- Movie Rating -

Death Sentence (2007)

| April 16, 2007 | 0 Comments

I like action films with a purpose, that have great characters and great motivation. Death Sentence has none of that, it is a thinly veiled remake of the Charles Bronson classic Death Wish, but without that movie’s freshness. This is a miserable film doting on the notion of “an eye for an eye,” but glorifying the violence.

Like Death Wish, here is a movie that turns a sweet-natured guy into a violent killer out for revenge. That guy is Nick Hume (Kevin Bacon) a family man with two sons, Lucas (Jordan Garrett) and Brenden (Stuart Lafferty) and wife Helen (Kelly Preston). While driving home with son Brenden, he stops in a gas station only to find that the place is being held up. The robbers shoot the clerk and then kill Brenden with a machete before fleeing the scene. The kid who committed the murder is arrested and a trial date is set.

Nick, stricken with grief, is told that his son’s death was part of a gang initiation. Worse is that a legal loophole will only get the kid 3 to 5 years. That’s not good enough for Nick, so he recants his eyewitness testimony and the kid goes free. Later, Nick finds the kid and attacks him in an alleyway where he stabs him to death. The problem is that this particular kid is part of a vicious street gang that is now looking for whomever killed their brother.

What happens next is pretty much expected. Nick becomes a one-man vigilante force, attacking members of the gang one by one while they go gunning for him. The gang is led by a tattooed tough guy named Billy Darley (Garrett Hedlund) who wants revenge for his little brother’s death. Meanwhile Nick tries to evade detection by a police investigator (Aisha Tyler) who doesn’t ask why he has a bandaged hand, a bruised head or a cut lip. Maybe he’s just clumsy.

What works in this film is the performance by Kevin Bacon which is probably better than the movie deserves. There is something in his eyes, in the wake of his son’s death, that seems fired up about getting his revenge. There is also something about the killing itself that seems more realistic than I had expected. When Nick kills the kid who murdered his son, his reaction is pure fear, the realization that he has just taken another life. That’s refreshing when you consider that most killings like that in the movies end with the hero standing stone-faced over the body and tossing out a one-liner before stalking away.

I also liked the action scenes, which are quite thrilling, especially a scene in a parking garage where Nick is chased by the gang and corners one of their numbers on the roof and traps him in a car that he he then pushes off the roof. That scene had a great deal of tension and suspense even though you couldn’t believe it for a second. Most of the movie is like that, actually.

Death Sentence was directed by James Wan, who made the original Saw. This movie, like that one, wallows in its unpleasantness and its puddles of blood. It seems strange to say, but I think this one is actually bloodier than Saw. The difference is that here he has a better story to tell and he has a good performance by Kevin Bacon to work with. He maintains that good story and good suspense for a while, until the third act when the film crosses over into an area very close to Taxi Driver.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2007) View IMDB Filed in: Action, Drama