Hollywood re-adaptations struggle to avoid the "dreaded" remake/reboot label nowadays - even when filmmakers go to lengths to emphasize their project is a pure re-interpretation (see: David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). Joe Carnahan's learning that lesson right now, with his developing Death Wish.
Brian Garfield's Death Wish novel previously gave rise to the iconic 1970s Charles Bronson vigilante thriller and its subsequent sequels. Following initial reports of Carnahan's involvement, we speculated the filmmaker - who was director on such grisly action-dramas as Narc and The Grey, as well as the central screenwriter for the gritty cop tale Pride and Glory - would be drawing inspiration primarily from Garfield's source material - not the violent Bronson film(s).
Carnahan confirmed our suspicions a day later (literally), describing Death Wish as a "re-imagining of the book." Apparently, the filmmaker's announcement did not have the intended effect - that is, convince the cinema-loving masses that he is not looking to Michael Winner's 1974 film adaptation for guidance - as Carnahan has since Tweeted the following:
Guys, for the record and so I don't have to answer this question a billion goddamn times. 'DEATH WISH' is NOT a remake. At all, in ANY way.
Winner took liberties with Garfield's Death Wish source material, but retained the core premise - where a loving family man becomes a vengeful street warrior after some thugs assault his wife and daughter. Carnahan is likewise changing things up by shifting the proceedings from 1970s New York to contemporary Los Angeles; beyond that, though, it's not clear where, exactly, Carnahan plans to take the story that Winner did not before.
Garfield's Death Wish takes its time chronicling protagonist Paul's evolution from a timid law-abider - into a man who takes matters into his own hands, when the attack on his loved ones forced him to re-evaluate his views. Winner's film, by comparison, re-envisions Paul as a war vet who's better prepared to go on a justified-killing spree, which he does much more quickly than in Garfield's novel.
Carnahan could favor Garfield's character study over Winner's approach. The filmmaker has indicated as much, with his expressed desire to capture "the vast emptiness of downtown [LA]" that proved captivating in Michael Mann's Collateral - and, more recently, Drive. Moreover, Death Wish provides Carnahan a chance to infuse some retro style (similar to Drive), now that his planned Daredevil reboot with a 1970s vibe has collapsed.
Of course, covering familiar territory always stirs up controversy, no matter how much a filmmaker insists they are traveling a different path - so don't expect this to be the end of the remake debate for Carnahan's project.
More on Death Wish as the story develops.
Source: Joe Carnahan