Eli Roth and the rest of the filmmakers behind the remake of Death Wish must have been trying to start a controversy with the movie, right? The trailer for the Bruce Willis-led take on the original novel came out on Thursday, and it’s a tonal mess that’s already sparked confusions, criticism, and, sigh, praise.
Much like the original 1972 book and 1974 film starring Charles Bronson, the remake focuses on a man who takes the law into his own hands, becoming a vigilante out for deadly, warped justice following the murder of his family. But, at first glance, it seems like the new movie is making the same mistake the ‘74 film did in making vigilantism seem cool and just, whereas the original book denounced it.
Willis, who is first described in the trailer as “a white dude,” buys a gun in Chicago, which is no small feat, and then proceeds to become a folk hero of sorts as he murders his way through the Chicago underworld. After he crushes a criminal with a car, AC/DC’s “Black in Black” starts blaring. It’s celebratory, and perhaps just a hair uncomfortably on-the-nose.
Early responses on the trailer’s YouTube page weren’t kind.
“This trailer might have the worst identity crisis I’ve ever seen,” one user wrote. “It starts serious, and makes you think it might be some kind of vigilante drama, but then out of nowhere AC/DC kicks in and I’m like, so… is it now just an action film?”
“This is fucked up,” another commented. “The book is called Death Wish for a reason - it’s a deconstruction and analysis of vigilantism, not a celebration of them, like this seems to be. The tone of this is way too peppy and ‘bright’, for lack of a better word.”
The concept behind the film, that gun violence is the answer to gun violence, provided it’s a good guy (or “white dude”) with a gun, is a delicate argument in a best case scenario. AC/DC are many things, but they’re not delicate. Given the current cultural climate, and how many times President Donald Trump opines in the broadest strokes about gun violence in Chicago, is this really the type of movie we all need right now?
But, hey, maybe that’s the whole point.
“Another film to make the snowflakes melt,” a third YouTube user wrote. “I love it already.”
Death Wish hits theaters in November.