Death Sentence

Death Sentence


Reviewed by: Darren Amner

I love a good ‘revenge’ flick, such as The Crow, Man On Fire and the Kill Bill films. All are stories where a wrong is committed to an individual who bounces back from the dead to wreck havoc on all involved in these disastrous deeds.

Death Sentence is a good old-fashioned vigilante film, full of balls-to-the-wall action and violent as hell. Kevin Bacon plays Nick Hume, an everyday family man who loves his wife and children and enjoys spending as much time with them as he can. It’s one night at a gas station, when his eldest son is taken away from him and murdered in cold blood by a gang of ‘skinhead’ thugs, that Hume decides to take the law into his own hands.

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Revenge is a dish best served with a double-barrelled shotgun. Death Sentence has cult film written all over it, given its main theme of gangs and guns. Its subject matter is also very topical - although this may well work against it, as most of the cinema-going audience will not be in the mood for this type of film at this time. It's a shame if this is the case, as Death Sentence is a gritty throwback to the films of the Seventies, such as Death Wish, and it has you rooting all the way for this ordinary man to dish out his own brand of justice.

The movie is directed by James Wan, the genius behind Saw. Here he leaves the horror genre behind but still brings his unique visual style and love of gore. The movie is quite often very violent but is justified given what has happened to our anti-hero. Set-pieces are tense and satisfying and filmed imaginatively by Wan’s wandering camera – each shot is framed beautifully and captured from interesting angles.

The main villain of the piece is Billy, a street-wise hoodlum who leads a gang of social misfits, and he is intense and frightening, all tattoos and swagger. Garrett Hedlund as Billy completely disappears into this character, becoming a pretty boy actor turned into psycho skinhead. Hedlund looks like he may have an interesting career ahead of him with his unusual choice of darker roles, and good luck to him.

Kevin Bacon has always been a joy to behold. Normally the bad-guy or supporting side-kick, it's great to see him take on a lead role in a movie where he stretches his considerable range – his portrayal is emotional, sympathetic and highly aggressive. As a father he is touching and as a stone-cold killing machine he is even move convincing, especially when sporting a shaven head, marching down the hallway of an abandoned building carrying a shotgun, looking to kick some serious butt.

One criticism, however, is that the dialogue is rather thin and some of the characters inadequately fleshed out – such as the detective investigating the case and even Bacon's wife, played by Kelly Preston. It must also be said that I am a fan of practical effects in films and here CG is used too much for the more violent action scenes, which takes away the realism.

Heavy on drama and violent to the core, with its wild shoot-outs and car-park carnage, Death Sentence delivers big-time. It’s refreshing to see an action film with real nuts for once – bow down to the Bacon, he is here to take no prisoners. Death Sentence is hardcore heaven for action junkies who like their movies tough as nails and laden with brutal blows.

Reviewed on: 02 Sep 2007
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The story of a man who will stop at nothing to protect his family.
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Director: James Wan

Writer: Ian Jeffers, based on the novel by Brian Garfield.

Starring: Kevin Bacon, Garrett Hedlund, Kelly Preston, Jordan Garrett, Stuart Lafferty, Aisha Tyler, John Goodman, Matt O'Leary, Edi Gathegi, Hector Atreyu Ruiz, Kanin J. Howell

Year: 2007

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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The Brave One
Man On Fire