'Death Wish' remake unloaded at a bad time for Hollywood

Hollywood will honor its best and brightest March 4, with the added pomp of this being the ...

Posted: Mar 2, 2018 3:02 PM
Updated: Mar 2, 2018 3:02 PM

Hollywood will honor its best and brightest March 4, with the added pomp of this being the 90th Academy Awards. Yet whatever claims to the moral high ground industry figures might like to make aren't helped by this weekend's release of "Death Wish," a remake of the 1974 revenge fantasy, right before its biggest night.

In response to another horrific school shooting, many show-business liberals have joined the chorus for gun control. But the industry can be put on the defensive when it releases this sort of high-profile exploitation fare, which critics have pilloried, giving the movie a dismal 15% approval rating on the movie-review site Rottentomatoes.

Even under the best of circumstances, the new film, starring Bruce Willis and directed by horror maven Eli Roth, would be a subject of controversy.

The mere trailer triggered blowback in August, with Joshua Rivera writing in GQ, "It takes a profound level of either ignorance or craven, willful opportunism to think that this is a moment to make a film about a white man's rage channeled through the barrel of a gun." Collider's Matt Goldberg added that the movie "feels particularly icky considering our politics and cultural environment."

As it would happen, "Death Wish" -- a story in which a man responds to his wife's murder by becoming a gun-wielding vigilante -- makes its debut during a moment in which the gun-control debate is again being renewed. (MGM, which is distributing the film, actually delayed its scheduled opening from November until now.)

Not unexpectedly, the National Rifle Assn. and like-minded politicians -- including President Trump -- have sought to deflect blame regarding gun violence elsewhere, citing violent movies and videogames.

The role of movies and TV in this debate has always been a complicated one. The accusations range from glorifying violence and guns to numbing heavy consumers of such material to real-life events. Special concern has applied to its influence on impressionable youths.

Those arguments have lost some of their currency in recent years, in part because entertainment has become such a global business. As many have noted, countries with significantly lower rates of gun deaths consume much of the same material as the U.S., suggesting the problem lies not with what people watch, but the weapons to which they have access.

Even so, Hollywood is clearly sensitive about such criticism of its content, at a moment when the volume of edgy fare is exploding thanks to a proliferation of premium outlets with more permissive standards.

Paramount Network announced this week that it would postpone a new TV series version of the movie "Heathers," scheduled for March 7, citing the mass shooting in Florida. The network attributed the delay to "respect for the victims, their families and loved ones."

Marvel and Netflix took similar action in October, withdrawing a planned New York Comic-Con premiere of "The Punisher" -- also about a gun-toting vigilante -- after the mass shooting in Las Vegas.

As critics have noted, the original "Death Wish" was released at a different time, during what's been described as "the golden age of vigilante movies," along with 1970s titles like "Taxi Driver" and the "Dirty Harry" series.

In a modern era where TV and movie executives can't seem to get enough of revivals, remakes and reboots -- thanks primarily to the name recognition they possess -- it's hardly a surprise that "Death Wish" would return, joining a parade of 1970s, '80s and '90s artifacts receiving new life.

Dredging up such titles, however, occasionally brings with it another form of baggage. And while Hollywood might be a convenient target for politicians in the latest debate over gun violence, with movies like "Death Wish," the industry continues to provide its critics plenty of ammunition.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 32078

Reported Deaths: 2004
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9268539
Lake3320168
Cass15826
Allen130966
St. Joseph120534
Hendricks113067
Hamilton111592
Johnson1086104
Elkhart105728
Madison58258
Porter49021
Bartholomew48133
Clark46138
LaPorte41522
Tippecanoe3753
Jackson3671
Howard36519
Delaware35735
Hancock32127
Shelby31521
Floyd31438
Boone28835
Morgan26224
Vanderburgh2482
Montgomery23117
White2268
Decatur22431
Clinton2221
Grant19121
Noble18921
Harrison18721
Dubois1852
Greene16724
Warrick16426
Dearborn16421
Henry1619
Monroe16011
Vigo1477
Lawrence14423
Miami1391
Putnam1337
Jennings1274
Orange12422
Scott1183
Ripley1126
Franklin1068
Kosciusko941
Carroll922
Daviess8216
Steuben802
Marshall761
Newton7410
Wabash722
Wayne715
Fayette684
LaGrange602
Jasper581
Washington521
Fulton471
Rush452
Jay440
Randolph433
Jefferson411
Whitley402
Pulaski390
Clay391
Owen341
Brown331
Sullivan321
Starke313
DeKalb311
Perry260
Huntington262
Knox250
Tipton251
Benton250
Wells240
Crawford230
Blackford211
Switzerland190
Fountain182
Spencer171
Posey170
Parke170
Gibson142
Ohio130
Warren121
Adams121
Vermillion90
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0154

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 113195

Reported Deaths: 4923
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook738193354
Lake7767250
DuPage7290340
Kane5866153
Will5238258
Winnebago199351
McHenry145268
St. Clair101773
Kankakee80242
Kendall72719
Rock Island63922
Champaign5697
Madison54056
Boone40716
Sangamon33226
DeKalb3313
Randolph2593
Jackson22810
McLean21210
Stephenson1952
Ogle1922
Macon18819
Peoria1858
Clinton17816
Out of IL1771
Union1417
LaSalle14013
Whiteside13310
Iroquois1314
Unassigned1200
Coles1159
Warren1140
Jefferson10116
Knox950
Monroe9211
Grundy892
McDonough835
Lee761
Tazewell683
Cass670
Henry670
Williamson541
Marion500
Jasper457
Adams441
Macoupin421
Perry410
Pulaski400
Montgomery391
Vermilion391
Morgan341
Christian334
Livingston312
Douglas280
Jo Daviess270
Fayette203
Ford201
Jersey201
Washington180
Woodford182
Mason170
Menard170
Shelby161
Bureau151
Hancock150
Mercer150
Carroll132
Franklin120
Piatt120
Crawford110
Fulton110
Bond101
Brown100
Clark100
Cumberland100
Logan100
Moultrie100
Schuyler100
Wayne91
Alexander80
Henderson80
Johnson70
Massac70
Saline70
Effingham61
Greene50
Marshall50
De Witt40
Lawrence40
Richland30
Stark30
Clay20
Edwards20
Gallatin20
Hamilton20
Wabash20
White20
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Pike10
Pope10
Putnam10
Edgar00
Terre Haute
Few Clouds
69° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 69°
Robinson
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 67°
Indianapolis
Scattered Clouds
71° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 71°
Rockville
Clear
65° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 65°
Casey
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 68°
Brazil
Few Clouds
69° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 69°
Marshall
Few Clouds
69° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 69°
No Major Changes
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events