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Death Wish (Blu-ray Review)

Every film series that ran more into the franchise territory with multitudes of sequels gets dug up and given an attempt in today’s climate. As much as Death Wish was Charles Bronson, its not above another blowing out the candles on a tombstone and making a wish (Okay, that was bad, but whatever…). This project loomed around the studios for a few years and then actually was made, but then delayed to avoid becoming topical with a real world tragedy only to find itself topical due to a real world tragedy. Fox just sucked it up and put the damn thing out to the anticipated poor reviews and box office intake (It sailed a few million past its reported budget, though). If interested and you didn’t feel like giving it theater dollars, the Eli Roth and Bruce Willis team up will be available on Blu-ray June 5th.

Film 

Dr. Paul Kersey is a surgeon who often sees the consequences of the city’s violence in the emergency room. When home intruders brutally attack his wife and young daughter, Kersey becomes obsessed with delivering vigilante justice to the perpetrators. As the anonymous slayings grab the media’s attention, the public begins to wonder if the deadly avenger is a guardian angel — or the Grim Reaper itself.

Death Wish, at its core, is what it is and this remake very much has seen the Death Wish movies, but also doesn’t realize what that means for today. Its hard to wonder if this film at one point took itself more seriously, then after it was shot decided to change its tone. It has a hard time and sort of fails to balance the act of giving (Who knows what the fuck) kind of social commentary while also laughing and giggling about being an over the top gross out grindhouse flick. While the pulpy level of this movie I enjoyed things about (As I would watching a retro Bronson entry), its hard to when I’m not really liking what the movie (I think) is saying or promoting.

When the remake was announced, it seemed like a groaner. We’ve had some many film LIKE Death Wish in the many decades since where we take an actor’s name, and give them possession of the original title (IE, The Brave One or “Jodie Foster’s Death Wish”, Savage Streets aka “Linda Blair’s Death Wish”). Willis coming on board was uninteresting, but it was the hiring of Eli Roth that had me intrigued. I’m not a fan of the guy, but I know the potential is there. And maybe him making something super pulpy out of this might get Willis invested and make for some low level fun. Unfortunately, it only has a little bit of that.

There are moments in this movie where Bruce Willis seems invested and having a good time, while there are moments where he only seems half interested. In 2018, we have to consider that a win in the Willis camp. So, hats off to Eli Roth for getting that out of him. Roth seems to want to take this in a gory, over the top dark fashion while also really not paying attention to the in between and dramatic script scenes. It doesn’t really bring any sort of interesting questions up for our modern climate our even center the argument. And many of the scenes can at times feel uncomfortable. Though, watching the bonus material, Roth did plenty of research and wanted to communicate a study and honest presentation, it just didn’t really turn out that way.

This movie isn’t complete garbage its just a bit off in its message. There are some fun supporting turns in the film by Dean Norris and Vincent D’Onofrio. Elizabeth Shue has a fate you already know, but really is allowed to flesh out her character as much as she can beforehand and Roth treats “that scene” from the original with much better taste while keeping the high intensity. Overall, I dunno. This is a B-picture and maybe some time can pass where one day it can just be enjoyed as an escapist action movie on those b-sensibilities alone.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Death Wish comes with a solid debut on Blu-ray. This is basically your “it looks good without really trying” image. There’s plenty of strong details on clothing from fabric textures to wrinkles, concrete wall texture, gory details like splattered brains and more. The image is crisp and sharp as well. Its almost so solid its boring to talk about.

Depth:  Distance is a little above average with some smooth and cinematic looking movements with no real signs of distortion during quick movements.

Black Levels: Blacks are pretty deep, but many of the details maintain and come through pretty crisply. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Blues are a pretty regularly used color here and there is good variation and saturation on them. Reds are pretty present too and the blood gushes with a good pop.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural, with some scenes intentionally a little cool and consistent throughout the film. Facial features like stubble, scars, dried blood, sweat and wrinkles come in clear from any reasonable given distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 5.1 Descriptive Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: Death Wish triggers a pretty standard 5.1 track for an action film. It does everything as you’d expect it and even pretty well at times. Its a front heavy track, but when it comes to gunfire or crashing/action sounds, its pounces heavily. There are some solid intricacies on the special effects in the film to go with a pretty good balance in the mixing.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Gunfire, cars slamming down, punches, engines and more rumble the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation: As mentioned before, this is pretty front heavy. Sound travel back and forth goes pretty well. Volume placement is pretty accurate too.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp, audible during any given amount of action or intense pieces of the score.

Extras 

Death Wish comes with the DVD edition and a digital copy of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • With Eli Roth and Roger Birnbaum

Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary (HD, 6:10) 

Mancow Morning Show Extended Scenes (HD, 3:39) 

Sway in the Morning Extended Scene (HD, 2:51) 

Vengeance and Vision: Directing Death Wish (HD, 11:44) –

Grindhouse Trailer (HD, 2:02)

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:25)

Summary 

Death Wish is a little bit off in the tone its taking with issues that I’m sure it never intended to be relative in today’s climate as much as when it was released. There’s a solid Willis performance for the first time in many years (Chill, I said “solid” not great). This Blu-ray gives a solid presentation and has a couple extras that are all right. If you really wanna see, I’d rent. If you need it to complete your Death Wish collection, I’m sure it’ll come down in price in the very near future.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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