Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Kevin Bacon, Garrett Hedlund, John Goodman, Kelly Preston
Directed by James Wan
Distributed by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
If watching revenge movies has taught us anything, it’s that vengeance is a dish best not served at all. Stuff never works out for the better. An eye for an eye type situation can quickly turn to an eye for an eye … and your wife’s head … and your son’s throat kind of debacle. Most times the good guy ends up losing what made him different than the scum who wronged him, and generally everyone involved ends up taking a dirt-nap. James Wan’s Death Sentence is no different, but one thing’s for sure … you know when the sick mind behind Saw is involved, things are bound to get violent!
Meet Nick Hume (Bacon). He lives the perfect life. He’s well off, has a hot wife, and loves his two growing kids. Everything is all sunshine and roses until his son has his throat slashed via machete while trying to buy a Slushie in a convenience store that ends up being the scene of an armed robbery. What’s a dad to do? See the prick that did this go to jail forever of course! But then the news comes. His son wasn’t killed for being a witness in a robbery. No, he was offed as part of a gang initiation. We then find out the murdering bastard will end up getting only two to three years — max — behind bars. Again I ask? What’s a dad to do? Let the fucker walk and then hunt him down and kill him yourself, that’s what! See, kids? Violence is the answer! There’s just one unforeseen hitch — the guy he murders to avenge his son ends up being the brother of the head of the gang he was trying out for. As you can imagine, things don’t go well, and our story finally culminates with Bacon going on a Bickle type rampage of bullets, blood, and general all-around mayhem.
When Death Sentence is going through its revenge movie motions, it’s pretty damned good and entertaining. At its best it hearkens back to classics like Joe and Death Wish. The problem here lies in everything that happens in between the action scenes. The experience, despite some awesome stylized camera work and truly inspired moments, comes off feeling disjointed and completely uneven. As a bonus (if you can call it that), horror fans with keen eyes will catch a few Wan film character cameos like Mary Shaw and Billy the Puppet. Thankfully these instances never take you out of the world of Death Sentence as they can be way too distracting as evidenced by a few other movies out last year, which for the sake of my own sanity and furniture around me that shouldn’t be broken in a fit of uncontrolled anger, will remain nameless.
There are two cuts of the film included here, the theatrical and an unrated director’s cut that runs about ten minutes longer. We don’t get any extra gore, but we do get something almost as good — more time with John Goodman’s character, Bones, who is no doubt one of the most memorable things about this flick. Picture his portrayal in The Big Lebowski and mix in some Satan. He’s just deliciously foul.
The special features are pretty good too. At first I was bummed by there being no commentary track because there is one chase scene in Death Sentence that is absolutely amazing — a one-take, five-minute long chase that moves up and down several levels without missing a beat. Thankfully there’s a featurette on this disc about nothing but that scene in particular. Fox Movie Channel’s Making a Scene featurette runs about eight minutes long and details this chase scene down to the last detail. We’re talking five camera hand offs, a custom rig, and a friggin’ go-kart to get the job done. It’s just as interesting as it sounds. From there we get an episode of Fox’s series Film School, this time with Kevin Bacon. For those unfamiliar with the show, basically three students get to sit down with an actor and grill him about the business for half an hour. Things are finally wrapped up with ten making-of webisodes that fill out all of eighteen minutes. All in all, not a bad haul.
Death Sentence tries to do two things: be a stirring family drama and a balls-out gore soaked revenge flick. It achieves only one of those goals. Bet you can’t guess which? If you’re looking to spend an OK little time with psychos and sociopaths, look no further!
3 out of 5
3 out of 5
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