The troubled Death Wish remake has just hit another unexpected speed-bump on its way to full-scale production. Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, the writer-directors behind minor cult hit Big Bad Wolves, from Israel, were scheduled to helm the picture but have now parted ways with the project, over what’s being called “creative differences.” As Deadline reports, the directors wanted to rewrite the script a bit to add in a bit of gallows humor, one of the more memorable elements of their breakout hit. Apparently, MGM/Paramount were not particularly keen on revising the script at all, as star Bruce Willis had already signed off on the original script, the product of the film’s original planned director, Joe Carnahan.
For anyone who has been paying attention as of recently, action films have become considerably less funny in the days since Shane Black was pumping out scripts at a decent clip. Wit has been replaced with a sort of militaristic seriousness and a Christopher Nolan-aping moodiness which is more laughable than movies with titles like The Last Boy Scout ever were. And Willis certainly isn’t the kind of actor who has a sense of humor about himself, so I can’t say I’m so surprised that this didn’t work out. Carnahan, who has failed to make anything half as impressive as his breakthrough, Narc, would have been a better fit for the project, and the fact that he’s no longer on the project should give you a sizable hint at just how narrowly imagined this entire production is going to be.
In full disclosure, I was never much of a fan of any of the Death Wish films, and always felt that they were proverbial poster children for the action genres more despicable tendencies to use women as either sex objects or one-dimensional figures meant only to be tortured and/or killed to drive the protagonist to take revenge. It’s paper-thin moral arguments for vigilantism always felt unthinking and deeply false, a shallow attempt to pretend that the series was anything more than violence porn. Many films are still made in this mode, and my hunch is that the remake would take a similar perspective, and as Big Bad Wolves actually had some insights into vigilantism, it makes sense that the directors’ ideas for the film didn’t quite match the tone of the film that MGM/Paramount are looking to put into theaters.