Friday, September 14, 2012


Non-acclaimed director Joe Carnahan--or, as he insisted on calling himself a few years ago, "Smokin' Joe" Carnahan--the auteur behind such fine films as Smokin' Aces and, uh, Smokin' Aces 2, is planning to make a new movie about a relatively mild-mannered sort who takes to the streets as a vigilante after his wife is brutally murdered.  The title of this project?  Death Wish.

"Oh," you're quite sensibly thinking.  "A remake of the old Charles Bronson movie."

But you're wrong, according to Smokin' Joe, who is actually throwing a kind of hissy fit over the fact that you would even think such a thing.  To clarify, he recently Tweeted this easily-mocked message:

Guys, for the record and so I don't have to answer this question a billion goddamn times.  'DEATH WISH' is NOT a remake.  At all, in ANY way.

Well, that certainly clarifies that.'s based on the same novel as the Bronson movie, it has the same basic premise and, oh yeah, IT'S CALLED DEATH WISH!

Carnahan's defensiveness is understandable.  Hollywood has gotten a lot of flack lately for increasingly unimaginative production slates, which seem to be filled with nothing but rehashes, reboots and remakes.  And most of these are incredibly pointless: How did a redo of Total Recall seem like a good idea to anybody?

Thing is, though, remakes in and of themselves aren't a bad thing.  Plenty of movies have intriguing premises poorly executed, and despite its somewhat iconic status, Death Wish is a very bad movie.  It's well-cast, and features great footage of New York City in its mid-seventies hell-on-earth prime, but the famously maladroit touch of director Michael Winner renders the whole thing pretty much unwatchable.  His pacing and staging are downright inept, and though Bronson is quite good, other fine actors like Vincent Gardenia and Stuart Margolin stumble through in confusion.

All that, plus a source novel that is much better and more morally complex, make Death Wish a perfectly good candidate for a remake.  And it's okay to admit it, Smokin' Joe--it is a remake.  And however it turns out, it won't be the worst thing you've ever done.  After all, you directed The A-Team.  Of course, that wasn't a remake, either, was it, Smokin' Joe?  I believe the term you used back then was "reimagining"...