a critiQal film review Death Sentence (2007)

  • DVD

Plot:: Nick Hume (Bacon) is just a normal guy - he works in an office, and he's got a loving wife and two sons. When one of his sons is killed in a gang initiation ritual, Nick sets out to avenge his son's death by killing the man responsible. Unfortunately, the killer happens to be the gang leader's brother - and Nick has unknowingly just started a war to the death.

1156 words (Est. Reading Time 5m 46s)

Sure to delight fans of the game ‘Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon,’ a new film starring the well-known actor has hit DVD – Death Sentence, which teams him with another 80’s fave, Kelly Preston.

While this film flew through theaters, we were still interested – not only did it star ol’ Mr. Bacon, but it was James Wan follow-up film to the much-lauded . But, were we ignoring the signs that it’s quick run through theaters should have told us, or would Death Sentence find new life on DVD?

Kevin Bacon has long been someone to watch in films, and has become more so since his heyday. At the height of his success, he was basically typecast in roles that, while entertaining, were rather familiar. Since his heyday, however, he’s branched out, seeming to pick only films he thinks will expand his acting…and usually turns in memorable performances.

He keeps that up in Death Sentence. While his character in the beginning of the film bears a striking resemblance to an older version of the characters he used to play, his character undergoes a transformation and becomes something we’ve never seen before from Bacon. Complete with an incredibly bad shave job, Bacon’s character becomes a gun-toting freak – and Bacon brings him to life hideously well. He resembles more a crazed lunatic than anything else – and the fact he’s toting around guns should give any viewer a fright.

John Goodman and Garrett Hedlund contribute little to the overall film. John’s character, a crime boss who has an apparent fetish for ugly, Coke-bottomed glasses, is utterly ridiculous in his role as he squints up at his opponents. Oh wait, he’s supposed to be scary? Um, yeah, right. Garrett Hedlund – going for a new look with his shaved head, tattooed body and scraggly attempt at a goatee – plays a stereotypical “bad guy,” making for a performance that is utterly forgettable.

Apparently, director James Wan tapped out his directing skills with . While he does a good job of setting up the “typical family” scenario in the beginning of the film, the steps that are taken by Bacon’s character after the death of his son are incredibly far-fetched. While some may relate to the idea that Bacon’s character is thirsty for vengeance immediately following the death of one of his sons, it’s bizarre how he completely ignores the family he has left – in fact, almost actively works on destroying the family unit even further by committing murder himself – and instead focuses only on revenge. While that may be a first impulse to someone who has just lost their son in a random act of violence, most fathers would stop and think about how that act would destroy the rest of the family – at the very least, they could wind up in jail (leaving the wife and son to cope with basically another loss), or they could even be endangering the family they have left.

In fact, this is displayed even more so by the fact that he does little to even acknowledge that he has another son. Rather than focusing on the living son and helping the family come together to share the pain, he instead pretty completely ignores his remaining son. This is the biggest flaw of the film, as viewers will start thinking Bacon’s character is somewhat of a jerk, and thus distance themselves from him. With that distance, they aren’t as emotionally attached to his character as they could be, and therefore can’t completely justify his actions.

On top of that, James Wan apparently never really figured out the role he wanted the police to play in the film. Aisha Tyler does her best with what she’s been given, but when the script calls for her to seem suspicious of Bacon in one sequence, then basically agreeing to look the other way when she pretty much knows he did it, would be a tough job for any actor. For example, although Bacon’s character Nick is the prime suspect in the murder, he is never once questioned by the police – despite having a nasty knife cut across his hand. When another murder is discovered, he shows up the next day with a black eye and split lip – and again the police do nothing. As Aisha’s character seems to intone, the gang member’s lives aren’t worth the lives of people like Nick and his family – yet one scene shows her determined to find out who murdered one of those very same gang members.

This wishy-washy approach to the police involvement makes this far-fetched film drop into the abyss of riduclousness. Reality is given a less-than-polite shove out the back door, and James Wan tries to create his own in this alternative universe where cops turn a blind eye to vengeance killers. It’s utter nonsense, and is probably a large part of why this film was in and out of theaters in such a brief time.

Oh and then there’s the gun-toting sequences. After showing Bacon’s character having to read a manual on how to load the guns he buys (courtesy of above crime boss, John Goodman), and watching him fumble to load the weapons, he begins his rampage (leaving a whole pack of bullets lying on the table for no good reason) – and suddenly is a crack shot. What? There is never a mention that he’s ever used a gun before – in fact, the manual-reading sequence seems to imply exactly the opposite – but suddenly he’s able to dodge bullets and shoot-and-run with incredible accuracy. Yikes.

While it’s nice to see Kevin Bacon branching out and trying different roles, it seems like he’s struck out with Death Sentence. While his performance was well done, the script has so many holes in it, it’s a wonder he didn’t fall through. It takes what could have been a great performance by Bacon and tosses half of it’s impact into the trash before the film even gets going. Toss in a wasted try by Aisha Tyler in a role that never should have been in the film in the first place, and you get a script that never should have made it to the big screen.

If this is what we have to look forward to in the future from James Wan post-, you can bet I’m going to stay as far away from any future garbage he spews out as I can. Stay away from this one – even the violence becomes utterly non-sensical thanks to this idiotic plot and the gaping holes.

If you’re a Kevin Bacon fan, you may want to stick around to see his transformation, but unless you’re a diehard fan, even his performance won’t keep you from wanting to shut this one off even before your halfway through – and trust me, there’s no good reason to stick around till the end of this one.

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