What you gonna do after a four-movie menopause binge-watch? Mad Maud was swanning about looking vindicated about things she hadn’t been challenged on in the first place. Old Jack here needed two hours of revenge-based violence. Two hours of the bad guys getting shot, crushed and severely told off. Two hours of Bruce Willis flipping from sweetheart to flat-affected killer with a Death Wish. Oh yes.
Now, you’re after an objective review from an old person’s stance. This is a film in which a decent fellow in mid to late middle age makes the mistake of looking wealthy to a bad-guy valet who passes his details to some scumbags who invade his house when he’s out. His daughter (Camila Morrone giving good perfect daughter) gets knocked into a coma, his wife (Elizabeth Shue giving good loving and smart) gets murdered, and his morals – those of a surgeon – bite the vigilante’s dust.
Oh yes. Indeedy.
And off we go into murder time. The old man takes out the vicious youngsters – and not so youngsters – in a series of shootings and indelicate torture scenes. Willis finds his clues in the A&E ward or surgical theatre. One bad guy comes in wearing his watch. Another is tortured (quite grimly, it has to be said, before getting to know the car he’s been working on really well) into giving up where the bad guys live. Piece by piece, faced with the rule-led inaction of the police (Dean Norris as Detective Ineffective balances knowing it’s Willis doing it with waiting for the nod that he’s finished), Willis works his ways through the bad guys until a showdown at his house. Throughout, he deals with the loss of his wife and comatose kid by nearly emoting at his rumply brother (Vincent D’Onofrio as leach-like, hairly-anti-Willis, Frank), and becoming a strange media sensation.
Okay – this doesn’t add up to a very good film, I know. Old Jack here never saw the original, Charles Bronson, take on the story. I understand it was rather less tepid than this version, but came to that conclusion by myself. Whilst it’s got plenty of pleasing violence, and has more than a touch of the inarticulate male screaming in the jungle, it manages to be very clean. Everything is a bit too emotionally dislocated and pretty. Willis has never looked better (albeit, that under-jaw firmness is pleasingly on its way out), Shue and Morrone are clean-cut sympathy objects, the streets and buildings all feel polished. And this manages to empty the thing of its heart. The media business feels like an add-on. A surgeon-assassin feels incongruous rather than a devastating, desperation-triggered abandonment of morals. Willis, exhibiting no passion in the kills, feels blank rather than newly-sociopathic.
Of course, there remains the vicarious pleasure of imagining oneself doing this. Crossed once too often in the Post Office queue, old Jack goes loco and takes out the rude cashier, the grandma who pushed, the yappy youth in the hoodie and the tractor driver who’d made the journey into town so slow. Oh yeah – watch me blast them into oblivion and get back in time for afternoon crumpets.
But that’s in my head, not in this movie.
Nonetheless, I really needed a couple of hours of shoot ’em ups and properly enjoyed watching Death Wish. It’s just not that great, you know?