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"Death Wish": Original vs. Remake

Writer: Casey Chong


Charles Bronson vs. Bruce Willis in the original and remake of "Death Wish", respectively.

Paul Kersey is back, albeit a different actor in the form of Bruce Willis playing the new vigilante in the latest "Death Wish" remake.

To coincide with the film's release in cinemas, let's take a look the differences between the original and the remake of this popular revenge flick.

Now, can the remake surpass the original?

1. The lead actor

Charles Bronson

The late Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey in 1974's "Death Wish".

Both "Death Wish" movies in the 1974 original and 2018 remake are based on the 1972 novel of the same name by Brian Garfield. In the 1974 original, "Death Wish" was played by the late Charles Bronson, but instead of a certified public accountant (CPA) originally written in Brian Garfield's novel, Bronson's role as Paul Kersey has his profession switched to an architect from Manhattan.

Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis as the new Paul Kersey in the "Death Wish" remake.

In the 2018 reboot, Bruce Willis' lead role as Paul Kersey is neither a CPA nor an architect. In fact, his character isn't based from Manhattan either. Here, he plays a doctor based from Chicago. Despite the differences in profession between the two movies, Bronson's and Willis' versions of Paul Kersey do end up becoming a vigilante after their respective wives are murdered and their daughters brutally assaulted.

2. The director

Michael Winner

The late director, Michael Winner and Charles Bronson on the set of 1974's "Death Wish".

The original "Death Wish" was directed by Michael Winner, a veteran English director who made a career breakthrough alongside Charles Bronson when they collaborated in the 1974 movie. Despite drawing in mixed criticisms upon its initial release, "Death Wish" went on to become a box-office hit where it earned enough money to launch a franchise. Winner would subsequently direct two more "Death Wish" movies in 1982 and again in 1985.

Eli Roth

Eli Roth on the set of the "Death Wish" remake.

Once upon a time, the "Death Wish" remake was supposed to be the next directorial effort for Joe Carnahan, best known for "Narc", "Smokin' Aces" and "The A-Team", but he eventually stepped out due to creative differences and Eli Roth was brought in instead. Roth is no stranger to violence in his movies, having directed graphically violent and gory horror pieces including "Cabin Fever", "Hostel" and "The Green Inferno". A movie about vigilante and violence certainly fits Roth well in his comfort zone.

3. Knowledge of guns

Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson)

Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) knows a lot about handling a gun in the original "Death Wish".

Despite Charles Bronson's Paul Kersey character being a mild-mannered architect, he has prior experience with guns. This was revealed during the scene where Paul's client, Ames Jainchill (Stuart Margolin) brought him to his gun club for target practice. Paul knows how to handle a gun since his father was a hunter, unfortunately, he quit using it for a long time following his father's unfortunate hunting accident.

Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis)

Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) learns how to shoot in the "Death Wish" remake.

By contrast, Bruce Willis' version of Paul Kersey is good with his hands as a surgeon, but he has zero knowledge with guns and doesn't even own one at home. However, he begins to learn to shoot a gun when he finally decides to take justice in his own hands as a vigilante.

4. The home invasion scene

"Death Wish" (1974)

Jeff Goldblum plays one of the muggers in the original "Death Wish".

One of the most controversial scenes in the original "Death Wish" is the home invasion scene where Paul's wife, Joanna (Hope Lange) is brutally injured by one of the three muggers. But it gets more ugly from there. Not to mention it was admittedly hard to watch even by today's standard: an unflinching moment where Paul's daughter, Carol (Kathleen Tolan) was sexually humiliated and assaulted like an animal by the muggers.

"Death Wish" (2018)

Elisabeth Shue during the home invasion scene in the "Death Wish" remake.

Over 40 years after that shockingly repulsive scene in the original "Death Wish", Eli Roth could have upped the ante in terms of shock value. After all, he is no stranger to depicting graphic sex and nudity as evidently seen in "Cabin Fever" and his two "Hostel" movies. While the 2018 remake still retains the home invasion scene (this time involving Elisabeth Shue and Camila Morrone), Roth tones down the sex significantly but doesn't shy away from its depiction of violence.

5. The muggers

"Death Wish" (1974)

A then-unknown Jeff Goldblum in his movie debut as one of the muggers in the original "Death Wish".

In the original "Death Wish", the three muggers (one of them was a then-unknown Jeff Goldblum in his movie debut) who attacks Paul's wife and daughter, are not served as the main antagonists. Instead of seeking them for revenge, Paul goes on a one-man crusade as a vigilante to take down random muggers in the streets of New York.

"Death Wish" (2018)

A scene from the "Death Wish" remake.

Eli Roth's version, on the other hand, focuses more on Bruce Willis' Paul Kersey finding ways to track down the three muggers who attacked his wife and daughter. Of course, he still plays his part as a vigilante where he shoots down the muggers on the street, but the 2018 remake is pretty much a one man's quest for vengeance to take down the three aforementioned muggers.


Cinema Online, 03 March 2018

Related Movies:
Death Wish (01 Mar 2018)

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