Since his memorable feature debut – 2002’s flesh-eating virus horror flick Cabin Fever – Eli Roth has carved out quite the niche for himself in Hollywood as a writer, director, producer, and even occasional actor. Roth has directed five films to date, all of them resting pretty comfortably in the horror genre, albeit with last year’s Knock Knock riding the line between horror and thriller. For his next effort, Roth is dipping his toes into new directorial waters, via a remake of the 1974 vigilante action/crime drama Death Wish.
For those unfamiliar, the original Death Wish film starred Hollywood legend Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey, a mild-mannered New York City architect whose life is turned upside down following a brutal home invasion. Paul’s wife is murdered and his daughter sexually assaulted, an event that leaves her catatonic. Full of rage at a society that failed to protect his family or bring their assailants to justice, Paul embarks on a one-man crusade against crime, employing any means he deems necessary. Directed by Michael Winner, Death Wish (1974) was based on Brian Garfield’s 1972 novel of the same name, although the movie and book differ in many ways.
Set to play Kersey in Roth’s modern take on Death Wish is Die Hard franchise star Bruce Willis, and according to Deadline, the once and future John McClane has just been joined by two other heavy hitters. The first cast addition is Vincent D’Onofrio, a man that really shouldn’t need much introduction to anyone who consumes a lot of pop culture. The man has appeared in dozens of films and TV shows over the last several decades, most recently earning acclaim for his villainous turn in 2015 blockbuster reboot Jurassic World and his work as crazed criminal mastermind Wilson Fisk in the first season of Netflix’s Daredevil. D’Onofrio will portray Paul’s brother in Death Wish.
Another new addition to the Death Wish cast is Dean Norris, recently of CBS’ divisive adaptation of Stephen King’s Under the Dome. No matter one’s opinion of that series, few would argue that Norris’ charismatic, yet clearly evil, rendition of Big Jim Rennie wasn’t one of the best parts of it. Of course, Norris is still probably best known to many as steadfast DEA agent Hank Schraeder on the hit AMC crime drama Breaking Bad. Norris is set to once again play a lawman in Death Wish, a character named Detective Rains. Whether he will be for or against Kersey’s crusade is unclear at the moment.
Also unclear at the moment is how closely Roth’s Death Wish film will adhere to the 1974 version, which as mentioned above, differed greatly from the book on which it was based. Most notably, Garfield’s novel ultimately takes a stance very much against vigilantism, and taking the law into one’s own hands. Conversely, the Bronson movie was criticized at the time of its release for portraying vigilante justice in too positive of a light. It’ll be interesting to see what side of the issue Roth’s remake falls on, especially with a current social and political climate very much unlike the 1970s.
Death Wish enters production in late September 2016.