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Why do we like revenge films? Is it a violent urge inside all of us, to harm someone that did us wrong? I believe that movies let us live out fantasies that we otherwise wouldn't get to. Whether that be travel, sexual, violence or a million other possibilities. I think most humans are full of anger, it's simply part of being human; looking at our history, it's impossible to ignore. Now that most of us are domesticated, happy to live in harmony with our neighbors, we live it out through the movies. That's why films from Death Wish to Sweeney Todd exist, we get to see the guy who's been stepped on, get his revenge. It pleases our deepest instincts. (At least that's what I tell myself, when I cheer inside, when some guy gets brutally killed.)

So it was with those thoughts I went into Death Sentence. I've always liked Kevin Bacon, he's one of the industries most reliable actors, popping up in just about anything, always giving a good, believable performance. Director James Wan has caught my attention over the last few years; busting out with Saw, his original being the only worthwhile of the bunch, and I was one of the few people that really dug his killer puppet film Dead Silence. He's got a good eye, and a talent for building suspense and action scenes. I figured the two couldn't go wrong in revenge mode, and I was mostly right.

Bacon plays Nick Hume, an executive, a dedicated husband and father of two, you couldn't ask for a much plainer fellow. He takes great pride in the fact that his older son Brendan is a top-notch high school hockey player. He has hopes for him to get a college scholarship and maybe go pro one day. Everything changes one night, when the two stop at a gas station on the wrong side of town. Brendan is mercilessly killed by a young gang member, doing so, simply to be fully initiated into the gang. When the DA tells this grieving father, that since he's the only witness, the most he can hope for is a few years behind bars for the murdering bastard.

Pissed beyond belief at a justice system gone wrong, Nick has the judge throw out the case. And decides to take the law into his own hands!
I mean really, is there any other option? Nick proceeds to track down the kid and kill him a few nights later. Being a novice at it, he does so pretty sloppily, leaving behind enough evidence for the cops and the kid's brother/gang-leader to be on his ass. I liked actor playing the brother, Garrett Hedlund, he has the angry-young-man bit down well. But the main cop, played by Aisha Tyler, is a drag every time she's on camera, I didn't buy her as a cop for a second. Nick has to distract the cops and fight the gang off the best he can, and his world begins to quickly unravel.

There's a pretty great scene, when the gang finds Nick after work and they chase him through the alleys of downtown, into a parking structure, ending with Nick rolling a parked car from the top floor with one of the gang members still inside. The entire thing gets way out of hand, ruining his good name, and putting the rest of his family in jeopardy. The film's ending is about as big a downer as you could find in these films, which is really saying something.

Death Sentence
isn't going to knock anyone's socks off. It's not breaking any new ground. The action scenes are fairly well done, and they're fun to watch. But it's tough to believe some of the things Nick puts his surviving family through, in order to get his justice. And the way the initial murder is set-up, it's not enough to get you totally riled up for his eventual revenge. You actually kind of feel bad for the guys he's chasing down and I think that's maybe the feeling they were going for, trying not to paint it in black and white. But the film isn't built well enough for us to feel a full set of emotions, mostly you just want to see Bacon kick ass. If you're into revenge films, you could do a lot worse; but there are a ton of them out there far more satisfying and better mad. - Grade: C+

1 Response to Death Sentence:

  1. The scene towards the end where he's sitting on the couch is such a Taxi Driver homage/rip-off. The haircut too.