I’m not sure what that says about me. Whether it means I enjoy bad people getting their comeuppance by the film’s vengeful star, or whether I’m fascinated by the morally ambiguous satisfaction that revenge can bring to those who pursue it. (It’s probably a generous serving of each.)
Anyhoo...time to shut my self-analytical piehole and get to the review: 2007’s revenge-fueled Death Sentence.
Insurance honcho Nick Hume (Kevin Bacon) has a good career and family life, including a beautiful wife (Kelly Preston) and two teenage sons. But tragedy strikes when the older son (Stuart Lafferty), a promising hockey star, is killed by a gang as they initiate a new member. Filled with rage and grief, Nick – the only witness to his son’s murder – lies under oath at the killer’s trial to get him released, then tracks him down and kills him…setting off a chain of brutal (and deadly) retaliations between the gang and Nick’s family.
With Death Sentence, director James Wan (Saw) initially gives the viewer an unflinching, hard-to-watch experience featuring decent use of foreshadowing, roving camerawork, and several impressive scenes – including an extended cat-and-mouse sequence in a parking tower, with no cuts. And he succeeds in balancing the film’s outrageous violence with character development, up to a point; the believability factor gets tested at times, and Death Sentence dips into melodrama on occasion.
The third act plays a bit like Death Wish meets Rambo, as the believable gives way to the preposterous, but by then you won’t care…you just want to see Bacon bust out the whuppin’ stick on some lowlife scumbags.
One element that doesn’t help the film’s watchability is Charlie Clouser’s overwrought and sometimes inappropriate musical score, as well as a soundtrack with songs that seem straight out of Grey’s Anatomy.
In supporting roles, Jordan Garrett brings an extra level of emotion to the film as the overlooked younger brother trying to make sense of what’s happening to his dad and their family; John Goodman chews chunks of scenery as a skuzzy underworld mob boss; and as much as I love Aisha Tyler (especially in FX’s hilarious new animated series Archer), she’s woefully miscast as a hard-edged detective assigned to Bacon’s case.
Death Sentence is far from a perfect movie, but it does make you ask yourself the age-old question: Under the same circumstances Bacon’s character encounters, what would you do if it was YOUR child? What lengths would you go to get what you consider justice? There’s usually no easy answer, nor a clear moral path you could take – which is probably a large part of what makes revenge-themed films a continuous form of fascination for me.
Is it suitable for your kids?Uhhh, no…not if you have young ones. Death Sentence is brutally violent in the first two acts, and all-out bloody in the third. There are also too many F-bombs to count. High school teens and older.
Will your FilmMother want to watch it?I know lots of female filmgoers really like Kevin Bacon, but this subject matter and content may be tough for your FilmMother to take, especially if you have children. Also, there are better films starring Bacon, as well as better films on the subject.
* Director: James Wan
* Screenwriter: Ian Mackenzie Jeffers
* Stars: Kevin Bacon, Kelly Preston, Jordan Garrett, Garrett Hedlund, Aisha Tyler, John Goodman, Matt O’Leary
* MPAA Rating: R (strong bloody brutal violence and pervasive language)