Death Wish (2018) Blu-ray Review

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Yes, Death Over this Movie

If Death Wish premiered on NRA TV instead of US theaters, that would shock few people. There’s a scene in the first 20-minutes where, after a funeral for Bruce Willis’ on-screen wife, Willis drives with her father. The father detours to his farm and tries to kill poachers on his property. A monologue follows, concerning slow police response and how masculine it is to use a gun to defend your things. The father never appears on screen again. He existed only to deliver that speech.

Soon after, Willis browses the wares at a local gun store. A perky blonde employee introduces Willis to this world, pointing out the best guns and which to buy. She’s knowledgeable. Soon, Willis is diving onto the internet, exploring YouTube’s gun world. Meanwhile, newscasts repeat shooting statistics in Chicago – Death Wish changes location from the original – driving up fear and paranoia. It’s as if presidential talking points were morphed into a script for a Death Wish remake.

The character arc here is that Paul Kersey (Willis), an upper class trauma surgeon, failed his family. He’s emasculated because he didn’t protect his wife and daughter. That gun brings masculinity back. The gun makes the man. Regaining his manhood means stopping a preposterously contrived carjacking, knocking around various people of color, and saving Chicago’s crime dilemma with bullets. Nothing else. Just bullets.

“This can be you!” cries Death Wish, a man with a gun, wandering the streets of Chicago, solving crime in a definitive way

Death Wish provides no sense of grief. Kersey never meets the families of the men he killed. No coherent thought or message peeks out beyond the gun lobbies pervasive sales tactics. “This can be you!” cries Death Wish, a man with a gun, wandering the streets of Chicago, solving crime in a definitive way.

There’s no satire, no wink, no declaration of law. Revenge thrillers often concern themselves with morals. Not in Death Wish. Instead, it’s a film with a determined contempt for law, more so for police. Two detectives assigned to Kersey’s case play their role for laughs. Dean Norris, lead investigator, accentuates the manliness – he spits out a health bar because what kind of man eats blueberries?

At times Death Wish is certainly bizarre. There’s a kooky bar fight that sees an assailant knocked out by a bowling ball to the head; as he falls, his gun somehow discharges through his skull. Then there’s director Eli Roth’s touch. One revenge kill squishes a skull under a car. The quick edit doesn’t shy from splatter.

Watching Death Wish is akin to enduring a 90-minute conservative propaganda video, one without any feeling of discontent toward the subject matter. Willis shows no emotion; he only grows in his heartless vigilante act. The concluding kill secures Death Wish’s wonky agenda.

Kersey, now an addict for makeshift gun ranges, kicks a table. Out pops a drawer with a gun, which he manages to pick up, aim, and then shoot before his attacker can react. How slick. Not only did Kersey think to hide a gun in a sliding drawer, he knew he had time to shoot, and that bad guy would let him sit in front of the table. Good guys always win with guns. So buy a gun, if you’re a good guy. Death Wish said to.

Video

Expect lots of Chicago in Death Wish. The number of city fly-bys is absurd, but they look fantastic. Sharpness and fidelity hit their peak in these shots, showing off resolution and clarity too. Closer, Death Wish reaches an adequate tier, lackadaisically photographed with mild fine detail.

A lot of Death Wish is lifted by the force of of contrast. For what is intended as a grimy exploitation drama, it’s unusually well lit. Sunlight features frequently and lights around the city push forth with intensity. While black levels carry small amounts of crush, they provided the needed dimension, certainly giving shadows heft.

Like with the lighting, color saturates to produce strong primaries. Accurate flesh tones find their home, and the various city sights dazzle with their array.

Fox’s encode battles some persistent noise. That’s handled as well as possible, if ultimately buzzy and pervasive. Generally, this resides in the background, taking little if any detail with. That’s the positive take away.

Audio

Rudimentary DTS-HD work sticks tightly to the front soundstage. Dialog stretches out from the center routinely, adding space to the sides effectively. Inside train stations, various ambient sounds pick up, if not with extensive use. Chicago sticks to the center without branching.

The 5.1 mix primarily finds life through various shoot-outs, sending bullets into the rears. They ping off targets or ricochet as needed. That gives dimension to Death Wish where it’s otherwise static.

Extras

Director Eli Roth and producer Roger Birnbaum join up for a commentary track, adding additional thoughts over six minutes of deleted scenes. More extended footage includes material from the radio shows that feature prominently in the movie. The bland Vengeance and Vision runs for 11-minutes, but it’s stale and only one step above EPK fodder. Outside of the commentary, only a remixed grindhouse trailer is worth it, and it’s a shame the movie didn’t take a similar tone.

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 15 Death Wish screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 13,000+ already in our library), 50+ exclusive 4K UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.