Kevin Bacon goes on a rampage, and by the time he's done, a lot more people can claim the Six Degrees of Bacon as true. Death Sentence is an action-drama that takes a look at the lengths one father goes to after his son is brutally murdered.
Death Sentence stars Bacon as Nick Hume, a loving father and successful businessman who is forced to buy gas at the wrong place at the wrong time. When the gas station is robbed by a bunch of hoodlums, Nick's son is murdered in the process. With the realization that his son's killer may only go to prison for a couple of years, Nick, in his desperation, refuses to testify again the young man and instead decides to take matters into his own hands. In a moment of rage, he kills his son's murderer... but things don't end there. In retaliation, the gang puts out a death order on Nick, his wife and other son, and an all-out war ensues.
I've learned to never estimate Kevin Bacon, but also to never get my hopes too high, either. Death Sentence looks pretty good in the trailers, but opened to icy reviews as it quickly vanished from theaters. Bacon chooses some pretty bad movies, but is always entertaining to watch regardless. He's pretty good here, even though he doesn't have much of a character to work with. It's hard to relate with the guy, one because it's unlikely you've had the same thing happen to you, and two, you question whether someone would snap in the way he does. Once his family is put in jeopardy, you'd think he would confess everything to save them. His rationale doesn't always make sense, but, then again, maybe that's the point.
I'm generally a fan of very cruel and refined villains (which is odd, because that stereotypical viewpoint toward bad guys conflicts with my general taste in movies), but the hoodlums in Death Sentence are so extreme it's hard to take them seriously. In the courtroom scene near the beginning, the hoodlum on trial mocks Bacon's character pretty much in front of everyone; what young kid put in that situation would actually do that? From there, the rest of the hoodlums appear as one dimensional as one can make them, and their actions often don't make any sense whatsoever. They attack Bacon while he's walking down a busy street (why wouldn't they wait until he goes home?), and when that fails they do go to his house, kill the policemen assigned to protect the family, and so on and so forth. Even the most ruthless gangs in the country wouldn't be that bold.
So, ultimately, Death Sentence ends up being a violent action flick about one man versus many. It's fun and entertaining, but when all is said and done, you're left scratching your head. I thought I would enjoy the absurdity of the violence, but by the end, when Bacon is left looking like Darth Vader when he removes his helmet in Return of the Jedi (no joke!), I had lost interest in the film. Still, the movie has enough action, shooting and punching to satisfy action fans, and that is ultimately what Death Sentence is: an action movie masked as something more.
Nevertheless, Death Sentence is a step forward for director James Wan, the man responsible for unleashing upon us the horrid Saw franchise and the equally lame Dead Silence. The movie isn't great, but it's a lot more solid than anything else this young director has done. Death Sentence will appeal to those who like mindless violence and anything Kevin Bacon puts forth. For the rest of you, this movie could have been a lot better.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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