March 4, 2018, - 9:51 am

Weekend Box Office: Death Wish, Red Sparrow

By Debbie Schlussel

The two new movies in theaters this weekend were entertaining, but I liked one far more than the other, even if it is not even close to the original of which it is a remake:

* Death Wish – Rated R: As long time readers know, the original 1974 “Death Wish” is one of my favorite movies (read my column about the movie and its significance). And Charles Bronson is one of my favorite actors of all time. There will never be another Bronson, much as others, like Bruce Willis, may try to imitate him. Without even speaking, Bronson could just smile and exude at once slyness, cleverness, and a charm that remain unmatched in an onscreen action hero.

This remake of the original is no match for the Bronson version. Not even close. That said, it’s enjoyable enough as a separate and distinct movie, in which the criminals get theirs. And the movie comes at the right time, in that it gives the other side to the gun ownership debate that has been sorely lacking in the media recently, in the wake of the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida. To wit, that law-abiding citizens have a right to own guns and, in fact, need to . . . so that they can fight back against criminals. When every second counts, the police are only minutes away (a saying that is repeated in this movie).

This version from Director Eli Roth (loved him as “The Bear Jew” in “Inglourious Basterds”–read my review) is far more politically correct and noticeably missing in the great liberal-versus-conservative discussions and dialogue present in the original. The original featured great discussions between the liberal elites at Upper East Side Manhattan parties about whether or not Bronson was a racist because the majority of the criminals he shot were Black and the conversations between the NYPD brass about the vigilante’s effect on crime in New York (it drove crime down and encouraged citizens to fight back). And there was also a discussion between the formerly liberal Kersey and his liberal son-in-law about the virtues of fighting back and not letting the bad guys get away with it. This movie feels far too sanitized in that it doesn’t have any of that. There also aren’t a lot of great lines like there were in the original and its sequel. (My favorite is from “Death Wish 2”: “Do you believe in Jesus? Good, ‘cuz you’re gonna meet him.”)

In this version, Paul Kersey is played by Willis, and he is a Chicago emergency room surgeon who lives in the suburbs. Unfortunately, Chicago’s gun control laws are nowhere to be seen, as the movie shows him buying weapons with ease. Also, in this version, there is something that bothered me: the movie implies that Kersey’s wife and daughter would have been okay and unhurt, had they not fought back against what are (in this version) a group of thieves more interested in expensive merchandise and cash than anything else. The original Bronson version makes no such silly nanny-state-esque preachiness, and the break-in scene is far more disturbing in that one (Jeff Goldblum is one of the thugs in the original).

But, after that, Willis takes most of the same turns as Bronson in the original. He quietly gets his very satisfying revenge on those who harmed his wife and daughter. There are a couple of scenes a lot more graphic than the original–including one during which I covered my face and couldn’t watch. I could’ve done without the blood and gore, but expected it, considering that the director also gave us the torture-porn “Hostel” movies. Also, the movie is updated for the times: it includes a cellphone video that is uploaded online and goes viral. (Cell phones are used in other ways, but I don’t want to spoil the plot.) And it also features a lot of radio commentary from a SiriusXM show and the Mancow show (on which I used to appear daily).

Just as I did when I watched the original, I cheered when Paul Kersey got his revenge on the perps. Again, though, it isn’t as satisfying as when Bronson did it. Still, it’s satisfying enough. I liked this movie, and it came at the right time. I liked it far better than other attempts at Death Wish remakes, such as the 2007 Kavin Bacon try, “Death Sentence” (read my review). And I liked the quick nod to the original at the end of this one.

Like I said, Bruce Willis is no Charles Bronson. But for this, he’s good enough.


Watch the trailer . . .

* Red Sparrow – Rated R: I had mixed feelings about this. It is highly entertaining and suspenseful for the entire movie. But it has a big build-up to what ends up being a disappointing, impotent fizzle at the end. On top of that, it was a little disturbing for me, in that it was far too gratuitously sexual and torturous (there is unnecessary torture that made me cover my face for at least a minute), and there is also a scene in which a character gets Joe Theismann-ed.

Another thing about this movie that didn’t sit right for me: it apparently takes place today (the characters all have modern smart phones and there is other technology that would make the setting today or recently). Yet, the movie has a very cold war vibe to it that makes it seem like it should take place during the 1980s or that a current version of the movie should be “ISIS Sparrow” or “Muslim Sparrow.” I know that the anti-Trump liberal media wants us to believe that Russia is our biggest current enemy and that every cell on every body of every Trump official is colluding with it, but we have bigger enemies–namely, Islam, Islamic terrorist groups, Iran, China, etc. Although I know we still have a tremendous spying operation against the Russians–and they have a big one against us–I simply don’t believe it’s to the extent that takes place in this movie. Again, it would be more appropriate to the ’70s, ’80s, or even the ’90s. And it’s hard to tell if the enemy here is the Russians or the Soviets. They seem to be one and the same–though you could argue that, in real life, they in fact are (Putin used to head the KGB and it seems to be merely reconstituted under a different name in current modern Russia).

Another note: far-left, anti-Christian, middle-school dropout actress Jennifer Lawrence, who is the star of this movie, has been lying to the males of the world in order to get them to buy tickets to this. On last week’s “60 Minutes,” she proclaimed, “If you don’t like boobs, don’t see this movie.” That’s an oversell if there ever was one. As a heterosexual woman, it makes no difference to me. But if you’re one of the guys going to see this for that reason, you’re a sucker. There is one quick shot of a single breast of hers and a butt shot (which may be that of a body double). But her brazen attempt to sell–and oversell–views of her body parts in order to get people in the seats, just shows how desperate, pathetic, and what a lowlife she is. On Detroit’s Eight Mile, they have a name for this: hooker.

The story: Lawrence is a Russian star ballerina (her Russian accent sucks, and she goes in and out of it repeatedly throughout the movie). But she is hurt in a career-ending accident, and is cajoled–almost blackmailed, actually–into becoming a spy, by her cold, calculating uncle, who is high up in the KGB. She’s not just any spy. She’s a sparrow, a group of Russian spies who are taught to use sex to get information out of Westerners. Lawrence calls sparrow school, “whore school,” and she’s correct. It’s highly, overtly sexual in nature.

Upon graduation from sparrow school, Lawrence’s target is Joel Edgerton, an American CIA agent. The Russians know that Edgerton, a disgraced agent who was forced to leave Russia after his cover is blown in an “incident,” was communicating with a top Russian intelligence agent, who was acting as a spy for the Americans. The Russians want to know the identity of the Russian turncoat. It’s Lawrence’s assignment to get that information out of Edgerton by seducing and then blackmailing him. But she may have other ideas.

Again, I found the movie to be very entertaining until it’s a complete letdown at the end. And I could’ve done without the gratuitous, unnecessary, in-your-face sexuality and torture that is front and center here. It’s high on style, sex, and torture, somewhat low on story and, especially, conclusion.


Watch the trailer . . .

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6 Responses

Good evening Debbie. You write up great reviews as usual. I loved Charles Bronson and I remember watching Death Wish during my first Naval deployment. It was a great kick the bad guys movie if ever there was one. Talk about taking out the trash. I will definitely see the Bruce Willis version as he’s another kick the bad guys type. Yeepee Kay Yea, Mother…well you know. As for that pretentious hypocritical dumb as a box of rocks celebutard known as Jennifer Lawrence. You can count me out from seeing her on the big screen again. She like the majority of Hollyweird has shown how she feels about us gun toting “rednecks”. So like them I don’t even bother with her. Hopefully this movie bombs just like her last one.

Ken B on March 4, 2018 at 6:51 pm

I did like the original, and may go see the remake. I agree with you that there’s too much gore in movies today. The original Death Wish was great without the gore. One problem with the original was the “made for tv” multiracial gang. Of course, they had the gang spray paint swastikas, trying to make us believe that NYC crime is caused by evil neo-nazis. In reality, blacks and an influx of Puerto Ricans fueled the massive increase in violent crime starting in the 1950s. Hopefully this new Death Wish doesn’t feature an alt-Right gang wearing MAGA hats.

JoeG on March 5, 2018 at 8:46 am

Isn’t Ms. Lawrence’s accent in “Red Sparrow” more on the order of “moose and squirrel” from the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons? I heard that type of accent in many a “Murder, She Wrote” episode that ostensibly took place in Russia. In any event, she, like “Reese” Witherspoon, is a Southerner by birth who hates where she came from, and has latched on to the Northern elitist Leftist mentality.

Concerned Patriot on March 5, 2018 at 9:57 am

I intend to see the remake of Death Wish in the theater. Only 15% of the Rotten Tomatoes’ professional critics liked it whereas 85% of the audience likes it. Rotten Tomatoes squelched negative reviews of Black Panther to up the ratings of that movie. A whopping 97& of the professional critics liked BP, whereas the audience percentage that likes it is stuck at 79%. You have to assume that few whites and Asians and more blacks are seeing that movie, so you’d expect a higher percentage of the audience that liked BP.

These 2 sets of percentages between the critics vs. audience is proof that Rotten Tomatoes is a liberal to leftist website. This is why we rely on Debbie’s reviews.

Bronson is one of my favorite actors and as Debbie told us in the past, he was black-balled by a significant part of Hollywood because of part in Death Wish. His performances in both Death Wish as Paul Kersey and Wladislaw in the Dirty Dozen are my favorite performances of his and in the top 10 of all actors. And what man does not love The Dirty Dozen with that cast and story? My late dad, a WWII vet in Europe, loved that movie and would laugh during the “he slipped on bar of soap” scene with John Cassavettes.

Concerned Citizen on March 6, 2018 at 11:32 am

joel Edgerton is a Australian actop not american.

Assistant on March 6, 2018 at 4:48 pm

I knew a red-white and blue “sparrow” many years ago. Her mode was to seduce and slit throats of the bad guys, way back when our government took defending the homeland seriously.

I will probably go see “Red Sparrow” anyway.

Definitely will go see “Death Wish”

Thanks for your movie reviews.

Panhandle on March 7, 2018 at 2:18 pm

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