Liberal film critics hate the new remake of Death Wish. They REALLY hate it. So much so that it sounds like NPR, New York Times and Los Angeles Times reviewers are sharing talking points. Or maybe it's just a lefty mind meld.
The Bruce Willis-starring film (opening on Friday) follows the template of the 1974 Charles Bronson action hit: Willis uses a gun (and other tools) to hunt down the men who murdered his wife and put his daughter in a coma. Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty was horrified at the movie’s red state appeal:
I suspect that Roth accomplished exactly what he set out to do with Death Wish. But the marketing of the film is another matter entirely. It has an unmistakable stink of rah-rah Make America Great Again-ness to it. It’s patriotic red meat thrown to the NRA crowd. I know some of you will say, “Relax, it’s just a movie.” Fair enough. But movies don’t exist in a vacuum. And Death Wish, as undeniably effective as it is on a primal gut level, should have probably stayed where it belonged. In the past.
The contempt from Barry Hertz at Canada’s Globe and Mail was clear in his headline: “Eli Roth’s Death Wish will make you wish you were dead, too.” Hertz seethed at the “right-wing dog whistling” and took a nasty swipe at Senator Marco Rubio:
There is no clear explanation as to why Roth decided today's world needed to revisit the franchise's ultra-right-wing dog whistling. Perhaps a George Zimmerman biopic fell apart due to rights issues, and this was the closest producers could get. Or maybe the cinema needs just that much more sickeningly sincere gun fetishization – they've certainly got an audience in Senator Marco Rubio, so that's one ticket sold.
If you’re noticing a trend, it’s contempt for audience members who might own a gun or support the Second Amendment. Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times snarled at “the arrival of a feature-length National Rifle Assn. infomercial starring Bruce Willis.”
His headline? “Bruce Willis takes aim and misfires in an imbecilic Death Wish remake.” Even the adjectives are the same, as the New York Times trashed the “imbecilic misfire.” Apparently, it’s like a — you guessed it — NRA commercial:
Morally unconflicted about its self-taught shooter, Death Wish promotes a vision of a city whose streets run red and whose residents run scared. It’s ready-made for an N.R.A. ad campaign.
Perhaps the angriest response came from NPR critic Glen Weldon. He resented even being asked to review such an obscenity to elitist sensibilities:
Why are you reading this?
That's a serious question; I'm sincerely curious: Why are you sitting there, right now, reading a review of the movie Death Wish?
For my part, I can tell you that the reason I'm writing this review is because it's my job — but you? What's your excuse?
I mean: It's Death Wish.
After quickly describing the plot, Weldon excoriated the movie’s appeal to “maleness.”
What do you reasonably expect to find in a review of a film that has been so ruthlessly engineered to target the pleasure-centers of the most fearful and fragile cohort of American maleness? To deliver unto them an elaborately contrived series of events meant to prove that their view of the world is both only correct — and the only correct one?
Do you expect me to tell you that the film is not the thin and cynical fever-dream of those who ache to be reassured that cities are cesspits, the police ineffectual, and, as one character (Len Cariou, what are you doing?) intones, "If a man wants to protect his own [cocks shotgun], he has to do it himself"? Because it is that. It is precisely that.
One conservative film critic, Christian Toto of Hollywood in Toto, dared to cheer the movie: "Death Wish is more than just a crass remake. It’s a blistering reminder why some movie templates never grow old.”
For some Americans, the fact that Death Wish is not approved by the New York Times, NPR and others just might make it more appealing.