Joe Carnahan must be feeling vindicated this morning. The writer/director broke out with 2002's terrific, muscular cop thriller "Narc," but hasn't had a lot of joy since: his 2006 sub-Guy Ritchie action-comedy "Smokin' Aces" wasn't beloved by many, while a director-for-hire gig on the would-be-tentpole "The A-Team" was tepidly received by audiences and critics alike. But from that, he reteamed with star Liam Neeson for a far more personal project, the existential killer-wolf survival tale "The Grey," and was validated in a big way when the positively-received film topped the box office this weekend with a strong $20 million haul. Presumably, this has given him the cache to make something bigger and better next time around, something even dearer to his heart, like dream projects "White Jazz" or "Killing Pablo."
We'll have to see. Though Carnahan told us a few weeks back that he was hoping "Killing Pablo" would come next, the director has been recruited by "The A-Team" and "The Grey" producers Scott Free (Ridley & Tony Scott's company) to remake Michael Winner's influential 70s vigilante thriller "Death Wish."
The film, based on Brian Garfield's novel, and a smash hit on its release in 1974, starred Charles Bronson as a mild-mannered architect driven to become a gun-toting vigilante after the rape and murder of his wife, and severe beating of his daughter. After the first film became something a phenomenon, it spawned four further sequels, up to 1994's "Death Wish V: The Face of Death," to increasingly diminishing returns.
Talk of a remake has been going around for a little while — Sylvester Stallone was considering a new version five years back — but Scott Free have now set up the project at MGM and Paramount, with Carnahan writing and directing and his "The Grey" producer Jules Daly along for the ride too. Could the plan be for Liam Neeson, star of both "The A-Team" and "The Grey," to take over from Bronson as the vigilante? It's obvious casting, and firmly within the violent action niche the star has made for himself of late.
We have to admit, we're hugely disappointed by this news. "Death Wish" was a pretty questionable franchise to begin with, both artistically and politically, and four decades on, we're not sure what more there is to say about the revenge genre to differentiate the project from more recent rip-offs of the film like "The Brave One" and "Death Sentence" (itself based on a novel by Garfield). Presumably Carnahan has an idea of where he wants to take it, but let's hope both "Killing Pablo" and "White Jazz" don't sit unmade as a result of this project.