Eli Roth’s “Death Wish” opened March 2 to some of the year’s worst reviews, with numerous critics slamming the film as pro-gun propaganda. IndieWire’s own David Ehrlich wrote in his review that the movie was a “fascist fairy tale” for “right-wing lunatics,” as well as a “dangerously entertaining commercial for the NRA.” The fact the gun-heavy drama opened in the wake of the Parkland, Florida high school shooting only made it feel more ill-timed. But Roth is standing by his remake in a new interview with Entertainment Weekly.
“It’s not pro-gun,” Roth said. “What I really try to do more than anything is show it how it really is, and leave it for the audience to decide.”
Roth said his intention with “Death Wish” was to make a family film and that he wasn’t really focused on the gun debate issue when he was making it. “Death Wish” stars Bruce Willis as a trauma surgeon who becomes a gun-wielding vigilante after an attack on his family.
“I wanted to really make it about family, and stick to the central issue of what would you do if this happened to your family,” he said. “The movie for me really is about family and protecting your family and what do you do when you can’t get justice for your family?”
“Death Wish” is a remake of Michael Winner’s 1974 action film of the same. When asked why he wanted to make a new version of the movie 40 years later, Roth responded: “The answer is, for me, so many of the same problems that were plaguing the country — that crime is out of control and police are overwhelmed and there’s no way to stop it — still feel very relevant today. It feels like however far we’ve gone in other areas, we have not progressed in terms of crime.”
According to Roth, his “Death Wish” remake is similar to “Get Out” in the way it “allows people to discuss a difficult subject” and creates a dialogue around the gun debate. The filmmaker said a lot of the backlash to the film was the result of the trailer, which is not an accurate representation of the film’s beliefs.
“When people watch a trailer, they’re judging based on two-and-a-half minutes of material, and if it’s Bruce Willis shooting a gun, cut to AC/DC, some people are going to draw that conclusion,” Roth said. “What I really try to do more than anything is show it how it really is, and leave it for the audience to decide.”
“One thing I’m very conscious of as a filmmaker in Hollywood is not telling the audience what to think, or how to think, and you can make the same argument about ‘John Wick’ or ‘Taken.’ Any action movie you can say is a pro-gun movie. It’s giving a story that allows people to discuss a difficult subject. In the same way ‘Get Out’ came out, everyone was allowed to discuss race and racism because of the movie.”
“Get Out” just wrapped up its banner year by winning the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. “Death Wish,” meanwhile, only opened to $13 million at the box office.