In the '70s, the artistic ethos of New Hollywood and the influence of Cinema Verite allowed filmmakers to explore grittier and more realistic topics than those of the past decades. Around the same time, a cottage industry based on exploitation cinema sprung up. Popular films like Straw Dogs, Last House on the Left, and Shaft featured characters pushed past the brink of ration by violence and crime. One of the most popular vigilante-based films of the decade, the original Death Wish, starred Charles Bronson as a peaceful man who takes revenge after a violent assault on his family.
The Death Wish franchise lay dormant for many years, until a renewed interest led Hollywood to develop a reboot in 2012. Stuck in development hell for several years, though, the remake finally gained some renewed traction this spring, when a pair of Israeli filmmakers, Aharon Keshales and Novot Papushado, circled the film. After they opted not to pursue the project, though, the reboot was back to square one, until recently.
THR is reporting that Green Inferno director and Clown producer Eli Roth has closed a deal to helm the Death Wish reboot, which will star Bruce Willis. Typically known for horror-based fare like the torture-porn Hostel series and the Netflix-run Hemlock Grove, Roth has been venturing out from his milieu lately. His latest work was the Keanu Reeves thriller Knock Knock. In addition to producing, directing, occasionally acting, Roth also hosts the Discovery Channel Shark Week after-show Shark After Dark.
Originally released in 1974, the Michael Winner-directed picture relaunched then-53-year-old Charles Bronson’s career and drove the vigilante craze during the '70s and '80s. Death Wish spawned four sequels and a reboot has circled Hollywood since Sylvester Stallone expressed interest in the series back in 2006. The first major efforts, though, crystallized in 2012, when a script from Scott Alexander and Larry Karazewski was optioned, with Joe Carnahan to direct. However, after several sets of directors, the MGM/Paramount remake’s future still remained questionable.
Now that Roth is attached, he’ll likely bring his own sensibilities to the reboot. Known for hyperstylized elements similar to those of pop-auteur Quentin Tarantino (a clear influence, citing his NYU student film, Restaurant Dogs), Roth brings his own bloody aesthetic – which got him named as a member of the modern horror influencers, known as the Splat Pack – to Death Wish. Beyond his gruesome methods, though, the filmmaker clearly has a deep appreciation for gritty, grindhouse-style films of the era. Roth’s work on films like the Green Inferno (a riff on cannibal horror films of the '70s) and Cabin Fever owe a good deal to the horror-exploitation circuit of the '70s and '80s.
Hopefully, the remake will take a similar tone to the original, but it would also benefit from some modern day inspirations (and even some self-awareness) to avoid becoming just another uninspired Hollywood reboot. Of course, the original Death Wish was a response to fears of rising crime and police despondency in the '70s. The series spawned a series of continuously more outlandish sequels, though, so it will be interesting to see which direction Roth and the screenwriters take with the reboot. Willis, in returning to his Die Hard roots, certainly has the right chops to play the grizzled vigilante.
We’ll bring you any Death Wish reboot updates as they arrive.