There’s a plan, I’m told, to possibly remake Death Wish with Bruce Willis as Charles Bronson‘s Paul Kersey. Or something like that. Right away I wondered why with Chuck Russell‘s I Am Wrath (Saban, 5.13), about an unemployed engineer (John Travolta) going vigilante when the cops fail to bring his wife’s murderers to justice, sounding like a fairly close remake of Michael Winner’s 1974 film.
I’m not saying the alleged Willis project will happen, but if it does it would be processed, along with the Travolta flick, as yet another entry in the grizzled-action-star-urban-whupass genre. Which began eight years ago, of course, with Taken and the launching of the more specific grizzled-dad-looking-to-save-imperiled-daughter genre. Liam “paycheck” Neeson pretty much owned the turf until the first Expendables flick popped in 2010.
All to say that I’m sensing a fatigue factor over the grizzled bad-ass white guy thing. It seems that the only way to inject fresh energy into a Death Wish remake, if that’s what you really want to do, is go with a grizzled black guy.
The new Death Wish needs to have a serious 2016 cultural context. What real-deal situation or attitude or trend will it reflect? The Bronson version drew on an early ’70s Manhattan that really did have a crime/urban decay problem — not so much now. Bernhard Goetz obviously redefined vigilantism in the ’80s, and not in a heroic way. So what’s the best angle for a newbie?
Make Paul Kersey an older, well-to-do black dude (maybe Denzel, maybe Idris Elba) whose son (Trayvon) or daughter is killed by trigger-happy rural cops (i.e., Bumblefuck, Idaho by way of Ferguson) and so after the system lets their killers off with a fine and a wrist-slap he figures out some kind of revenge.
No, he doesn’t go on a cop-killing spree but maybe he goes after a bad apple or two who need a little ass-whupping. Maybe he decides to fuck them up in a way that won’t look like revenge. Something clever. I obviously haven’t thought it through but something like this could work.
I do know that today’s perceived social threat is not so much from wild inner-city youths but cops patrolling streets with too much military hardware and a subliminal animosity towards African-American youths. That at least reflects something real in our culture. You can’t go home again and just “remake” the Bronson.