‘I’ ON CULTURE
Death Wish is the kind of move critics hate but a large section of the audience enjoys. This is not a really good film. It is a reboot of the 1970s movie, and that was not really good either. But it clearly speaks to people. Watching it in a fairly crowded auditorium was interesting; there were cheers and applause as the hero wiped out the criminals — and did so without judges or juries, and perhaps most importantly, lawyers.
The story is very simple. Dr. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is a successful surgeon who comes home to find his wife dead and his daughter in a coma from an attack by criminals. After a bit of suffering, he decides he wants revenge, gets a gun, and wipes out an inordinately large number of creeps. That is the story. To help out, it takes place in Chicago, which is now being called “the murder capital of America.”
What makes the story so telling? It is a rebellion against the status quo in the country where violence is casually accepted.
As some in the country’s leadership class argue that people should not have guns, that the government has people with guns to protect them, some “regular people” have begun to wonder how much truth resides in the saying.
Watching the horror in Parkland, we were all horrified. Right after, we watched the Broward County sheriff lead a children’s chorus demanding an end to guns. And then we learned that his office and the FBI had ignored dozens of specific warnings about the young gunman. Then we found out that the first deputy at the scene did not go after the gunman.
Even worse, I’ve read that the gunman was able to buy guns because he had a clean record, despite being in constant trouble. The reason: the federal government decided that kids in school who commit crimes should, in many cases, not get arrested. Had the police done their job by having a record of his actions, had he been arrested and had his mental issues recorded, he would have been denied the right to buy his gun. So what do we do when the government does not protect us?
If the people who are supposed to protect us do not do their job, then who will? The number of guns around precludes just trying to get rid of them. But in some places with strong gun control laws, like Chicago and Baltimore, shootings are out of control. And some cities in Texas that allow guns are very quiet. But that is simplistic. The problem is there is no real answer on ways to solve the problem. Trust an old educator; the notion of teachers’ carrying guns is scary.
So, we wait and wonder what is next. And that is where the movie gets traction. The Chicago police in the film are shown to be swamped with paperwork every time they have to pull a gun. The last thing any of them want in the film is to actually face up against a criminal. At first horrified by the crime, many seem to envy the “freedom” that Kersey has in killing the bad guys. And, of course, the movie emphasizes the bad side of each of the people Kersey kills.
Director Eli Roth clearly has Kersey as an “avenging angel” for his family. How can you root against him? And that is why the movie works. It certainly is not the acting. Willis is deadpan throughout the film, and most of the rest of the cast is not required to do much.
Many critics have written that this is the wrong time to discuss the issue, right after the shootings in Broward. But when is a good time? The movie was delayed several months because of another shooting.
This film raises many issues that most of us do not like to deal with and brings out emotions that are not always pleasant. There is an enormous amount of violence, and it is one-sided, so be warned.
The movie is pretty bad, but it is cathartic. I cannot recommend it unless you’re really into this sort of thing.