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Opening this week: Death Wish, Red Sparrow and more

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THIS WEEK:

Death Wish The hare-brained idea of remaking the 1974 Charles Bronson revenge fantasy Death Wish has been kicking around Hollywood for too many years. At various times, everyone from Sylvester Stallone to Liam Neeson to Will Smith was either attached to star or on the wish list. When the gunpowder settled, the dubious honor of being the poster boy for civilian violence was nabbed by Bruce Willis, who was MAGA before MAGA was cool (which is to say, "before American political life had sunk to the level of Bruce Willis"). You might be encouraged by the screenwriting credit for Joe Carnahan, who showed such promise as a filmmaker with 2002's Narc, but he actually left the project some time ago (he was going to direct), and numerous uncredited rewrites have been done in the process. And who landed in the director's chair? None other than Eli Roth. Yes, the same Eli Roth whose Hostel movies were such profound calls for healing.

But really ... now? NOW? I was going to write that advocating armed vigilantism is profoundly distasteful so soon after Parkland, until I realized the odds were strong that at least one more mass shooting would have taken place by the time you read this column. (If I was wrong, whoopee. This is what passes for good news these days.)

Either way, I don't think the reaction is going to be very favorable to a film whose underlying philosophy is "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, even if he's using that gun in an illegally proactive manner and the bad guy's gun might turn out to be a screwdriver." Then again, I might be misreading the public here, just for the sake of my own sanity. Check back with me in a week. I'll be in the root cellar, wearing Kevlar. (R)

Red Sparrow And speaking of not recognizing the world you have to live in, thank you, Trump, for making me doubt every one of my deeply held ideologies. Back in the day, a CIA agent was the guy you laughed at in a Cheech and Chong movie, and that was that. Now I guess I gotta be rooting for America's intelligence services, because the opposition is somehow even worse. That means pulling for CIA guy Joel Edgerton to score one for our side by seducing Jennifer Lawrence away from her gig as a Russian spy. (Oh, and what am I supposed to think of them now? Because I grew up regarding the Russkies largely as convenient punching bags for American bellicosity, and now I sometimes find myself thinking Khrushchev was kind of a dick to Nixon at the kitchen debate. What in the hell is happening to me?)

Thickening the philosophical quagmire, the novel on which Red Sparrow is based was not only authored by a former CIA agent, but drew formal praise from the agency for its supposed accuracy. These are my friends now? Good God, I need a drink. (R)