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Death Sentence(2007)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: James Wan

Kevin Bacon/Nick
Garrett Hedlund/Billy
Kelly Preston/Helen
John Goodman/Bones
8 10
All around good guy Nick Hume (Bacon) becomes a shaved head vigilante man-nimal after a gang of hoodlums whack out his son (as part of a gang initiation). Yes, revenge is a dish best served with a gun resting on your enemy’s’ temple while your finger graces the trigger. BANG!

I'm coming for the rest of your family. You just bought them a death sentence. - Billy Darley

Anybody that knows me to any degree should be aware that I f*cking love the vigilante subgenre. Rolling Thunder, Death Wish, The Crow, Magnum Force, Wake of Death, The Punisher, Straw Dogs, Revenge, Payback, First Blood, what I did to my ex… all retribution themed heavy hitters that I cherish more than snatch itself. I actually worship revenge films so much that I even partook in one called DEADEN with Director Christian Viel. So yeah, I got lots of loving for the art of cinematic PAYBACK! Thus when I heard that Brian Garfiled’s (who wrote Death Wish) novel DEATH SENTENCE was being made into a flick and by the director of SAW no less; well yeah; I popped some major artillery in my khakis. So…did I shoot blanks? Read on!

DEATH SENTENCE was a very welcomed (by me anyways) throwback to the gritty, no bullshit, testis on its sleeve, I will f*ck you up vigilante films of old. This celluloid badass smartly stuck to the basic revenge narrative formula. You know the one that has proven to work a bazillion times by now? Yeah, that one! Our “everyday man” hero and his “picture perfect” family were introduced, the movie made me care about them and then it savagely pulled the rug from under them…and me! To be honest, the fairly standard characterization at hand wasn’t why I gave a hoot about these people. It was the stellar casting that made it all happen. You just can’t go wrong with Kevin Bacon in this kind of role (in any kind of role actually, unless he’s dancing silly-monkey in a warehouse) and the fact that he was well surrounded in terms of his co-stars was the cherry on top of this Sunday bloody Sunday. Chemistry was abound and interactions credible, hence I mucho dug.

With that in place, once the shite hit the shan; I was right there with them, specifically our anti-hero. I too was devastated by the loss and I too craved nay yearned for vengeance. And man was it rammed out of the park when it went down! Wan served up brutal tetes a tetes, kinetic/gruesome shootouts (loved the staircase scene) and a handful of memorable/ innovative set pieces that rocked my world via their uniqueness and guts. Wait till you see the “on foot” extended chase bit or the parking lot car mishap. Freaking gold! The fact that Wan gunned out his goodies through zany visuals jacked my “f*ck yeah” factor as well. His “I can be anywhere” camera was always on the move, slamming me right there in the middle of the action where I damn belonged! And when that wasn’t going down he was evoking emotion with his imagery (in tandem with Charlie Clouser's powerful score) or creating potent fanboy chill inducing moments (like that slow-mo in the rain bit) that had the style whore in me charge half price (???). Stab on top of that an outstanding lead baddie (Garrett Hedlund is one to keep tabs on), a hilarious cameo by John Goodman, sly homages to other vigilante films, a perfect illustration of our BS laced legal system (lawyer bit) and clever scenes that went against the grain within the subgenre and you get a retribution injection worth the coin and the beating.

Any beefs with this sucka? A couple. Was it me or did the narrative sport too many illogical moves to serve or/and force the plotline in the direction it had to go? Took me out of the film now and again. And what was up with the cops in this war party? Taking into account the abundance of public carnage that took place; the MIA 5.0. stood out like a sore clit. To make matters worse the film’s prominent policewoman character was an absolute waste (gratefully there was little of her in the flick). She brought nothing to the story (other than something to cut-away to) and was a poor law enforcer at that. I mean; when somebody admits to murder; you book him no? Not this dame...for reason that were never explored. I guess she got her badge in a Frankenberry cereal box, same place I got my feeble writing skills. Finally; some of the dialogue rang corny to me — thank Zeus above (or is it below, where does that f*cker live anyways) that the actors' top notch delivery saved the day most of the time.

All in though Death Sentence was a keeper — it was my kind of film — and the thing is, they don’t make my kind of films anymore — so I loved this violent mofo even more for it! The flick did have it faults, but for me, the whole made them worth sitting through. I pronounce Death Sentence guilty of kicking major ass!

We get shotgun wounds, a leg shot off, a slit throat, a bullet in the neck…yup pizza had enough toppings to fill my ass up. NOTE: At times, some of the blood came across as too CGI for my liking — not a huge deal but I needed to get it off my machete.
Kevin Bacon (Nick) was rock solid as the loving father/husband and even better as the stone cold killer. He delivered a well rounded, convincing and touching performance. Viva The Bacon! Garrett Hedlund (Billy) gave an intense, frightening yet charismatic show. Dude will go places! Kelly Preston (Helen) didn’t have much to do on paper but she made her part memorable with the moving moments she pulled off. John Goodman (Bones) was a freaking delight as the oddball and dangerous gun dealer. Nice steal!
T & A
None…yeah I know, I’m baffled too! How does that happen? ; )
Wan pulled quite the cock trick with this one! On one end the flick was raw, stripped down and grounded. On the other it was highly stylized, atmospheric, John Woo-Light in its action and definitely ambitious in the nutty angles and crazy shots department. For the bulk of the running time he juggled those two balls perfectly… much like my last date juggled mine. Aces!
Charlie Clouser did it again with this evocative, haunting and at times aggressive score. Must acquire it if it’s ever available. Awesome! The song that played over the end credits: 'Alright' by (Canuck band) Pilot Speed whooped me stupid as well. You couldn’t have had a better tune to end this film with!
Death Sentence didn’t stray far from its old school vigilante roots and that was great news for this schmuck. Heavy on riveting drama, to the core violence and wild shootouts; I couldn’t get enough! And it had Kevin Bacon as the anti hero to boot i.e. an actor that managed to tap into the likeability and darkness of his character like a champ. Want fries with that? No need for them! You got Bacon bitch! Nough said! Yes some of the dialogue was off, situations/character moves somewhat trivial and that useless cop chick so had to go; but personally I managed to wave them weaknesses aside quite effortlessly for some reason. I guess I was too intoxicated by the whole to really care about the slip-ups. Good news is; they still make action movies with balls after all! AMEN!
SAW/Dead Slience screenwriter Leigh Whannell has a bit part in the film. He plays Spink.

Author Brian Garfield hates all of the Death Wish sequels for not being true to his character. Arrow Note: Death Wish 3 rocked yo!

Look out for a cameo by the SAW doll in the film.