I often fear that by criticizing things I am giving them additional attention that they don’t deserve, but I really have to say something about the trailer for Eli Roth’s remake of Death Wish. In case you don’t know the history here, it is a remake of a 1974 film which itself was loosely based on the 1972 novel of the same name. The first adaptation was a big hit for star Charles Bronson and director Michael Winner, spawning several sequels and also helping to launch a new flavor of the “revenge film” which flourished through the rest of the 70’s and to this day has a formula that many still take inspiration from today.
Now I am never one to argue that you can judge an entire film by its trailer, that’s just unfair. What I will argue however is that you can judge a trailer by how effectively it communicates what the film is about and how much it makes you want to actually see it. It is also worth considering who it is we’re dealing with in director Eli Roth.
I do not want to see this movie. This movie looks cheap, exploitative and ridiculously tone-deaf. Not to mention incredibly unoriginal, I couldn’t have rolled my eyes any harder when ‘Back in Black’ started playing over the footage. What, you couldn’t get the rights to ‘Mad World’?
Set in modern-day Chicago, a place our current President loves to say is a lawless hellhole where you can get shot just walking down the street, a vigilante in a hoodie shoots people just walking down the street. But it’s okay folks, he’s our hero! Paul Kersey is a doctor played by Bruce Willis who is looking for revenge after a attack on his family leaves his wife dead and his daughter seriously injured. He also just decides that the police are useless so he just starts going around shooting people. A young black boy is shown telling Dr. Willis about the evil drug dealers in his neighborhood so he walks up and murders them in cold blood right on the sidewalk. Suddenly this doctor is diving through the air with two machine guns blasting, making cool gun-shooty hand motions and killing a bunch of random dudes.
This is an ugly, badly structured trailer. I don’t know if folks unfamiliar with the original story will have any idea what is going on because this basically looks like The Punisher without the skull shirt. Worse, setting this film in a troubled city that has been further vilified by the right (ie racists), and showing an older white dude just walking up on black men and shooting them down in the street? Not only is it hackneyed as shit but it also shows an utter lack of societal and cultural awareness.
Lest we forget, this movie is made by Eli Roth. This is the same director that went to Peru to shoot a cannibal movie with a largely untouched Amazonian tribe and decided to show them Cannibal Holocaust.
I went so far up the river, we went to a village where they had no electricity, no running water, and they never before had seen a movie or television. We had to explain to them conceptually what a movie was, and we brought a television and a generator and we showed them Cannibal Holocaust. They thought it was the funniest thing that they had ever seen, but we had to know whether they were down with it to let us in their village.
Green Inferno was an “anti-slacktivist” story where a group of pretentious middle class Americans travel to the Amazon to protest deforestation. Things don’t go very well for them when their plane goes down and they encounter a tribe of vicious cannibals. Despite complaints that the film is promoting old racist preconceptions about Amazonian tribespeople “the bad guys of Inferno are not the natives but the “social justice warriors” whose activism is driven by vanity.” Yeah, those poser SJWs get what’s coming to them! To quote Mr. Roth from his interview with Defamer:
I really noticed Occupy Wall Street was the first moment when, as it was spreading it starts off as this hugely important cause, this kind of tipping point in culture, and all of a sudden, there was a relative of mine that had graduated college and wasn’t working because he was occupying. I was thinking, “I don’t know how the banks fucked him over, and maybe he feels strongly,” but I got the sense that he was going there because his friends were doing it and they were meeting girls and it was fun to occupy. After we wrote the script, Kony 2012 started and my Twitter timeline was filled with people going, “How come you haven’t tweeted the YouTube video? Don’t you care about child soldiers? What’s wrong with you?” Everyone had this very self-righteous attitude. And then a month later it was, “Free Pussy Riot!” And people were like, “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you care about freedom of speech? You must be anti-freedom of speech. You must be pro-Putin.” And then it was Bring Back Our Girls. And, “Don’t you care about Boko Haram? What about these girls? You Hollywood asshole, how come you’re not tweeting about this?
All of a sudden, everyone’s tweeting almost defensively and retweeting and hashtagging because they don’t want to be accused of not caring. Even after the tiger shark was found, people were like #SharksLivesMatter. Or how about the ice bucket challenge? It starts off as this cause raising money for ALS and all of a sudden everyone’s doing it to show off how hot they are in their bathing suit. “Ooh look at me, supporting ALS!” Cut to me in a bikini looking really hot. “Oh look at all the likes I got.” Everyone’s doing it for vanity, and that’s the kids in Green Inferno.
Also, he wants you off HIS GODDAMN LAWN CAN’T YOU SEE HIS ‘BEWARE OF DOG’ SIGNS? Eli Roth hates the way that young people spread ideas through social media so much that he made a movie just so he could have some of them horribly butchered by a primitive tribe. It’s clear that Eli has little time for the use of social media to spread news and information about important causes, but seriously who takes a shit on “Bring Back Our Girls”? But in the same interview when asked about the people he worked with in Green Inferno he was sure to point out all of the wonderful things he did for them:
We paid them. They made more money in three weeks than they would get in an entire year of work. But they said, “It’s hard for us to spend the money,” so we said, “What else can we do for the village?” It’s a village of 300 people, there are four village elders, and we had a big discussion of what would be the most useful. The first thing discussed was a boat but then it was: Who would get to ride it? How would they get gas? Ultimately, they said, there’s 103 huts with straw roofs. They wanted metal roofs for the houses to get them through the rainy season. So we brought 103 roofs for the houses when the shooting was done.
You see, when Eli Roth goes deep into the Amazon for the “authenticity” of his movie what he does to help a small tribe while he’s there is fine. Rather than hiring real actors and simulating the Rainforest he used the real thing and paid them in roofs. That was the absolute least he could do in the situation considering he was paying them an absolute pittance even if it was “more than they would earn in a year.” Somehow his contributions were just fine but folks who don’t have the resources to go to a foreign country and help directly are posers because they share stories through social media instead. But he felt like he was being called an asshole because he didn’t care about Bring Back Our Girls. Guess what Eli: you’re a fucking asshole.
Knowing how Eli Roth feels about people that are not successful filmmakers like him it is little surprise that the trailer for Death Wish features such mindless killing of minorities at the hands of a privileged white man of status. Fuck, nobody ask him a question about Black Lives Matter. No, in fact, do.