DEATH WISH (Trailer Review)
by Phillip Wilcox "Our Movie Demon"
Ok so let's rap about the brand new trailer that just dropped today for the Eli Roth remake of the 1974 revenge movie DEATH WISH, because I have an awful lot to say about it.
First of all, Eli's status as a serious filmmaker has been declining over time. Let's just get that out of the way right now. Yes, he made a fun entertaining flick back in 2002 with the campy horror CABIN FEVER. People were on board with because it wasn't shy about the kind of movie it was. It came right out in the first 5 minutes and said, "This is the kind of movie you're about to watch. So if you're into it, you're going to have a lot of fun." And I remember a lot of people responding to it quite positively. Then came 2005's HOSTEL. And people ate it up! Those who were horror movie fans were on board the Eli Roth train. He was one of the hottest horror movie directors during that time. Whether you were loved his movies at that time or not, it's just a fact. He became associated with Pop Culture Cinephile Quentin Tarantino very quickly after that, the fact that QT really rallied for Eli's movie and took him under his wing. He was even Executive Producer on HOSTEL. He was involved in the QT/Robert Rodriguez GRINDHOUSE project; even providing his own fun fake trailer for the DEATH PROOF/PLANET TERROR combo. Which was all a lot of fun. After that he came out with HOSTEL: PART II in 2007. Some might say it wasn't as good as the first film but I personally thought it was great. It picked up from the ending of the first film and yet still it managed to serve up a brand story. One that involved a group of girls who are travelling abroad instead of guys. Which made it much more interesting and fun, and by the final act it had all the girls, in the packed audience I was a part of, standing up and cheering. Eli was at the top of his game. Then he started concentrating more on Producing movies. Which I'm not sure was the smartest move on his part. I've heard from people that once enjoyed what he did as a director but then that enjoyment began to lose its fuel once Eli began producing movies. There is an audience for his produced work, and some I even enjoyed for the time being, but ultimately at the end of the day, didn't think they were quality films and could've been made better. KNOCK KNOCK was a remake from the 1977 thriller DEATH GAME. Great concept, executed about as well as it could've been for the time period it was made in and with the micro-budget it had. THE GREEN INFERNO - Not a direct remake, but anyone who knows their cinema knows that this was a direct inspiration from 1980's CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. A film that Eli Roth himself has declare as one of his all time favorites.
Last week the first official trailer for this year's remake of DEATH WISH was released. And judging a slew of confusion, dislike and even outrage, it's not hard to tell that the trailer itself wan't really connecting with people. And I think a lot of that had to do with the song choice that played behind the trailer. And that's the main point a lot of people had to complain about. I, however, was Also focusing on how the trailer was cut together along with the music choice. Here are the points I want to talk about:
I. The beginning of the trailer shows that radio news coverage is already on the tail of a hooded vigilante and seemingly people are using their cellphones to capture footage of a man in a hooded sweatshirt going around righting wrongs. This is not the first film Eli has made where today's technology was used to keep the movie moving forward. And let me tell you why I don't think using that ploy to keep a movie like that moving forward is such a good idea. First of all I'm not saying Eli wrote that into the script because it's clear and known that writer/director Joe Carnahan wrote the movie. I'm just saying this isn't the first film Eli is using today's technology in his movies to them up to date. Secondly, the original film and the whole reason for the DEATH WISH franchise is based on a novel by Brian Garfield. And since it's been a long time since I even read that book, I will refer to the original 1974 film starring Charles Bronson and say that though I can kind of see why using today's generation of people's obsession with constant media coverage, especially through smart phones and tablets, would be a clever idea, for a story such as this one it's much more effective when you keep things to a minimal. And I think people today in filmmaking have forgotten that "Less IS More". No need to overly complicate a story when honing in on characters and what they do IN the film will be intriguing enough to spark conversation.
II. Hiding In Plain Sight - Using ridiculous tropes to help keep character's identities somewhat hidden. In the remake trailer they show a glimpse of a man who I'm assuming is the person who has broken into the family home of Bruce Willis' character and is hiding, presumably about to make his move to assault the wife and daughter. Only HE HAS A MASK! WHY?! If the intruder's purpose is to kill the home owners then it really wouldn't matter if they wore a mask to hide their identity. In the original, there was a group of street thugs. 3 or 4 men if I remember correctly (one of whom is played by a young Jeff Goldblum, which happened to be his feature film debut), who ransack the home, assault the mother and rape the daughter. None of those men wore masks as their intent was not to scare their victims. Furthermore I think people have forgotten about who Bruce Willis' character is in the story. The fact that they give him a hoodie to shield his face in this movie is pretty ridiculous. As if the hoodie itself is suppose to be like some kind of costume when he goes out at night to off the bad guys...HE'S NOT A SUPER HERO! He never was. To turn him into such takes me right out of not only the movie but the story itself. And in my eyes, and I think in a lot of people's eyes, it cause the audience to lose track of why he's doing what he's doing in the first place. But this wouldn't be the only factor that would cause the audience to lose track of that purpose...
III. Back In Black? - Don't get me wrong. I am a fan of AC/DC, and I listen to their music in small doses. But I've never seen Revenge Movies/Stories as being fun. And there's a certain vibe that comes with the music of the band's "Back In Black" track. And to me, and I'm sure a lot of other people, that vibe is typically a "Hell yeah, Rock On, and Head Bang" kind of vibe. And not only that, but the way the clips are cut together in the trailer - As shown below - is cut together in a way, along with the music, that says to me "Yes this is revenge movie but you're going to have a heck of a lot of fun watching this distraught and grief-stricken father/husband turn into a bad guy killing machine when justice isn't served against those who have torn his life apart...Enjoy!" And to me that's not what draws into a well told story. There are people who don't like the 2004 Thomas Jane version of THE PUNISHER movie. But here's why I myself love it as a Revenge propelled movie and always will; Even though the character of Frank Castle is doing all of these crazy things just to get revenge, it's not out of character as to Who this guy is, you never lose sight of Why he's doing what he's doing, and the Emotion is never over looked or forgotten through out the movie. You're always reminded of his pain. He's not having a good time doing what he's doing. It is a mission for him. He's a brooding character who constantly carries the weight of his family's massacre around with him. It comes through in the way he speaks, the tone in his voice, and the look on his face.
And I'm sorry, but that moment in the trailer when Bruce's character goes to ultimately kill the auto mechanic who evidently was involved with the home invasion that left his wife dead, and then when the bad guy says relieved "You're not gonna kill me..." and Bruce says "No. Jack is." Right before he apparently yanks a chain that will inevitably release the car Jack (get it?) and crush the bad guy under a car he lies beneath....Seriously? "Jack is"? Bruce, I've always been a fan of your work as an actor, so please take what I'm about to say with love and admiration - You do realize you're no longer playing John McClane, right? It's perfectly ok to let go of some one liners before a character you play is about to kill a bad guy. Also being that this is an Eli Roth movie I can imagine there's going to be some bloody gruesome deaths. But to me this story isn't a campy horror flick, and it's also not meant to be a fun action/adventure romp. I'm writing all of this not out of judgement but with at least a little bit of hope that when I do see the movie, that what I saw in this trailer will not encompass the overall energy of the movie. It's just not the kind of movie I look forward to see when watching a DEATH WISH film. Even though it's quite clear from what I saw that the grit is gone.