The new revenge thriller Death Wish can be for Bruce Willis what Taken was for Liam Neeson, so says the movie’s director Eli Roth. A remake of the 1974 Charles Bronson cult film of the same name, Death Wish stars Willis as a regular guy who goes on a deadly rampage after his family falls victim to an act of brutality.

The original Death Wish spawned a series of increasingly-schlocky sequels, and was a clear inspiration for the Taken series of films starring Liam Neeson as an ex-CIA man calling on his very particular set of skills to protect his family from terrorists. With his career at something of a low ebb, Bruce Willis appears to be following in the footsteps of Neeson, who was already respected as an actor before Taken but became more of a bankable star after headlining the surprise box office hit that launched a whole (now-defunct) franchise.

In an interview with Yahoo! Movies, Eli Roth indicated that similarities between his Death Wish and the Taken films are more than coincidental. Roth said his intention with Death Wish was to bring back Die Hard-era Bruce Willis and now he believes the actor is set up for a Liam Neeson-like run:

“We wanted to bring back that great, classic Bruce Willis we all know and love and just do a fun, badass update of a revered classic. I wanted to bring Bruce back to that Fifth Element, Unbreakable, Die Hard glory and have him craft another iconic performance, and I really think he did it. I mean I really think this can be his Taken. The fun is watching him go crazy and watching someone slowly move the moral goal post.”

There was arguably no bigger action star in Hollywood in the early ’90s than Bruce Willis, but like so many such actors he squandered his star-power through a series of increasingly-silly vehicles and finally ended up looking like a pale imitation of his former self. Willis has enjoyed a few highlights in recent years, including starring roles in the successful RED movies and a brief but tantalizing cameo at the end of M. Night Shyamalan’s Split, but many view him as someone who sleepwalks through most of his films and lacks the spark that made him such a big star during his heyday.

What made Willis special during his great years was the way he combined action star cockiness with a certain relatablilty. In his quintessential role as John McClane in the towering classic Die Hard, Willis was far from an invincible action machine and his vulnerability actually made him more effective. It’s more interesting to root for someone who seems like a regular guy fighting against improbable odds – as Willis does in Die Hard – rather than watching some monosyllabic European guy mindlessly slaughter everyone in his path. It seems that Roth is trying to tap back into Willis’ engaging everyman quality in Death Wish, hoping he can once again find that sweet spot where action-hero badassness and down-to-earth humanity meet.

By his remarks, it seems Eli Roth believes Willis rediscovered his old magic in Death Wish, but you can forgive audiences for being a bit skeptical of this given all the disengaged performances Willis has churned out over recent years; and the rather generic trailer. Whether Death Wish will grab hold with audiences the same way Taken did, launching Willis on a new run of success as an action hero a la Liam Neeson, remains to be seen.