty of TV advertising and opened in a couple of thousand theaters. 

Even though there's a 70s-style "grindhouse trailer" included with the extras, this "Death Wish" could've used a bit more sleaze. There's a great cast with Elisabeth Shue as Willis' soon-to-be-late wife, Vincent D'Onofrio as his screwup brother and Dean Norris as the overwhelmed homicide detective who fails to figure out that the liberal surgeon has transformed himself into a locked-and-loaded vigilante.

Willis' comic timing helps him through the early scenes when he's scared of the weapons he's learning to use but things improve greatly when he's allowed to go into Full John McClane mode at the end.

Both D'Onofrio and Norris are excellent and there's a nagging sense that a "Death Wish" remake starring either one of those guys as Kersey would make a really interesting movie.

Still, it's Bruce Willis with some guns. There's tactical furniture. There's healing through street justice. "Death Wish" 2018 may not be the classic the 1974 original is, but it's good to see Bruce back shooting up bad guys.

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