Death Wish 2018

Weekend Movies: Better Dead Than Red

What should have been a great weekend is wasted with two schizophrenic genre movies. Both of them have enough potential that they could have been amazing if only they’d been placed in the hands of filmmakers with a clear vision and the chops to pull it off. Sadly, they weren’t.

If Jennifer Lawrence has taught us anything, it’s that star power is dead. She’s the highest-paid actress in the industry. She can act circles around the vast majority of her colleagues. She’s even as easy on the eyes as they come. While the quality of her chosen projects is sketchy, she always gives it her all. And yet she hasn’t produced a major hit in some time. With her latest (which appears at first glance to be a knockoff of Marvel’s Black Widow character) carrying a heavy R rating and polarized reviews, it’s unlikely to be a departure.

The ads for ‘Red Sparrow‘ are quite deceptive of its actual tone and content. If you enter the spy thriller expecting a heavy dose of action with your espionage, you’ll exit sorely disappointed. At its core, the film has a great thriller within it, a high-tension cat-and-mouse spy game that doesn’t require action to keep you thrilled or engaged. Unfortunately, that’s not the movie that director Francis Lawrence made. His is icky and grimy, capitalizing on everything wrong with the world (and the industry) at this time. Jennifer Lawrence plays a Russian ballerina who’s injured and can no longer afford to care for her sick mother. Thinking that he’s helping her, her shady uncle lands her a job as a Russian spy, using her sexuality to accomplish her missions. Joel Edgerton plays her target. The end product feels like a snuff film made for perverts with nasty fetish addictions. When her character isn’t being brutally beaten or tortured on-screen, she’s being graphically raped and portrayed as a literal sex toy. While there’s a tense thriller deep within ‘Red Sparrow’, the sickening mire isn’t worth wading through.

I enjoy the intentional B-movies of Eli Roth for what they’re worth. When his latest, a reboot of Charles Bronson’s ‘Death Wish’ series, was shelved just weeks before its intended original release date, I wasn’t surprised, but I still expected to enjoy it when it eventually came out. Even as far as guilty pleasure movies go, however, I can’t understand what would possess any studio to release ‘Death Wish‘ in theaters. As one of my friends put it, it deserves a prime spot at the bottom of Walmart’s $5 DVD bin.

Bruce Willis stars as an ER surgeon who goes from saving lives to taking lives following a nasty home invasion that destroys his family. The press screening for ‘Death Wish’ kicked off with an on-screen introduction by Roth. He asked that viewers who enjoyed it (with the exception of the embargoed critics) take five minutes to tweet positive reactions immediately following the screening. For those who didn’t like it, he requested that we “Keep [our] f–king mouths shut until Saturday,” and that if we broke our silence before then, he’d hunt us down while in-character as the Bear Jew from ‘Inglourious Basterds’. This self-aware intro made me think that the shoot-’em-up action movie to follow would be a blast. Boy, was it anything but. It’s sad when the best part of your movie is your introduction.

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