Director Eli Roth isn't exactly recognized for his subtlety. Known for extreme torture-horror flicks, such as "Hostel," "Cabin Fever" and "The Green Inferno," he's risen to the top of his genre rather quickly by picking projects that tend to stand out as vivid examples of what church and parent groups like to point out as reasons society is going down the tubes.
With Roth behind the camera for a remake of "Death Wish," a film that suffered enormous criticism in 1974 for its right wing slant yet won huge audience appeal, the question was would he follow suit?
Author Brian Garfield, who wrote the original 1972 novel upon which the iconic Charles Bronson movie was developed, was once quoted saying the point of his book was to show "that vigilantism is an attractive fantasy, but it only makes things worse in reality. By the end of the novel, the character (Paul) is gunning down unarmed teenagers because he doesn't like their looks. The story is about an ordinary guy who descends into madness."
Roth's take pinwheels into even darker territory, taking the idea of acting out with a gun toward anonymous bad people as almost therapeutic. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is a brilliant trauma surgeon (as opposed to Bronson's virile architect) working in a Chicago hospital where the badly mangled victims of that city's violent streets are brought to be saved.
When horrific tragedy enters his comfortably affluent Lake Shore Drive home, Paul is devastated. The cops are overworked and give him nothing but pat answers.
The perpetrators are still loose. His life falls apart. But, Paul has a burning need to get back at the men who destroyed everything he loves even if the objects of his ire are anonymous.
The fact that he's white and the people he goes after tend to be of color has certainly not been lost on critics. And, simply because he saves a black couple in one of his first attacks isn't justification in the least.
Then, one day, a wounded gangbanger is brought to his hospital. In the midst of being treated, a pistol falls out of his pocket, and Paul kicks the gun under the bed. After he is taken away, Paul retrieves the weapon.
Now, he starts playing with it. He learns how to shoot it, clean it and load it from YouTube videos. Then, he becomes a vigilante, taking out criminals as a one-man judge, jury and executioner.
Since this is the age of cellphone videos, his actions are caught on camera and suddenly he becomes a social media phenomenon. His depression eases. He's sleeping better. His therapist notes the positive changes and tells him, "Whatever it is you're doing, keep it up."
Roth is no dummy. He knows what he's doing. He has obviously taken a look at the current sociopolitical landscape and sized up the stakes.
For instance, the 1974 Charles Bronson movie established Paul's loving family life and then destroyed it when a gang of punks commit a home invasion. But, during the invasion, director Michael Winner lingered over the violence committed against women to provide justification for Paul's murderous avocation.
I won't detail what happens in the remake, but, audiences are spared the explicit details of this attack. Yet, Roth has no problem with graphically revealing the later blood and gore in realistic -- and sometimes comedic -- terms.
It's hard to tell what Willis is up to here. Sometimes wooden and unperturbed, his character only on occasion makes the connection between his profession as a lifesaver and his hobby as a life taker.
Where he should be dealing with disturbing mental issues, instead he revels in his role as a killer meting out "justice." Like its 1972 predecessor, the remake is mired in gun nut theology and ignores Garfield's idea of Paul doing a deep dive into madness.
One supposes now the door has been kicked open for a "Dirty Harry" remake.
"Death Wish" is rated R for strong bloody violence, and language throughout.
It is showing daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.
Also showing in Taos
The following were edited from press materials.
MPAA rating: R for language and drug use
Movies at the TCA
To celebrate her long-awaited prestigious post as a Shadow Minister for Health and, hopefully, the stepping stone to party leadership, the newly-appointed British opposition politician, Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas), is throwing a party for friends at her London flat.
Of course, in this select and intimate soirée, apart from Bill (Timothy Spall), Janet’s self-denying academic husband, a motley crew of elite, hand-picked guests have been invited: April (Patricia Clarkson), the sourly cynical American best friend; her unlikely German husband, Gottfried (Bruno Ganz); also Jinny (Emily Mortimer) and Martha (Cherry Jones); and, finally, Tom (Cillian Murphy), the smooth banker in the impeccable suit.
But inevitably, before dinner is served, the upbeat ambience will shatter to pieces as festering secrets will start surfacing in this perfect domestic war-zone. Undoubtedly, after this night, things will never be the same again.
This film was directed and co-written by Sally Potter.
This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (March 25), and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (March 26-28).
Movies at the TCA film series, Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and for some language
Mitchell Storyteller 7
Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is the fiercely independent daughter of an eccentric adventurer who vanished when she was scarcely a teen. Now a young woman of 21 without any real focus or purpose, Lara navigates the chaotic streets of trendy East London as a bike courier, barely makes the rent and takes college courses, rarely attending class.
Determined to forge her own path, she refuses to take the reins of her father’s global empire as staunchly as she rejects the idea that he’s truly gone. Advised to face the facts and move forward after seven years without him even Lara can’t understand what drives her to finally solve the puzzle of his mysterious death.
Explicitly opposing his final wishes, she leaves everything she knows behind in search of her dad’s last-known destination: a fabled tomb on a mythical island that might be somewhere off the coast of Japan. But her mission will not be an easy one; simply reaching the island will be extremely treacherous.
Suddenly, the stakes couldn’t be higher for Lara. Against the odds and armed with only her sharp mind, blind faith and inherently stubborn spirit, she must learn to push herself beyond her limits as she journeys into the unknown. If she survives this perilous adventure, it could be the making of her, earning her the name tomb raider.
Directed by Roar Uthaug, this reimagining of the “Tomb Raider,” based-upon-a-video game franchise, co-stars Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Kristin Scott Thomas, Derek Jacobi and Daniel Wu.
This film will be screened daily.
Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.