Now a good time for a remake of “Death Wish”? A movie about a rando who becomes an armed avenger released into an era of mass shootings and failing gun control legislation? A movie about a white guy one-upping the cops in a time of overzealous, trigger-happy law enforcers? Well, we’re getting one anyway. The trailer for Eli Roth’s remake of the Charles Bronson classic — aka, one of the most evil and repugnant films ever made — is now live, featuring Bruce Willis gunning down punks and drug dealers and other assorted ne’er-do-well, sometimes while wearing a grey hoodie.
That last part could be read as more offensive than the OG “Death Wish” itself, which is saying something: A white man skulking about city streets in a hoodie, literally getting away with murder. Here’s where we drop an unpopular statement (no, not a Breitbart-y one): We like Eli Roth. We think Eli Roth may know what he’s doing. He’s no idiot. He makes vomit-y horror movies that fetishize ripped flesh, but he’s sneaky and subversive, ultimately on the side of the angels. His last movie was even made an accidental semi-remake of the ’60s Czech great “Daisies.”
In other words, we’d like to think that Roth’s (admittedly maybe unintentional) invoking of Trayvon Martin, while reckless and deeply questionable, is, deep down, satirical. Technically, he hasn’t even made a remake. Like the 1974 original, Roth’s version is based on Brian Garfield’s novel. In the book, our grieving, gun-toting protagonist is no hero; the story follows him as he loses his mind, becoming that which he allegedly despises: a homicidal monster who gets his kicks out of murder. Michael Winner, the maker of the Bronson — and two of the four ludicrous sequels — either didn’t read it very closely or decided to strip-mine it for his own crappy agenda. Garfield was so appalled that he wrote another novel, “Death Sentence,” which has almost the same plot but in which it’s impossible to miss the intent.
Whether Roth will stick to the book remains to be seen; the trailer, certainly, plays it like a rockin’ black comedy, complete with AC/DC and some not bad simulacra of Bronson one-liners. (Drug dealer: “Who are you?” Willis: “Your last customer.” BANG.) But Roth is sneaky, and we’d like to think the finished product will make dim audiences think he’s delivered them the avenging angel goods while quietly taking them down.
Either way, it looks like Willis — who’s been sleepwalking through DTV purgatory for eons, it feels like — is once again awake. Dig the charming-evil way the trailer ends.
“Death Wish” arrives on Nov. 22. Watch the trailer below: