Sometime between when the first trailer for Bruce Willis’ Death Wish film that hit the internet last August and the new batch of trailers that came out this year, it became clear that the folks over at MGM realized they f*cked up. The most recent trailers have shown Bruce Willis as a man on a mission, avenging his family and killing mostly-white thugs in the path. Pretty innocuous, right? The first trailer, however, is an orgy of gun fetishizing, gas lighting and Zimmerman-esque vigilanteism. It has all the makings of a movie that encourages buying guns and using them to kill black people in the name of “justice.” In fact, the trailer encourages it.
The trailer, and movie, has all the alt-right NRA talking points.
We start with Sway (we need answers about this, Sway) talking about violence in Chicago, which is as much of a dog whistle as anyone can pull off. As you probably know, racists like to point to Chicago violence as a stand-in for “black on black” crime to deflect any time black people bring up actual anti-black violence. In fact, your own president has echoed those same sentiments.
Then we have Bruce Willis in a LITERAL hoodie – get it? A hoodie, guys! – shooting people in his brand of justice. Of course, he’s on this revenge quest because of a home invasion that leaves his wife dead and daughter in a coma – the huge fireworks endorsement of the gun enthusiasts’ need to arm themselves in the first place.
Then we get Bruce buying a gun at the store, a reminder that anyone can get guns to seek revenge on (black) people whenever they want. And then he does just that, gunning down black people in broad daylight. The kicker? His therapist tells him that whatever he’s doing, it seems to be good for his mental health, with the insinuation being that gunning down black folks thanks to the ability to buy guns at the grocery store is chicken soup for the racist white man’s soul.
In the months since that first trailer – and the strategic pushing back of the movie’s release date that followed, Death Wish’s marketing team has tried its hardest to remove any and all killing of black people by a hooded white man from its promotion. Because, again, they knew they f*cked up.
But the marketing course correction doesn’t make up for what the movie is in whole: a commercial for buying guns and using them on black people in the name of fictionalized fears based on centuries of white supremacists portrayal of said people. I don’t care what Eli Roth or Bruce Willis say the movie is about, it’s about a time-honored American tradition of arming white men with weapons to kill black people. It’s a cinematic portrayal of the NRA’s blatant racism.
Death Wish will probably bomb, especially under the ecliptic power of Black Panther, but any person who lays eyes on the movie is one too many. Because the film wasn’t just made to celebrate white anti-black vigilanteism, it was made to encourage that violence. Movies like this shouldn’t be made.
This isn’t even a censorship debate, either, because censorship is about silencing work that is offensive. Death Wish isn’t offensive. It’s deadly. It is less a movie as it is an advertisement for racist violence. Not only should Death Wish not be supported, but we should have a list of everyone involved in the flick – black and white – and vow to never support any of them again.