Death Wish: Revenge Flick or Alt-Right Propoganda?

What could be more natural than a father out to avenge his loved ones? Well from the standpoint of law and order, nothing about that premise is natural at all, but this hasn’t really stopped Hollywood from pursuing it as a theme.

From Liam Neeson’s Taken films to the Charles Bronson original on which this new Bruce Willis film is based, Hollywood has seen the attraction of the righteous vigilante. Indeed that’s an attraction that’s mirrored in real life. Every time we have a murderer or a rapist found guilty of some monstrous crime, there are without fail calls for the death penalty to be restored, or for castration to be introduced as a punishment.

So why is this new film already receiving flak?

The answer, possibly, may lie in the plot. For anyone unfamiliar with Michael Winner’s 1974 film, Death Wish (based on the 1972 novel by Brian Garfield) tells the story of a highly successful man whose wife is murdered, and daughter raped, by a gang of violent criminals. Finding the system useless or otherwise indifferent to his plight, the man, one Paul Kersey, takes matters into his own hands, and tracks each of them down before killing them. The Bruce Willis film is set to follow this same plot, though the trailers don’t make it clear if our hero will have a background as a conscientious objector the way Bronson’s did.

The Bruce Willis film is set to follow this same plot, though the trailers don’t make it clear if our hero will have a background as a conscientious objector the way Bronson’s did.

Sadly it’s become a feature of the modern industry that even the most apolitical of fare, has to be viewed, by some, through a distinctly political lens.

Apart from that the trailer pretty much gives it away, and this film looks set to contain all the ingredients of a good vigilante film, from the villains that the system can’t stop to the friend (Vincent D’onofrio) who tries to convince the hero not to carry on. In this respect, Death Wish looks no different from a lot of recent vigilante tropes notably Marvel’s hyper-violent Daredevil, or it’s slightly more light-hearted, if just as gory, Deadpool franchise. Death Wish though seems to have attracted something they haven’t, at least on this side of the pond, in being accused of racism and being a poster boy for the alt-right.

While it’s true that a breakdown of law and order is a recurring theme with some of the more articulate members of the alt-right commentariat, this film hardly seems as if it’s catering to them. For one thing, the trailer shows Willis helping pretty much anyone who’s in trouble, including two black characters. For another at least one of the guys he kills is as white as he is.

 

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There is a definite Gran Torino vibe in the trailer, especially in this ‘finger-gun’ moment.

 

More to the point though is that it seems almost egregious to argue that just because a film is violent, it’s somehow leaning towards the right wing of the political spectrum. If that were the case then everything from Game of Thrones to the Syfy channel’s new offering, Blood Drive, would find itself hit with that same label. Instead Death Wish looks to be just another film in the Eli Roth mould, namely full of characters who suffer horrible, painful deaths. Sure there’s a bit of humour in places, but that was Deadpool’s trademark and no one made an issue out of it.

Sadly it’s become a feature of the modern industry that even the most apolitical of fare, has to be viewed, by some, through a distinctly political lens. Such fare doesn’t deserve this, and should simply be considered on its own merits, as should Death Wish. Judging by the trailer this would seem to be a straight up revenge flick, not a rallying cry for the alt-right.

By Gareth Woods

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