Death Wish (2018) – Bruce Willis ACTION MOVIE REVIEW


By Geno McGahee

In 1974, film history was made as Charles Bronson starred in DEATH WISH. It would lead to four sequels and become one of the best action franchises. Bronson was one of the biggest action stars of all time and recreating the DEATH WISH story would mean there were big shoes to fill, but the 2018 return proved to do it quite well. With Bruce Willis in the lead as Paul Kersey and with notable horror mind Eli Roth directing, DEATH WISH brought some of the gritty 80s along with some of the current action influence.

Paul Kersey (Willis) is a surgeon and has the ideal life with his wife, Lucy (Elisabeth Shue), and daughter, Jordan (Camila Morrone). They all have their own ambitions with Lucy preparing to become a doctor and Jordan getting ready to go to New York City to go to school. The only potential problem in their lives is Paul’s brother, Frank (Vincent D’Onofrio), who has trouble with employment and is consistently borrowing money. Good writing here because I’ve never met a good Frank. They usually are problematic and it was nice to see Shue again. She doesn’t age.


After a dinner, the valet, Miguel (Luis Oliva), grabs the home address of the Kersey family from the GPS system and sends it to his group of fellow criminals. They plan to hit the house as the family goes out to a party but when the party is cancelled and Paul is called to work, Lucy and Jordan are home as this group of bad guys enter. In the original DEATH WISH, there was a vicious rape scene and the brutal beat down of a woman. They didn’t go there with this one. There was some sexual assault, but it wasn’t the shocking stuff that we saw in the 1970s, and that’s a good thing. As much as I loved the DEATH WISH films, those scenes were so vicious that they were hard to watch. Here, we get the point across without going to that extreme, but there are other extremes that they get to that are quite welcome.

Working at the hospital, Paul gets the news that two gunshot victims are being brought in and it turns out to be his wife and daughter. His wife is dead on arrival and his daughter is barely hanging on. Jordan, now in a coma, has left Paul with nothing but Frank, who does well to console him. D’Onofrio is always good and here is no different. Even though his character is very flawed, it’s impossible not to like him and feel sorry for him at times. I think most people have a guy like Frank in their lives.


Detectives Kevin Raines (Dean Norris) and Leonore Jackson (Kimberly Elise) are heading up the investigation but when Paul sees the long list of unsolved murders he becomes more and more hopeless. Listening to the radio and hearing of the murders in Chicago on a nightly basis, he starts to realize that something has to be done. He begins riding the train and going into the shadier side of the city and stops a carjacking, killing the two bad guys. Dressed in a hoody, Paul is caught on tape shooting the two guys and becomes an instant internet sensation and brings up the debate as to if vigilantism is appropriate or not.

Paul finds his footing as the vigilante rather quickly and when Miguel comes into the ER in bad shape, he starts following the leads to the people that ruined his life. Eli Roth’s handwriting is all over this production. His horror roots play out well in this as the deaths are very graphic and intense. At one point, Paul kills a bad guy by pulling the jack out of a car that is propped up over him, noting that “I’m not going to kill you, Jack is.” When the car hits, the guy’s brains are smashed out of his head. It was a good show. I know you’re probably asking why this is OK and the rape scene in 1974 was too much. Well, I can deal with this more so. Had the bad guy been getting viciously raped during the car falling on him, then I may have said it was too much too.


The detectives are getting closer to the identity of the vigilante leading to a race against time. Knox (Beau Knapp) is the last of the bad guys and the worst of them. When Jordan awakens from the coma and is brought home, he plans to finish the job by taking out Paul and his daughter with a group of new bad guys. This leads to a great action-packed ending with plenty of gory deaths, including one poor guy falling down the stairs and badly breaking his neck. It was tremendous. When the dust settles, Paul is left standing and the detectives must make a decision and they opt to look the other way. What’s right is right.

DEATH WISH is a tremendous film that feels a little like TAKEN but is unique and has plenty of 1980’s grit and approach. Bruce Willis was into this role. There are films when he is not putting in full effort and it shows, but here, he totally nailed it and did the role that made Charles Bronson famous justice. I was very impressed. When I first started watching the film and Willis was a doctor, I had a hard time accepting it because he just looked so bad ass, but his acting was so good, I quickly believed it. If this film does well, and I hope it does, Willis could find his next action franchise. DIE HARD has been his identity forever and this could be a series where people start bringing it up in the same breath.

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Credit has to be given to the rest of the cast as well, including Norris and Elise. The odd couple works very well and brings some laughs. Shue, Morrone and D’Onofrio deserve a lot of credit too. They really worked well off of the Willis character and added a lot of depth to this film. D’Onofrio was especially good as the film went on and I loved how he went from the one in need of guidance to the one that was looking out for his brother.

DEATH WISH is one of best action films in years, proving that Willis is still a force in this genre and also proving that Eli Roth can do very well in directing it, bringing his dark and gritty approach. It’s a perfect match here and I cannot recommend this film enough. What a great action film. It’s easily the best action film since TAKEN.

Rating: 9/10