Death Wish by Ludwig Göransson

These days, remakes are a dime a dozen in Hollywood. Surely, the film industry has always had a tendency to create a new version of a film which did very well at the box office or that had established a fan base to a certain degree. There is certainly nothing wrong with that. But does it make sense? For years, many people have been saying that Hollywood basically ran out of ideas. Well, I don’t necessarily agree with that notion. There are still films out there that are very good, entertaining and also profound. From a business point of view, a remake seems not to be as risky as creating something from scratch. You take a concept which worked years ago and you polish and rework it with new effects, different actors and a new director at the helm.

History has shown us there are indeed high profile and well-made remakes. Brian De Palma’s Scarface immediately comes to mind as do Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear, John Carpenter’s The Thing or David Cronenberg’s The Fly. All of these movies are absolutely outstanding and the directors did a fantastic job to realize their vision of the subject matter.

In 1974, director Michael Winner shot the original Death Wish starring Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey – an architect who turns into a vigilante after his wife and daughter had been brutally attacked in their own home. As the crime rate had severely increased, he feels that the police can no longer cope with the situation at hand. On top of that, in order to defend himself, the architect decides to deal with criminals himself. Vigilantism has always been a hot potato and many people felt the film glorified self-administered justice.

Forty-four years later, Eli Roth, director of films such as Cabin Fever & Hostel, was in charge of the Death Wish remake. This time, Bruce Willis was cast as the lead role. The basic concept of the film remains the same. Nevertheless, some changes have been made. This time, Paul Kersey has a different profession. He is a respected doctor in Chicago and he seems to lead a happy life until his entire world comes crashing down around him. After having lunch with his family, Paul Kersey hands his car keys to the valet so he can bring his car around. However, he gets hold of the family’s address by taking a picture of the car’s sat nav. That night, when Kersey is being called to the hospital, his family is being brutally attacked by three intruders. His wife, upon having been shot, dies in the hospital and his daughter falls into a coma.

In the 1974 version, Kersey’s family is being followed home by three hoodlums, after they were shopping for groceries. When comparing the two films, I feel that the 1974 version had more atmospheric density. Since Eli Roth shot the 2018 version, I feel as if it were almost unnecessary to mention that his film is much more graphic and at times even gratuitously violent – a scene in which Kersey tortures and kills one of the criminals stands out in particular. In this film, Kersey takes revenge on the people who wrecked his life whereas in Michael Winner’s film, Kersey kills people that threaten him or that try to harm others.

Nevertheless, I should point out that this film did not turn out to be a fast-paced action spectacle. As a matter of fact, the film starts rather slowly and becomes more action oriented and violent as the story progresses.

The score was composed by Ludwig Göransson who previously showcased his talent with the Rocky spin-off Creed and he most recently wrote the well-received score for Black Panther. For the most part, his Death Wish score feels rather unspectacular and uninspiring. It is pretty much what one would expect from a modern action score. There is lots of synth work and droning which we have basically heard many times before – thematic work and musical motifs barely exist. It is not always easy to determine what could have been done instead and maybe there just wasn’t enough “room” for a different approach.

I certainly did not expect many themes or good themes in the first place. In some ways, I even felt the album was too long and cues like “Intruders” certainly don’t add much to the listening experience as the whole track mostly consists of “noise”. However, in “Death Wish End Titles”, which to me stands as the album’s best cue, the composer nicely reprises the material written for Paul Kersey and his daughter. Other than that, the music feels mostly creepy and atonal – barely making it a good stand alone listening experience.

However, despite following a certain formula, the composer at times managed to create a certain atmosphere for the film itself. I simply felt it could have been more elaborate and more precise even for a film of this kind. The pieces which underscore the more emotional aspects of the story are indeed not bad at all – they barely lift the scenes though. Those twenty tracks on the album are certainly not a good representation of Mr. Göransson’s musical talent. You might want to seek out other efforts of his instead.

The bottom line – both film and score offer very little new and innovative material to make them stand out. I guess we could debate whether this remake was a necessity or not. Well, at the end of the day it is a mediocre action thriller with a mostly bland and rather colorless score.