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3.12.08

Death Sentence (2007)





Director: James Wan
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Aisha Tyler, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund
Released by 20th Century Fox

Kevin Bacon stars as Nick Hume, a mild mannered husband and father whose son is murdered by a violent street gang. When the cops and the courts fail to deliver justice, Nick decides to take matters in his own hands.

There are so many things that are horribly wrong with this movie that it is hard to find a starting point. Not only is Kevin Bacon miscast as the vengeance minded dad, he spends his screen time delivering what might be the hammiest, most unconvincing performance of his career. While Bacon gets emotion all over the place, Wan drops in some of the most unnecessary, inappropriate music cues in recent memory. Wan also shows that he likes to employ cheesy montages to flesh things out.

And the gang. Ah, the gang. Sporting designer leather jackets and mid-90's era tribal tattoos on their heads, they would be more at home at a Slipknot concert than a gritty action film. The gang seem to live in a huge warehouse with lots of multicolored lights and a drug lab that looks like they borrowed it from Dr. Frankenstein. Where Wan might find these guys to be scary, I found them somewhat less frightening than the gang from the "Beat It" video. After Bacon kills one of their members, they hold an impromptu wake where one of them bellows, "He was a good boy!" in his best Shakespeare in the Park voice. John Goodman, probably now filled with regret, plays the father of the gang's leader. He speaks with a weird accent and chews up scenery. I like John Goodman and I hope he wasn't blackmailed into acting in this abortion. He deserves much better than this.

The cops are around, but they do next to nothing, even when the gang cuts the throats of two officers guarding Nick's house. Aisha Tyler, as the detective assigned the case, wanders around delivering one stupid line after another. She could have easily been replaced by a coat rack and no one would have noticed. There is a hospital scene near the end of the second act which features Bacon and Tyler in a tour de force of shitty acting, combined with even shittier dialogue, that culminates with Bacon escaping through a window. I wanted to run away, too.

The final act turns into a bloodbath that blatantly rips off several infinitely superior films, most notably ROBOCOP and TAXI DRIVER. There is even a montage where Bacon shaves his head and loads guns. To make matters worse, Wan slips in a "deep" final confrontation between Bacon and the gang's leader that, presumably, exists in order to instill a philosophical tone to the film. It did cause me to ask questions, mainly about James Wan's filmmaking career and why he actually has one.

This is a truly stupid and ridiculous movie that fails at capturing the gritty revenge flick vibe Wan was attempting. Skip this and watch any of the DEATH WISH movies, instead.




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