Death Sentence – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Directed by
James Wan

Cast:
Kevin Bacon … Nick Hume
Garrett Hedlund … Billy Darley
Kelly Preston … Helen Hume
Jordan Garrett … Lucas Hume
Stuart Lafferty … Brendan Hume
Aisha Tyler … Detective Wallis
John Goodman … Bones Darley
Matt O’Leary … Joe Darley
Edi Gathegi … Bodie


The Movie:

A lot of elements have to come together in order to try and make the perfect Revenge movie. You’ve got to have the right star in place, and you’ve got to get the mood down. Next, hero’s plan has to be fairly simple, but still effective enough that it seems the scales are balanced in the end. That sense of satisfaction has to be in place by the time the movie’s credits roll or the entire experience may end up void. By adhering to this formula you can see why flicks like Point Blank, Death Wish and Kill Bill end up being so successful, and why movies like The Punisher and Forced Vengeance end up going off the track, . With the new Kevin Bacon vehicle, Death Sentence, we get a picture that’s a little bit in between.

First up, the movie has a decent, but unspectacular pedigree. Most people don’t know that the original Death Wish was actually based on a novel, and that particular novel actually had a sequel which ended up being the basis for this movie. The movie’s director, James Wan, directed the ok exploitation film Saw and the terrible Dead Silence, but has a big enough flair for theatrics that you knew this film had the possibility of being hard hitting and pretty violent. Finally, at the center of this movie was star Kevin Bacon, who we knew could pull off a convincing everyman, but has yet to prove himself as a gun wielding avenger.

Bacon stars as Nick Hume, an executive with seemingly the perfect family. An executive with a loving wife (Kelly Preston), a younger son who’s an artist (Jordan Garrett) and an older son who has a ticket to any great Hockey school in North America (Stuart Lafferty), Hume has everything he could want to make him happy. That is, until for no rhyme or reason a gang of thugs cuts his oldest son down at an altercation at a local gas station. Out for vengeance, Hume decides to find the banger who killed his son, but may have bitten off more than he can chew.

On the surface, Death Sentence has a lot of the elements it needs to be a successful entry into this genre. The movie starts off very well, setting up Nick’s perfect home life without becoming too saccharine or sappy. The movie move’s nicely, and the incident where Hume’s son is killed happens at a gas station that looks very much like it could be a setting for a scene is a ‘70’s Revenge movie. The gas station even has an old-fashioned Pepsi machine for added effect. Its little things like these that help to create the right mood for a movie like this, and on these levels the movie is triumphant.

Unfortunately, a lot of the little things are undone by some of the bigger elements of the film. Foremost is the movie’s soundtrack, which is filled with modern Pop-style songs when this movie should have been infused with a 70’s style musical backdrop. This really effects the tone of the movie, which seems to be reaching for a type of teenage vibe with this soundtrack, which doesn’t make sense considering Death Sentence is a pretty hard R. This could have even possibly been forgiven if the movie’s climactic moment wasn’t nearly ruined by a top 40 style tune.

Secondly, the movie does a good job at the beginning of the movie setting up just how the gang that killed Nick Son, led by Billy Darley (Garrett Hedlund), are complete animals, but then the movie insists on trying to make you understand and feel for these hooligans, even as they threaten Nick and his family further. By trying to humanize these villains, the movie ends up rendering them less effective. Instead of a destructive force, Darley and his boys just seem like winey gang-bangers.

Fortunately, there are still some things to like here. The movie’s action is well done, especially a chase sequence that ends up some of the best scenes in the entire movie. Even on a low budget, Director James Wan and his crew put together a terrific chase, highlighted by a long shot through a parking structure which involved simply passing a light camera from person to person, including crane operators, to give the illusion of a big production.

The film’s shootouts, of which there are many, are bloody and vicious, giving gorehounds reasons to cheer. One scene featuring a shotgun toting Kevin Bacon has him relieving one of the gang members of his leg, leaving only a bloody stump. Head and neck wounds run aplenty on this picture, all of it brutal and unrelenting.

On top of all this, the film has some decent performances. The most memorable turn in the film is John Goodman’s, as he plays an arms dealer with a mean streak. The role seems to be straight out of a 70’s Revenge thriller and Goodman relishes the character, livening up every scene he’s in. Also Bacon does decent work as the film’s protagonist, making a great transition from scared family man to hardened vigilante.

Overall, Death Sentence isn’t completely satisfying, but is worth a look for fans of the genre. The movie has some impressive sequences and fails on levels that don’t totally cripple the movie. While the film doesn’t live up to many of the hallmarks of the genre, it still brings enough gusto and firepower to blow away a couple hours of boredom.


The DVD:

The Video
The movie looks good on DVD. The print is crisp and there aren’t any issues with the picture being too dark. The film is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

The Audio
The Audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and sounds fine. There aren’t any noticeable problems with the audio track and the sound design comes in fairly well.


SPECIAL FEATURES:

Fox Movie Channel Presents Death Sentence: Making A Scene – This Featurette goes about 10 minutes and looks at the movie’s huge chase sequence.

Fox Movie Channel Presents: Life after Film School with Kevin Bacon – This interview with Bacon by three college students is interesting. He gives them all pretty good advice, especially when trying to warn them that fame will not come right away. Bacon apparently waited tables for years before finally hitting it, but that experience seems to have given him perspective. All in all, this is a good extra and pretty entertaining throughout.

Trailers

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Death Sentence
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

7
THE VIDEO

7.5
THE AUDIO

8.5
THE EXTRAS

4.5
REPLAY VALUE

7
OVERALL
6.5
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

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