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Movie Review: Death Sentence

Death Sentence
Directed by James Wan
Written by Ian Jeffers from the novel by Brian Garfield

One of the most criminally underappreciated actors of all time is Kevin Bacon.  The subject of a popular game at one time (I don’t know…is it popular anymore?) where you tried to connect any actor or actress to Kevin Bacon using the least movies possible, known as The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, was in some part a contributor to this underappreciation.  Buried in all of this was that because Bacon had been in so many great films, with huge casts (like A Few Good Men and JFK), was that Bacon had to be a pretty damn good actor to be in these movies.  If you watch his performances in stuff like Mystic River, The Woodsman, and even Murder in the First, you’ll wonder why he’s never been nominated for an Oscar, and he’s only got one Golden Globe nomination…for The River Wild.

Bacon is the perfect actor to play a normal husband who boils to the edge.  In Death Sentence, directed with flair by the original Saw’s James Wan, Bacon plays Nick Hume, a man who watches his son Brendan (Stuart Lafferty) get murdered at a gas station in a gang initiation ritual.  The family mourns (wife Helen played by Kelly Preston, second son Lucas played by Jordan Garrett), and then Nick gets a chance to put the boy responsible, Joe Darley (Matt O’Leary), behind bars.  But the legal system is not exactly offering what Nick wants and he decides not to testify.

Nick scouts the gang and plans his revenge.  He kills Joe, and this brings on the wrath of his brother Billy (Garrett Hedlund) and crew.  Eventually, the rest of Nick’s family is in danger.  A war has been started, one against many, and Nick can’t even go to the police about it.  Detective Wallis (Aisha Tyler) pokes her nose in it every once in awhile, telling Nick what a huge mistake she’s suspected him of making.

For the most part, Death Sentence is a great B-action revenge picture.  There is an extremely well-done tracking shot involving a parking garage that you don’t expect from movies like this.  The movie is mostly fun until the by-the-numbers finale.  It’s great when Nick is a scared little animal who uses his wits to outsmart the bad guys; not so much when he becomes a cold-hearted badass for the final act.  But, it satisfies on the whole. 


Comment from Jonathan
Time: August 31, 2007, 3:12 pm

It’s funny that out of all the films Bacon has been in, “The River Wild” is the one he’s had a nomination for. Not that he was bad in it, but come on. I want to see this one more than “Halloween,” but my morbid curiosity will take me to Michael Myers crapfest first I’m sure, so hopefully I’ll find time for this one as well.

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