In 1974, a movie named Death Wish, starring Charles Bronson, was released. It was about a man living in New York City who, grieving over the rape of his daughter and the rape and murder of his wife, decides to take crime into his own hands and become a vigilante murderer. It caused a lot of outrage at the time, and while I haven’t seen it, the Clockwork Orange knockoff rape scene from the trailer probably tells me all I need to know. Needless to say, it’s a movie with a decidedly shitty premise. So it’s absolutely no wonder Eli Roth decided to remake it. The trailer for the remake was released today, and it is really something.
In the updated version, Paul, now an emergency room surgeon in Chicago, is played by none other than Bruce Willis. Chicago, Donald Trump’s favorite city to disseminate lies about, is the new location. That’s just one of the many unsettling elements on display. Another is the vigilante’s uniform: a hoodie. Black people wearing hoodies have always been subject to racism (which is why it’s so powerful that it’s Luke Cage’s uniform) as we saw with the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman—who, by the way, was a self-appointed vigilante. Willis adopting the hoodie feels like a nasty reminder of the depths of white impunity. Also, I suppose I’m not really into a white man running around in any kind of hood imposing his vision of justice.
The whole theme of “If a man really wants to protect what’s his, he has to do it himself” reeks of the same kind of unhinged law-and-order rhetoric that informs both police brutality and a president encouraging cops to engage in police brutality, which is exactly what we need in 2017. White men carrying the banner for law and order is essentially declaring open season on people of color, so uh, I’ll probably skip it. Sorry, Sway (who is in this movie for some reason), and also the one black lady in the ambulance who thanks Bruce Willis.
If you are looking for more insight in this film, may I suggest this hilarious roastfest of the 1974 New York Times review of the original, titled “‘Death Wish’ Exploits Fear Irresponsibly.” It railed against the original movie’s obtuse approach to crime and suggestion that complex social issues can be solved by gun-toting “white middle-class maniacs.” Classic.