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Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Death Wish

“A Wrinkle in Time” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

The setting for a movie like “Death Wish” is of the utmost importance. For a story about a vigilante roaming the streets and doling out his own brand of justice to the criminal underworld, the city he inhabits must be filled with crime and violence. So Chicago is perfect, and the choice couldn’t be more timely.

The opening moments are filled with voice over clips from news sources, citing the high number of violent crimes and shootings in the city. Shortly afterward, in a sequence of energetic long takes, we see a police officer rushed into the emergency room for a gun shot wound. The attending surgeon is Dr. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis). He does what he can, then while consoling the officer’s partner, he’s told that the shooter now needs to be looked at. While Kersey is walking away, the partner asks if he is really going to save the life of the criminal who shot his partner. Without looking back, Kersey responds, “If I can.”

It’s a perfect set up for Kersey. He’s a doctor, neutral to all of the chaos and blood shed, whose main job is to save lives no matter who they are and what they’ve done. He has no skin in the game with the constant violence happening on the streets. Why would he, with his spacious house in a quiet, safe neighborhood in nearby Evanston, IL, that he lives in with his wife Lucy (Elisabeth Shue) and teenage daughter Jordan (Camila Morrone)?

This all changes one fateful night after Paul is called to the hospital and Lucy and Jordan are viciously attacked by masked thugs. The scene is well-directed, with a sense of escalating dread and tension that doesn’t let up until a quick and violent release. The detectives assigned to investigate the attack, played by Dean Norris and Kimberly Elise, are well-meaning but have too much on their plate already.

Paul’s sense of rage at the injustice leads him to get a gun and a hoodie so he can stalk the streets like an older, slower Batman. His novice skills at handling a fire arm aside, on his first night out Paul does prove that the best defense against a violent criminal—and the thing they fear the most—is a victim who shoots back.

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While on the surface “Death Wish” looks and sounds like a revenge thriller, the movie dives deeper than what the surface would indicate. It actually cares about its main character—who he is, where he comes from, and most importantly, why he does what he does. The moral and ethical ramifications of vigilante justice are discussed. The pros and cons of Paul, who the Chicago public comes to know as “Grim Reaper” after video of Paul’s first foray goes viral, are weighed and measured. Both sides of the argument are presented, leaving you in the audience to question where you stand.

But don’t worry, this is an Eli Roth (“Hostel”) movie, so there is a good amount of blood and a scene of torture. What it all adds up to in “Death Wish” is a commentary not just on violent crime, or Chicago, or on vigilante justice, but on humanity as a whole. After all, if a once peaceful and non-violent doctor like Paul Kersey can be driven to gun down suspected criminals in broad daylight, how far away is anyone else from doing the same thing? Rent it.

A Wrinkle in Time

**ANNOYING KID ALERT!** **ANNOYING KID ALERT!** **ANNOYING KID ALERT!**

It’s been a while since I had to sound this alarm, since for the past several years the precocious mop tops who inhabit movies have not gotten under my skin. This is in large part thanks to Jacob Tremblay, who I respect as an actor and enjoy watching. The same cannot be said for Deric McCabe, who plays precocious mop top Charles Wallace in this adaptation of Madeline L’ Engle’s classic children’s book “A Wrinkle in Time” (the second book I ever read as a little kid, after “Harriet the Spy”). All I needed was about five seconds of screen time and I knew this kid was going to be irritating. He is, and he only gets worse as the movie progresses.

“A Wrinkle in Time” centers around Charles, his sister Meg (Storm Reid), and her friend Calvin (Levi Miller), as they set out on a journey through space and time to rescue Meg and Charles’ dad (Chris Pine), who got himself trapped in a dark and evil place in the galaxy. Along they way they meet the wise Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), the ebullient Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), and the also present Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) to help them on their quest.

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“A Wrinkle in Time” is a colorful fantasy in an over the top sort of way. The make up and costumes on the three Mrs. characters are gaudy, and while the visual effects are full of imagination they are also cheap-looking, like something out of a video game from ten years ago. The movie also isn’t helped by clunky dialogue and one of the most overbearing uses of the sappy love conquers all trope that is common in children’s stories.

Reese Witherspoon is thankfully given enough to do, and she has some funny moments. Oprah Winfrey is the prototypical stoic sage, dispensing advice at every turn. Poor Mindy Kaling though. For half of her screen time, her lines are quotes from famous writings—a slightly more intellectual version of how Bumblebee has to use audio clips to communicate in the “Transformers” movies. She adds very little to the story. I will credit Storm Reid for having a wide emotional range and some major acting chops. Just not major enough to balance out the level of annoying of Deric McCabe. But in fairness, not even the great Laurence Olivier himself could balance that kid out. Adults: You’ve been warned. Stream it.

More New Releases: “Gringo,” in which an American businessman with a stake in a pharmaceutical company that's about to go public finds his life is thrown into turmoil by an incident in Mexico, starring Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Amanda Seyfried, Thandie Newton, and Sharlto Copley; “Thoroughbreds,” about two teenage girls in suburban Connecticut who reconnect after years of growing apart, starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Olivia Cooke, and Anton Yelchin; and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” 1954 movie and one of the great American musicals, this is a plucky, colorful, fun romp with fantastic song and dance numbers that is a highly entertaining must see.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.